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Wednesday - May 30, 2012

From: Panama City Beach, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Container Gardens, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Plants for 16th floor of condo in Panama City Beach, FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford


My husband and I have a COSI on the west end of Panama City Beach, Fl. I love plants and flowers and live out of state. Our condo is on the 16th floor and directly on the gulf. What type of plants and/or shrubs can I use in this area? I would appreciate any information you could give me. Thanks,


First, please read our How-To Article on A Guide to Native Plant Gardening.

Next, How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants.

Next, measure the space you have, the amount of sunlight each portion has and whether there is water available close by. See this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer to help you avoid being over-ambitious for your space.

You understand that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants are being grown, in your case, Florida.Our goal is to always recommend plants native to your area so that the plants will have already adapted, by centuries of experience, to climate, rainfall, and soil.

In a container garden, you will probably have container potting soil. The rain might not ever get to your plant if the balcony above you shields your plants from the rain. And temperatures on a hardscape balcony with walls on 5 sides are going to be really, really HOT. If the sun strikes the balcony, the heat is going to reflect off those hard surfaces and just bake the plants. If the sun does not strike the balcony, you are going to have to rely on shade-tolerant plants. And facing the Gulf is great for the view, but the winds off the water at that height  can batter the plants, and might even be complicated by salt spray off the Gulf.

Frankly, we are a little concerned that what you want is not going to be what you can get. If you live out of state, obviously you are not going to be there every day, or every week or even every month. In particular, newly planted plants need more attention than some that have been established for some time.

In view of all this, we are going to excuse you from the requirement that you use only Florida natives. Our best guess is that the plants that will have the best chance are succulents. They can take heat, go a while (but not a long while) without water and many are shade tolerant. Ordinarily, we would hesitate to recommend anything non-native in Florida because the growing conditions are so lush that many plants become invasive. We don't think there is much chance of plants from the 16th floor becoming invasive.

You can then feel free to shop in nurseries looking for interesting succulents. We recommend terra cotta pots because evaporation will help to modify the temperature. Plastic pots, while lighter and less expensive, can cook the roots.

Since we are not going to be able to help you much, here is information from other sources:

Balcony Container Gardening

HGTV How to Grow a Balcony Garden

urbangardensweb.com Urban Gardens





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