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Are you running out of room in your garden? Feeling boxed in? That's terrific! A box can be quite liberating, particularly if it's a box full of flowers under your window. A form of container gardening, window boxes enable gardeners to bring bursts of color right up close to the house. Window boxes also provide gardeners with limited space an opportunity to expand their options. They can take your garden quite literally to another level.

Type of Window Box

Window boxes come in a wide range of styles and materials, including cedar wood window box, willow, bamboo window box, plastic and fiberglass. Each has pros and cons that should be carefully considered before selecting them. Natural material like wood and bamboo are getting popular because they are ecology sustainable and light weight. Weight is important because most of the window boxes are hung by the building and weight is always a concern. Building your own window boxes also can be a fun and rewarding weekend project. Window boxes look best when they are at least as long the window is wide or even a few inches longer. Also, try to choose a style that compliments the architecture of your home.

For window boxes constructed from wood or other materials susceptible to weathering and decay, a liner helps them to last longer. Investing in a liner or other container to slip into the window box also facilitates planting, especially for hard-to-reach boxes. Simply place the plants and soil in the liner, then drop the whole thing into the outside box. Even better, when it comes time to clean it out in the winter, just lift out the liner and you're done.

Planting a Window Box

Planting a window box is much like planting any other container. You must consider the hours of sunlight it will receive and choose plants accordingly. Ensure it has proper drainage so that water will not collect on the bottom and rot the plants' roots. Use a bagged soil-less mix available at most garden centers. It is relatively lightweight, free of insects and diseases, and has a good water holding capacity. Because soil-less mixes are low in nutrients you will need to fertilize your window box plantings regularly. If you wish, you may mix in a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote before planting.

Many plants work well in window boxes, from annuals and grasses to shrubs and miniature roses. First, lay out your plants while they're still in their pots. Buy small ones, in cell-packs or four-inch containers. Not only are they more economical in this size, they are also easier to work with. In no time, they will grow into a lush and beautiful display.

Feel free to experiment with different plant combinations but avoid planting in rows. Instead, stagger plants in a zigzag pattern which will look less rigid. In general, place taller plants in the back, closest to the window. Next, have some mounding plants of middle height. Finally, include some trailing plants that will spill down the side of the window box.

When you have the plants arranged how you like them, plant them about a half-inch below the rim so there is room to water. Gently firm the soil around them and water well. Window boxes in full sun may need watering every day. For high-up ones, you may want to consider investing in self watering window boxes, which are available from online stores and some garden centers.  Try not to let your plants wilt before watering as this extreme stress can reduce their performance. Every two weeks, feed with a water-soluble fertilizer. When flowers or leaves fade, remove them to keep the plants healthy and looking their best.

With virtually limitless design possibilities, window boxes offer a unique way to accent and brighten your home's fagade. Next time you feel boxed in, you might also think it's terrific as you gaze at the flowers waving in your windows. 


Window box can dry out very quickly. Daily or even twice-daily watering may be necessary. Feel the soil to determine whether or not it is damp. If the potting mix feels dry 1 inch below the surface, it is time to water. Apply water until it runs out the drainage holes. If the pot dries out too much you should immerse it in water to resoak the soil mix. Containers will need frequent checking as the plants grow and temperatures become hotter.

Watering wands are good tools for difficult-to-reach baskets and window boxes. They extend your reach and produce a gentle shower.

Frequent watering flushes nutrients from the soil quickly, so frequent fertilizing is also necessary. Liquid fertilizers or timed-release fertilizers are the easiest methods of application. Time-release fertilizer pellets can be mixed into the soil at planting or worked into the top inch later. The soil in the container should be moist when fertilizer is applied, even liquid fertilizer. Feed baskets and boxes every two weeks from spring through summer with a complete liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength.

Remove flowers as they fade to keep flowering baskets blooming well. Many plants are rejuvenated by a trim in late summer.


Common Name

Botanical Name

Height Width Ornamental Features Bloom Season Comment
Ornamental Kale

(Brassica oleracea)

1 foot tall and wide Green and white, pink, red or purple foliage. Foliage color in winter Plant in fall for color after frost.
Ornamental Pepper

(Capsicum annuum)

1 to 2˝ feet tall and wide Fruit range in color from yellow to orange or red and purple to near black. Midsummer to frost The fruit of ornamental peppers are edible but extremely hot.
Annual Vinca

(Catharanthus roseus)

6 to 24 inches tall White, pink, rose, lavender, purple, red or salmon. Early summer to frost Very heat and drought tolerant.

(Solenostemon scutellarioides)

1 to 3 feet tall and wide Colorful foliage often with lobed or cut margins. Remove flowers for best foliage Select sun-tolerant cultivars.
Creeping Zinnia

(Sanvitalia procumbens)

6 inches tall and at least 2 feet wide Tiny, golden, daisylike flowers. Summer to frost Not suited for coastal climate. Great in hot, dry areas.
Cypress Vine

(Ipomoea quamoclit)

Climbs or trails up to 10 feet. Tiny brilliant red flowers above delicate fern-like foliage. Summer to frost Very tough despite delicate appearance.
Dusty Miller

(Senecio cineraria)

6 to 12 inches tall and wide Soft, finely cut whitish-silver leaves. Foliage color from spring until frost Excellent foliage contrast.

