The following plants do well in container gardens. Many of the perennials will go dormant and winter over. If your area gets really cold in the winter you may want to wrap the pots with hot water tank blankets. It depends on which direction your balcony faces. North facing will get the coldest in the winter.
Annuals: Impatiens, caladiums, begonias, elephant ears, torenias and Boston ferns.
Perennials: Hostas, Japanese painted fern, autumn fern, heucheras, tiarellas, Japanese maples (there are some beautiful dwarf forms with red or green leaves), hydrangeas (look for one called 'Endless Summer') and English ivy (good for trailing over the edges of pots).
A shade garden is built around different foliage colors and textures. Most shade perennials bloom for a short period of time compared to annuals. The impatiens, begonias and torenias (look for the newest varieties like Summer Wave) should give you summer long bloom. Endless Summer hydrangea will bloom longer than the older varieties since it can bloom on new growth as well as old.
Hope this helps. Have fun and don't be afraid to experiment.