There’s something endearingly European about plants cascading from a tiny balcony, especially when framed by azulejos and peeling paint. Whether you have a balconette, a windowsill, or a sizeable veranda, right now is the time to plant something green.
What grows where depends on how much light and space you have, and how often you remember to water. Need a few tips to make your thumbs greener? Atlas is here to help.
What plants do well in Lisbon
If you are renowned for killing plants, succulents thrive with virtual neglect. Found in vibrant shades of green and grey (sometimes with a flush of pink or lilac), these spiky, fleshy plants can bring life to a mostly sunny spot. The zebra plant (Haworthia attenuata) has bold stripes while donkey’s tail (Sedum morganianum) is a favorite for balconettes and hangs attractively from baskets. Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) is a living first-aid kit, with all kinds of healing properties. Succulents are relatively pest-resistant, and since they originated in dry, desert areas, they can handle the Lisbon summer.
Flowers need an outdoor space with a bit of sunshine and a good drink every few days. The classic geranium (Pelargonium) in a terracotta pot is an undemanding companion while bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra) is a natural climber and a perennial gem with its papery, jewel-colored bracts. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) like poor soils and full sun and their peppery leaves and flowers can be thrown into a salad. Orchids bloom for months and keep their green leaves all year round. Try to source bulbs from Madeira.
For those who love to cook, plant hardy perennial herbs like rosemary (click here to read about its health benefits), thyme, and chives in a window box for whisking up a tasty marinade for your goat dinner or scattering over roasted vegetables. A fiery malagueta plant is essential for any kitchen garden, and if you have the room, get a bay tree or a small citrus like a kumquat. Annual herbs like parsley and coriander need a bit more light and regular watering, while a few tomato plants and a pot of basil will do wonders for your salad game in the summer.
If you are low on space, try sprouting alfalfa, cress, or mung bean seeds in a jar on your windowsill. A few local companies have also come up with ingenious mushroom-growing kits that are ideal for apartments. Closed or open-air terrarium ecosystems have been a thing for some time and are quite content in low light. Looking for a hardy houseplant? The mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) is an impeccable choice for sun or shade. This handsome plant with tall, sword-shaped leaves is extremely low-maintenance and only needs watering every couple of weeks.
A funky alternative is the air plant (Tillandsia aeranthos), which grows without soil and absorbs moisture and nutrients through its leaves. It has electric purple and pink flowers and can be attached to balcony railings.
What you need to get started:
– A pot. Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. And a base, because puddles of dirty water are unsightly.
– Organic compost or potting mix. Plants need nutrients from the soil to thrive.
– Plants, seedlings or seeds (preferably perennial so you won’t have to plant them again every year).
– A spray bottle or watering can. In general, water the base of the plant, not the leaves.
What to do
Plant. Water. Repeat. Enjoy!
Where to buy plants in Lisbon
Your local viveiro. Some organic shops in Lisboa sell seeds, sprouts, and little pots of organic herbs. If you’re serious about green things, Ikea has recently launched a groovy hydroponic set-up with lights and trays.
Here’s a handy list of places you can shop around town:
Avenida 24 de Julho, Loja 64, Mercado da Ribeira
+351 213 426 439
Mon – Sat, 7h – 19h; Sun, 7h – 14h
Horto do Campo Grande
Campo Grande, 171, Campo Grande
+351 219 240 252
Mon – Fra, 8h – 20h; Sat – Sun, 10h – 20h
Florista Sonhos e Lembranças
Rua Santa Marta 19-A, Avenida
+351 213 140 710
Mon – Fri, 9h – 19h; Sat, 9h – 1h
Florista Pequeno Jardim
R. Garrett 61, Chiado
+351 213 422 426
Mon – Fri, 10h – 20h
Kefrô by Isaura Florista
Praça de Londres, 4, Areeiro
+351 218 480 614
Mon – Sat, 9h – 19h
Centro de Jardinagem da Charneca
Rua António Andrade Letras J/F, Charneca de Caparica
+351 212 962 619
Tue – Sat, 9h – 13h, 15h – 19h; Sun, 9h – 13h
Avenida Vale Bem 8, Vale Bem-Charneca de Caparica e Sobreda
+351 212 971 968
Tue – Sun, 9h – 19h
Horto do Rossio
Rua Major Rosa Bastos 2, Caneças
+351 219 800 146
Mon – Fri, 8h – 12h, 13h – 18h; Sat, 8h – 12h
Have you got a large project ahead of you? Read Jen Reviews’ article that will guide you through setting it all up with great tips and informative descriptions of what to do and what to avoid.