Plants That Every Balcony Gardener Needs

by Fern on June 21, 2009

in Birds Bees & Butterflies,Pests & Problems

Note that I said “need.” While all the plants listed below are attractive, the reason they made this list is that they provide something extremely useful for your balcony or patio…



Scientists have determined that an essential oil in catnip attracts green lacewings. And green lacewings eat aphids like they are the tastiest thing on the planet. This makes catnip an awesome companion for roses and other aphid prone plants, not to mention folks growing many kinds of edibles that aphids love.


Another aphid eater, ladybugs, love dill. I know this from my own experience, because my dill plants were covered in ladybugs last year. Luckily science back me up. As that article explains, attracting native ladybugs is much better than buying them at the store because native ones tend to eat more than the varieties imported from various Californian mountain ranges (the collection/shipping process apparently disrupts their eating schedule).

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm in a natural mosquito reppellant. Some varieties are up to 38% citronellal an essential oil that the pesky biting little suckers don’t like. Try Lemon Balm ‘Quedlinburger Niederliegende’ from Johnny’s Seeds, as it is full of the good stuff.


If you’re not too squeamish, comfrey is a great home to spiders, which in turn will eat a whole bunch of bugs that are unpleasant to have around, like flies. According to Organic Gardening Magazine, a square yard of comfrey can house 240 spiders! Granted you probably don’t need or have space for a square yard, but even one or two plants is bound to attract more than enough of the eight legged fellows.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Helen June 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

Wow, I didn’t know that catnip and dill were so good to have! I’ve got all four of these plants in my garden without knowing what they did. Thank you for the info!


Kaci June 21, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Great post, Fern! I was just wondering what plants I should add to my expanding garden (I recently moved to a new place with a much bigger deck)! These are four that are DEFINITELY going on the list! Thanks a bunch!


Fern June 21, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Helen–You’re a natural! :-)


Fern June 21, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Kaci–Congrats on the new place with a bigger deck. You must be really enjoying it now that summer has officially arrived.


Michelle August 28, 2009 at 4:22 am

You’ve got some great tips here Fern! The art of companion planting seems to have disappeared in recent years as people try to use artificial products to try and make the most of their planting, but personally I think it’s best to do it naturally, and it seems from your tips that you do too.

Long live Companion Planting : )


Fern August 29, 2009 at 11:37 am

Michelle–I’ve seen a huge influx in interest in companion planting. It goes part and parcel with all the interest in organic gardening.

Jen September 23, 2009 at 12:08 pm

I am going to have to remember these for next year. For some silly reason, I never grow dill…. maybe because I have bronze fennel volunteers everywhere, and fennel and dill don’t play well together. But if there are more lady bugs, then I will go for it. And I adore catnip, and lemon balm. As for the spiders, well as long as they aren’t too big…



Matt Sweeny January 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

This is super helpful thank you for sharing.


Denise November 4, 2010 at 7:24 pm

This is perfect!! I just got some catnip seeds to grow for my furry kids, so I love the double duty they will do! I sowed dill a couple months ago and it is barely clinging to life. The last batch of dill I had was completely devoured by aphids. I’m tempted to just get a couple dill plants from a nursery to get things started. :-/


Fern November 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Denise–We’ve had a really cool (until this week!) summer and fall is Southern California and I suspect that your dill seedlings don’t like the weather. There’s nothing wrong with buying herb starts from the nursery! Sometimes it’s easier for established plants to deal with less-than-desirable growing conditions.


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