Nina Eggens

Our roving Spanish lifestyle blogger Nina Eggens is originally from the Netherlands. After a stint in Scotland, she now lives in Valencia with her family, and provides regular tips and advice for overseas buyers thinking of making the move to Spain.

Green fingers? These plants are perfect for your Spanish terrace

by Nina Eggens

Did you recently buy a house in Spain? Then decorating your balcony or terrace with plants is likely one of the things you’ll be looking at. However, gardening in the north of Europe is very different from gardening in the Costa Banca. Less rain and (much) more sun requires a completely different approach and choice of patio plants. It is actually very nice, as you get to know a lot of new plants and in many cases you can put your original house plants outside. And what about growing your own orange or lemon tree? Or starting a special cactus and succulent collection? Welcome to the perfect climate!

I once rescued a sad little rubber plant from a dusty cottage in northern Scotland when I bought second-hand furniture from an old man who was downsizing. “Are you keeping this?” I asked him, pointing at the plant. “Take it, hen, maybe you will breathe new life into it,” he laughed and so rubber plant went home with me. Two years later, the same houseplant moved with me to Spain, where I put it outside on the terrace. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The plant started to develop healthy, large new branches within six months and soon the pot was too small. I discovered that my Scottish houseplant actually grows into a monumental tree down here in the Costa Blanca. Rubber plant, or “Ficus Elastica” had found its natural habitat.

Which plants for a Spanish garden?

So how about your terrace? Perhaps there were some plants left on the patio or balcony of the house that you recently bought, especially if it is an older house. Maybe it even came with a landscaped garden. But if you have the keys to a new-build apartment, that sleek modern patio will probably still look a bit bare. Make a start and buy some big pots with large leafy plants or create an explosion of colour with typical flowering varieties for a quick change with big impact. Even if you only visit your home in Spain a few times a year, it is useful to know which plants are low in maintenance and will survive if you are not there. Here are some ideas for creating a beautiful, green outdoor space with plants that are fairly easy to maintain.

Ficus Elastica (rubber plant)

As illustrated above, the low maintenance rubber plant is a fantastic choice for a Spanish terrace. The Ficus Elastica, also called rubber plant, rubber tree or rubber tree plant, is a popular terrace plant in Spain because of its beautiful, robust and waxy leaves. These large plants, which originate in Asia, are available in different varieties and colours. The rubber plant likes just the right amount of sun and water. Rubber plants tell you if they need more sunlight or water if they drop their lower leaves. They prefer bright, indirect sunlight, so don’t put them in the full hot sun all day. These plants need more water in the summer, although do not leave the plant waterlogged. You can prune your rubber plant to keep its shape, promote new growth and keep its size under control. Pruning is possible throughout the year.

Aloe Vera, the medicinal wonder plant

Aloe vera, sometimes described as a “miracle plant”, is a succulent plant with a short stem. Aloe is a plant species that contains more than 500 varieties of flowering succulents. They grow quite large when planted in open soil, but are equally easy to multiply by taking cuttings. Succulents are ideal plants for a Spanish terrace because they require very little water and enjoy the warm climate. They will certainly survive, even if you are not there for months. Aloe vera is not only an elegant patio plant, but also has medicinal properties. It contains antioxidants, enzymes, Vitamins A, B and C, and it is highly anti-inflammatory. Break off a leaf and a gel-like liquid is released that is particularly good for things like sunburn, cold sores and dry skin. Aloe Vera gel can be used internally as well as a homeopathic aid for conditions such as gastritis, diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome.

The bougainvillea, for lush, abundant colour

Bougainvillea is the iconic Mediterranean plant for front garden, terrace or balcony. Who doesn’t know the whitewashed walls with the pink, red, lilac or orange flowers draped over them in abundance? The most ideal place for a Bougainvillea is a sunny, reasonably sheltered place. Although the plant is often used as a climber planted directly in the ground, you can also grow it in a large pot on the patio. The plant likes to be in the sun, but is thirsty and needs water almost daily in the summer. At the same time, this plant hates ‘wet feet’, so make sure that excess water can drain out of the pot. Pruning is allowed, but actually not necessary. The pruning of a Bougainvillea is only necessary if the plant becomes too large. You can do this best in February.

Lavender, rosemary and oregano…for fragrance and flavour

The Spanish climate is ideal for the growing many herbs. Collect some beautiful pots and plant your favourite herbsin them, such as oregano, thyme, rosemary and laurel (bay leaf). Mint also does well as long as it receives regular water. Lavender is perhaps less popular as a culinary herb, but it smells wonderful on the terrace. Basil and other herb plants with softer leaves are a bit more difficult to cultivate because they don’t do well in heat with little water. An additional advantage of herbal plants with a strong fragrance is that it tends to keep insects such as mosquitos away.

The money plant: low maintenance and fast growing

A suitable outdoor plant from the succulent family is also the money plant or lucky plant, officially known as the “Crassula Ovata“. Very low maintenance and this plant grows pretty fast, so you have a beautiful patio plant in no time. Just like with most other succulents, the Crassula Ovata is also easy to take cuttings from and multiply. The money tree is also available as a hanging version. This plant species is originally from South Africa and grows in sunny, dry areas, and is therefore perfect for the Spanish climate. The plant does not need much water and it does well in a light, sunny spot on the terrace.

 Happy gardening!

Nina Eggens

Our roving Spanish lifestyle blogger Nina Eggens is originally from the Netherlands. After a stint in Scotland, she now lives in Valencia with her family, and provides regular tips and advice for overseas buyers thinking of making the move to Spain.

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