Best Plants for Window Boxes

Window boxes are the perfect option for people who want to enjoy nature's beauty from a city high rise apartment or for country folks who just prefer to have some herbs within ten feet of the kitchen stove instead of somewhere on the back forty.

Before you choose plants for your window boxes, you will need to take a look at the area where you plan to place the container. Is it in full sun all day long or does it get partial or even full shade? Is it under an overhang or is it in an area that allows it to take advantage of the rainfall? Once you know what the growing environment will be like, you will be able to choose the best plants for window boxes in your location.

Herbs for Window Boxes
If you want to grow herbs in a box that hangs right outside the kitchen window, there are quite a few choices. Most herbs prefer an area with plenty of light. Ideal options for an herb themed window box are:

  • Basil - This versatile herb comes in several varieties. Mix them up for plenty of interest in the container.
  • Chives - These hardy plants have a pretty pink flower that is ideal for drying.
  • Cilantro - This slightly bitter herb has a strong odor.
  • Fennel - The licorice scent and ferny foliage makes this plant a favorite for containers.
  • Lavender - This plant is another popular choice with people who enjoy fragrance.
  • Oregano - For pasta lovers, this one is a must.
  • Parsley - This herb is a staple in almost every herb garden.
  • Scented geraniums - These plants combine beauty and scent.

One example of a planting plan for an Italian herb window box is to space 3 basil plants evenly in the container, with one in the center and one on either end. Then, plant a parsley plant between the end and center basil on one side and balance the box out with an oregano plant on the other side.

Veggies for Window Boxes
To help your sun loving vegetables grow well, you may want to shop for potting soil with moisture retaining capsules in it. Vegetables that will thrive in a window box include:

  • Carrots -Look for short or baby carrot varieties.
  • Lettuce - A spring mix is ideal.
  • Peppers - Hot pepper plants are usually more compact than other varieties.
  • Radishes - Be sure these plants get enough water.
  • Spinach - This vegetable prefers spring temperatures.

Annuals for Window Boxes
Most annuals with a compact growing habit do well in window boxes. Consider these shade lovers for areas without a lot of sun:

  • Coleus - These plants have beautiful foliage and barely visible blossoms. Most gardeners pinch out the blossoms to keep the plants bushy.
  • Impatiens - These mounding plants will bloom through the entire summer season with proper care.
  • Pansies - These flowers have spring and winter varieties; you will need to replant your window boxes later in the year.

For areas that receive plenty of sun, try:

  • Dahlias - These colorful flowers will come back year after year if you properly care for the tubers.
  • Decorative cabbage or kale - You can find these plants in early autumn.
  • Dianthus - This cheery carnation-like plant will often overwinter in gardens that are zone 6b or higher.
  • Dusty miller - The soothing grayish foliage of this plant makes it the ideal foil for more colorful companion plantings.
  • Geraniums - These plants are actually a tender perennial, but they are sold as an annual in most climates.
  • Gerbera daisies - For non-stop color during summer months, try these bold beauties.
  • Petunias - The Wave cultivars are particularly popular with container gardeners.

Perennials for Window Boxes

Perennials do well in window boxes during the growing season, but they may not overwinter if they are left in window boxes during winter. If you'd like to use your perennial containers again next year, bring the plants in for the winter or protect them by sinking the container into the ground or mounding leaves around it until spring.

For a window box in the shade, take a look at:

  • Small hosta varieties, such as Blue Cadet - While the flower spikes of the hosta are usually downright forgettable, leaves have a striking shape.
  • Fern leaf bleeding hearts - These plants do not fade away as the other bleeding heart variety tends to do.
  • Japanese painted ferns or other small fern varieties - Ferns add lovely, serene foliage to any container.

For a window box in the sunshine, try:

  • Dwarf plumbago - This plant's foliage turns an eye catching scarlet in the fall and it has lovely blue blossoms.
  • Silver Mound artemisia - The delicate gray foliage forms an airy mound.
  • Miniature roses - These little bloomers are happy in a container.
  • Variegated vinca - This vine hangs gracefully from window boxes and is frequently combined with geraniums.
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