(Erysimum or Cheiranthus species)

6 to 24 inches tall and wide Cream, yellow, orange, purple and maroon. Spring to early summer Plant in the fall for spring flowering.
French Marigold

(Tagetes patula)

6 to 18 inches tall and wide Yellow, gold, orange and mahogany red. Late spring to frost Remove spent flowers for continued bloom.

(Gazania rigens)

6 to 12 inches tall and wide Daisy-like yellow, orange, pink or red flowers. All summer Good choice for hot, dry locations.

(Pelargonium x hortorum)

12 to 36 inches tall and wide White to pink, salmon or red flowers. Many cultivars have variegated leaves. All summer Remove spent flowers for continued bloom.

(Heliotropum arborescens)

12 to 36 inches tall and wide Scented purple or lavender blooms in clusters. All summer The species is more sweetly scented and larger than modern cultivars.
Ivy-Leafed Geranium

(Pelargonium peltatum)

1 foot tall by 3 to 4 feet wide Colors range from white to pink, salmon and red.

Branches trail like vines.

All summer Best with some afternoon shade.
Sweet Pea

(Lathyrus odoratus)

Vines up to 6 feet, bush types 1 to 2 feet tall Fragrant, colorful flowers. Bush types are suitable for window boxes. Spring Sweet Peas grow best under cool conditions. Plant in late winter for early spring bloom. Plant at Christmas on the coast.
Licorice Plant

(Helichrysum petiolare)

6 to 12 inches tall, 3 to 4 feet wide Trailing plant with fuzzy round leaves that are silver gray, variegated or lime green. Foliage color all summer Used as contrasting foliage. Very tolerant of hot, dry weather.
Sweet Alyssum

(Lobularia maritima)

4 to 8 inches tall by 1 foot wide Honey-scented flowers are white, pink, rose or purple. Late spring until frost Alyssum may decline in midsummer. Shear, feed and water to rejuvenate.
Lotus Vine

(Lotus berthelotii)

6 to 8 inches tall by 3 to 4 feet wide Feathery foliage on gray trailing vines followed by bright red flowers Late summer Likes hot, dry weather.

(Petunia hybrida)

4 to 12 inches tall by 24 to 48 inches wide Virtually all colors are available. All summer Require ample moisture and fertility to thrive. Trailing cultivars are excellent in baskets.
Moss Rose

(Portulaca grandiflora)

6 to 9 inches tall by 12 to 18 inches wide Wide variety of colors in single and double flowers. All summer until frost Thrives in hot, dry locations. New hybrid types stay open longer.
Fan Flower

(Scaveola aemula)

6 inches tall by 4 feet wide Blue or white flowers on long trailing branches. Prolific from spring until frost Very heat and drought tolerant.
Trailing Lantana

(Lantana montevidensis)

6 to 12 inches tall by 3 to 4 feet wide Lavender or white flowers on trailing stems. All summer Tolerates hot, dry windy conditions.
Variegated Periwinkle

(Vinca major ‘Variegata’)

6 inches tall by 3 to 4 feet wide White-edged or lime-centered green leaves on trailing stems. Blue flowers, spring; grown for foliage Excellent foliage contrast.

(Verbena x hybrida)

6 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 24 inches wide Red, purple, pink and white flowers on bushy or spreading plants. Mid spring until frost Thrives in hot weather.


Botanical Name

Common Name

Height Width Ornamental Features Bloom Season Comment

(Viola x wittrockiana)

6 to 8 inches tall and wide Available in nearly all colors of the rainbow. Fall through spring Plant in the fall. Blooms through winter. Peak bloom in spring.

(Impatiens wallerana)

6 to 36 inches tall and wide Almost all colors except blue are available. Continuous flowering from spring until fall Keep constantly moist.
Purple Shamrocks

(Oxalis purpurea)

10 inches tall and wide Large purple leaves and white or pink flowers. Spring Grown for its foliage.
Tuberous begonia

(Begonia x tuberhybrida)

12 to 18 inches tall and wide Large flowers in red, pink, orange, yellow, white and in bicolors. Spring through summer Lift tubers in fall and store; replant in spring.

(Caladium x hortulanum)

12 to 30 inches tall and wide Arrow-shaped leaves patterned in red, pink, white and green. Grown for colorful summer foliage Keep evenly moist, fertilize frequently.

(Solenostemon scutellarioides)

1 to 3 feet tall and wide Leaf color mixtures include magenta, red, copper, orange, yellow, chartreuse and green. Pinch off flower spikes Most cultivars grow best in shade or part shade.
Polka Dot Plant

(Hypoestes phyllostachya)

12 to 18 inches tall and wide Pink or white speckles on green leaves. Grown for summer foliage Beautiful foliage with white or pink flowers. Very tough.

(Fuchsia cultivars)

2 to 3 foot wide trailing Drooping tear-shaped buds open to flouncy interiors Flowers in red, pink, purple, coral, white and combinations. Spring through summer



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Last modified: August 28, 2014