Window boxes give gardeners an affordable outlet to do what they love most: experiment. Known as one of the first living walls, window boxes have been a longtime favorite of gardeners.
Window boxes continue to be a popular landscape element today and often stand in for front yards at homes that open to the sidewalk. Although there is a lot of creative freedom with planting window boxes, there is a right way to do it.
Window boxes show off the range of possibilities a few feet of soil can offer, so use our tips to create a floral creation of your own.
How to get started
The first step is to choose your box and where you want to hang it. Don’t underestimate how heavy a window box can be — it is filled with soil and plants, and it gets even heavier when watered.
We recommend buying a sturdy box made of a hardwood like redwood or cedar rather than pine (which rots quickly) and then securing the box with a window-box bracket.
Always make sure your window box has drainage holes. To aid drainage, place 2 inches of nonbiodegradable packing peanuts or old wine corks in the bottom of the box, and then cover with landscape fabric to prevent soil from seeping out.
Next, fill the box halfway with potting soil, and add your plants.
Make sure your plants are placed a few inches apart to give them room to fill out. If you want immediate impact, you can plant closer, of course, but know that you will need to pinch or prune your plants to prevent overcrowding. Once your plants are in place, fill in the gaps with more soil, and lightly pat down around the plants.
As with all container plantings, choose plants with similar water and light needs, and expect to water them more often than those in the ground. Water thoroughly once the soil has dried out.
Keep in mind a few basic design principles, then unleash your creativity.
5 things to know
Use repetition in your planting
Repetition is a fool-proof way to create a cohesive look in a window box. Try planting a 15-foot-long box with repeating groups of ivy ball topiary, chartreuse coleus and white caladium for a sense of flow and order.
Choose a focal point
Choosing the centerpiece first means the rest of your plant picks will fall into place. For example, start with a lemon cypress topiary. Use coleus to bridge the colors of the foliage and the brick, and use creeping wire vine to loosen the design.
Think about texture
An arrangement can achieve masses of texture by mixing wispy purple fountain grass, croton and spilling sweet potato vine. The form differences ensure each plant stands out even though the box is tightly packed.
Take cues from the landscape
For a garden-door container, try red-orange copperleaf and variegated sea hibiscus. Fill it out with English ivy and Spanish moss.
Try choosing a single color palette for plantings all around your house.
One idea for a window box is using green and white, with hints of yellow. If your window box hangs near an outdoor dining table, tuck in fragrant herbs like thyme, oregano and mint as fillers.