General gardening topics

What plants are best for window boxes?

Last updated on March 16th, 2022

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If you are searching for the best plants for window boxes, you need to consider the type of exposure your windows get. If the sun shines on your windows all day, there are sun-loving plants to consider. But if the sun is rarely a direct visitor, then shade-loving plants will work best for you. 

Growing plants in window boxes, whether for your apartment, on a balcony, in your home, even along the railings around an outdoor seating area for your restaurant, you can place flowers at eye level for a unique charm. Soon enough these plants will become part of your architecture and a beloved part of the ambience. 

The Best Plants for Window Boxes

There are good plants for the main show, the centre of your floral display, and then wandering options that will naturally cascade over the box. Others, again, are more subtle and do better in the shade. 

Best Plants for Window Box - window box planted
Summer window box planted with ice plants and petunias

If you are feeling really dedicated, you can even select something that trails or climbs and affix it around the window frame or include topiary forms to create a layered structure. 

Regardless, the most important thing to consider is the direction your boxes will face, and as a result, the amount of sunlight they will enjoy. Shade-loving plants will get scorched if they are exposed to too much sun and sun-loving plants will get too leggy. 

Snap dragons in window box
Dwarf snap dragons

Some of these options grow taller than others. The Snapdragon, for example, can reach between 30-45cm in height, with common varieties spanning up to 1 metre, so be sure to find summer versions that will fit in your window box, look for varieties sold in trays of around 6 plants to ensure you get the small bedding varieties. 

Full Sun Options For Window Boxes

Window box planted with petunias
Trailing petunias in a window box

If you have a sunny, hot window and want an upright plant, these are the best options to consider:

  • Lavender
  • Petunias
  • Dahlias
  • Pelargonium Geraniums
  • Cyclamens
  • Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s Tongue Fern)
  • Nicotiana (Bedding Plant)
  • Sempervivums
  • Primula
  • Ice plants
nasturtiums which do well in hanging baskets and come in trailing or climbing varieties. Nasturtiums are low maintenance and do well in sun or partial shade.
Nasturtiums planted in a window box

If you want a trailing plant, consider:

  • Verbena
  • Nasturtium
  • Surfinia
  • Bacopa
  • Petunias
  • Thyme
  • Sweet marjoram
  • Trailing Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
Jasmine in window box

If you prefer something climbing, try:

Shade Options For Window Boxes

Coleus planted in window box
Coleus in a window box

If you have a shaded, cool window, and want an upright plant, these are the options to consider:

  • Heliotrope
  • Coleus
  • Astilbe
  • Bellis (English daisy)
  • Impatiens
  • Hosta
  • Begonias
  • Snapdragons
  • Pansies (Winter & Summer)
Fuchsia hanging basket
Trailing Fuchsia

If you want a trailing plant, consider:

  • Fuchsias
  • Vinca
  • Ivy
  • Bacopa

For a climbing plant, consider:

Flowering Bulbs

Miniature daffodils for window boxes
Spring miniature daffodils

You can also plant spring bulbs like miniature daffodils, hyacinths, lilies, dwarf gladiolus, or alliums. These can be mixed and matched with spring and summer flowering options for optimum impact. 

Other Options

Herb window box
Herb window box

In and around the flowers from the list above, you can also incorporate herbs and small vegetables. Small things like mint, chives and sage do well, especially if you are placing the window boxes outside of a kitchen or a restaurant because they give quick access to the items you use in the kitchen. 

You can mix marigolds with kale, lettuce or cherry tomatoes too. You will need to water and feed them regularly the same as growing in any other container, but imagine the fun you will have just reaching out to grab a head of freshly grown lettuce for a summer salad. 

Finding The Right Window Box

If you are looking to construct your window box you should consider wood. Wood can be customised to fit the length of your window and is easier to mount against the house. When mounting, however, do not put the box against the house, flush. Instead, leave 10cm of breathing room to prevent moisture from accumulating. 

Always look out for extra drainage holes to help with adequate moisture. If you are placing the boxes above another home (such as on the railing of the balcony in an apartment above others) be careful of where the runoff might go so that you don’t accidentally cover your neighbours’ heads each time you water.

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