window boxes

Window Boxes Jazz Up Your Home

Window Boxes Add Color and Charm

And that’s true, whether you’re in an apartment, a suburban ranch-style house or a country farmhouse. Filled with bright flowers and cascading greenery, they will add a cheerful touch, enjoyable from both outside and inside.

Types of window boxes

Many types of window boxes are available. You can make window boxes of  wood, or buy fiberglass, plastic or terra cotta window boxes. There are elegant styles and country casual styles, some in color, others in metal. You’re probably better off avoiding metal boxes if you’re placing it in a sunny area. The metal will conduct heat readily, and the plant roots may overheat. You will even find some that are just a light metal framework, with a cocofiber liner!

haybasket planterOther boxes are not window, but railing-mounted boxes. These add a festive touch of color to any balcony.  The deeper the box, the better for healthy root growth. It should be at least 8 – 10 inches wide, and a minimum of 6 inches deep.

Too shallow or narrow a box will dry out quickly, but too large a box will be too heavy to attach securely to the house, and will look ungainly. Make sure your window box has sufficient drain holes.

Waterlogged roots will kill your plants. Line the bottom of the box with a piece of screen to keep the soil from washing out, or put in a layer of sphagnum moss as a liner. The moss will also help keep the soil from drying out. If you’re opting for wood, and want your box to last, a thin metal liner is a must.

Mount the box so the top is just under the windowsill, using a spacer for air circulation between the box and the house exterior wall. Use galvanized wood screws every 16 inches to hold it securely. Another method is to use two or three angle bracket supports mounted to the wall, with the box attached to them.

If you are unable (or not allowed) to attach your window box to the house wall, you may find free-standing metal plant supports in your garden shop, that sit on the soil or balcony beneath your window, and the window box can be placed on that.

Planting the Window Box

Begin by placing a layer of drain rock or chunks of styrofoam in the bottom to ensure good drainage. Using styrofoam will not only make the box lighter, but it’s a good re-use of some of that packing material we all seem to collect. Then, fill it with a balanced planting mix containing compost, sharp sand, topsoil and vermiculite or perlite.

It’s possible to find soils specifically for window boxes or containers that have water-retaining properties, or you can buy the crystals and add them to your soil mix. Don’t use regular garden soil, as it will pack too densely and suffocate the plant roots.

Best Plants for Window Boxes

What are the best plants for your window box? The old standbys of geraniums and petunias are colorful, with abundant blooms, but don’t limit yourself to them. Try plants with different growing habits – some bushy, some trailing, and others that grow upright.

Look for different textures – frothy blossoms of alyssum, waxy smooth begonia leaves, or spiky tall dracena. Choose plants of varying heights, but ones that grow less than 16 inches tall are best. Before you choose plants for your window box, 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. Here are some suggested plants to look for at your local nursery.

For a window box in the sun: Upright Plants: Dusty miller, geraniums, celosia, nicotania, scarlet sage, calendula, marigolds, pinks, coleus, wax begonia, impatiens, dahlias, dianthus, gerbera daisies, miniature roses, basil, Bushy plants: Ageratum, artemisias, california poppy, pansy, alyssum, thyme, viola, dwarf zinnia, browallia, lobelia.

Sprawling and trailing plants: Lantana, nasturtium, oregano, petunia, verbena, forget-me-not. english ivy, periwinkle, asparagus fern, euonymus, trailing rosemary, sweet potato vine, nastursium, bacopa For a windowbox in semi-shade or shade: Upright or Bushy Plants: Caladiums, coleus, ferns, rex begonias, tuberous begonias, hosta, astilbe, lemon balm, snapdragon, browallia, impatiens, pansy, parsley, sweet alyssum Trailing plants: English Ivy, periwinkle, strawberry begonia, fuchsias, variegated vinca, wandering jew, trumpet vine Planting and Growing Tips Follow these planting and growing tips, and your window boxes will be beautiful all summer long.

  • Strive for an effect of fullness as you plant. Put the plants closer together than you would in the garden, and put taller ones at the back. Sprawling ones or vines will tumble over the edge of the box, softening the effect.
  • Water them well, and continue watering every second or third day, even in rainy weather. After the first two weeks, you should feed them bi-weekly with a diluted liquid fertilizer.
  • Mulch the window boxes to help retain moisture, and to keep the flowers looking fresh.
  • Deadhead the flowers regularly, and pinch back the growing tips so the plants get bushier, rather than leggy.
  • Two or three times in the season, snip the plants back into shape. Some will grow faster than others, so you need to keep the plantings balanced. Do your pruning in the morning or evening rather than in the heat of the day.

And yes, you can even have beautiful window boxes in winter!

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