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I have an outdoor patio (two, actually) that don't get direct sunlight. They face towards the east (which means they should get direct sunlight) but the apartment I live in is directly adjacent to a somewhat thick, albeit small line of trees. Sunlight barely penetrates this line, so I don't have consistent direct sunlight. The area is well lit during the morning and afternoon, though during the evening it's average outdoor light.

What plans can I grow successfully? I have hooks that can hang from the ceiling of the patio area, and I can also put floor potted plants on the patio. I would prefer plants that bloom, though I'm not particular on the style so long as it's relatively low-maintenance. (I am very likely to forget to water it morning and evening, so I'd prefer plants that only need water once daily or every other day, et. al.)

The climate is a general midwest climate, it's in Toledo, OH, United States.

Toledo, as with much of the Great Lakes region, has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), characterized by four distinct seasons. Both temperature and precipitation vary widely seasonally. Lake Erie moderates the climate somewhat, especially in late spring and fall, when air and water temperature differences are maximal. However, this effect is lessened in the winter by the fact that Lake Erie freezes over in most winters (unlike the other Great Lakes), coupled with prevailing winds that are often westerly. During the summer, southerly and westerly prevailing winds, combined with warm surface waters of Lake Erie, negate the lake's cooling effect. In addition, the lake increases local humidity, adding to discomfort on hot days.

Patio/balcony

The patio extends no further left than that beam. The portion towards the tree-line is the east side of the patio, and is the part that is the source of the very spotty direct sunlight.

  • It would help to see a photo - you mention a ceiling, does that ceiling extend over the whole patio area? – Bamboo May 25 '17 at 22:58
  • @Bamboo Yes, it does. Picture added. – 410_Gone May 25 '17 at 22:59
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That's a situation strictly for shade loving plants - the ceiling or roof over the balcony reduces ambient light levels significantly, whether or not dappled sun might reach plants near the edge. It looks as if the shrubs or trees outside are broadleaf and therefore deciduous, which might mean more sunlight in winter, although I can't tell if there's some ivy in there, which doesn't lose its leaves.

In terms of plants which produce bright flowers, assuming you get frost in winter, you're pretty much restricted to summer bedding type plants such as begonias, impatiens, lobelia, pansies and fuchsia. If you have frost free winters, some of these will go on for a year or more - hardy fuchsias are perennial, but are frost sensitive through their roots in a pot.

Some evergreen plants will cope with the low light levels, but they'll just be green, so Buxus (Box), Fatshedera lizei, Fatsia japonica, Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken', Skimmia varieties - if you want berries on Skimmia, you need a male and female plant, otherwise choose one like Skimmia fragrans, which does well in shade and, as the name suggests, has white fragrant flowers. Pieris forresti will do fine (P. japonica varieties need some sun) but need ericaceous (acid) potting soil. Camellia might work too, again, ericaceous potting soil. Note that Fatshedera needs support for its 4 foot stems, Fatsia will only be good for 5 years or so in a pot, but the Prunus mentioned will do fine in a pot for a long time provided its big enough, although it's not a particularly exciting plant. Otherwise, perennial plants like Astilbe (needs damp soil), but being perennial, they disappear in winter. English ivy would be good in a pot suspended from the ceiling - choose a Hedera helix variety though, they're a bit smaller than some others. Glechoma hederacea (sometimes sold as Nepeta variegata) will probably be fine in a hanging pot too, but it does get rather long and you'll be bumping into it when you walk out there, and it is only semi evergreen in chilly winters. If I think of any others, I'll add them later.

  • I forgot to mention that though I do prefer plants that bloom, I'd much rather have plants that are just green than none at all. :) Thank you greatly for the information, I'm going to research all these different species and get approval from the significant other on which ones she likes best as well. – 410_Gone May 25 '17 at 23:53
  • What I do on my balcony is a mix - some evergreens, with summer flowering stuff added to liven it up - I use containers for spring flowering bulbs, and just add summer flowering plants on top when they've died back in late spring to give some colour. But my balcony is not shady - lily of the valley will flower in shade though. – Bamboo May 25 '17 at 23:59
  • Can any of these be brought inside for the winter? I do have a couple (literally, only two) windows that face the eastern direction and I wonder if some of them could be brought inside during the colder season to cause them to continue to at least remain green. – 410_Gone May 26 '17 at 0:11
  • Not necessary for the evergreens mentioned, they won't like being indoors at all anyway, except for the ivy, but you could certainly overwinter Impatiens and tender Fuchsia and some Begonia varieties inside, although most of them do require a rest during winter. If your winters are very cold indeed, the risk is the pots might freeze, but the temperatures would have to be below zero C day and night for at least a week for that to be a risk. – Bamboo May 26 '17 at 0:13

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