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Main Content

Window Boxes add Beauty to Your Home

Window Boxes - Tractor Supply Co.
Seasonal flowers and foliage create instant impact.

By Jodi Torpey

Illustration by Tom Milner

Paint may be the fastest way to update a home’s interior, but seasonal flowers and foliage create instant impact outside. While container plantings add nice splashes of color, few can compare to the charming look of lavishly planted window boxes.

Window boxes are a beautiful finishing touch to a home’s exterior, and they can be enjoyed from the inside, too. All it takes is filling window boxes with fragrant summer flowers and throwing open the windows.

Before planting a box with flowers and hanging it under a window, take time to think about the look you want to create. Instead of deciding which flowers you want to plant, picture the empty space under your windows and start from there.

Plan for Visual Impact

The most attractive window boxes are those that complement the architectural style of the house and the distinctive colors and features of the surrounding environment. Durable redwood or cedar window boxes offer country charm, but wrought iron, aluminum, copper, vinyl, and fiberglass are appealing alternatives, too.

As with any flower garden, consider whether the window box planting will be in full sun or partial shade, the strength of prevailing winds, likely amounts of precipitation, and how you’ll care for the plants. Self-watering window boxes with built-in reservoirs make watering more convenient in hard-to-reach places. Because window boxes need to drain, consider what’s located beneath the planter, too.

Window boxes are heavy when filled with potting soil, plants, and water. Be sure to mount them securely with brackets or another hanging system to provide strong support. Also keep in mind how windows open. If windows swing out, boxes need to be placed slightly lower to prevent damage to tall flowers.

Even though window boxes are designed to dress up the space beneath windows, they can also decorate fences, walls, ledges, or the railings on a porch or deck.

To extend the life of your window boxes, paint, stain, or seal wooden boxes before planting. Another way to make window boxes last longer is to use durable plastic window box liners that keep the inside of boxes like new. These liners also make it easy to refresh plantings as the seasons change. Simply lift out the liner with fading summer blooms and pop in another liner planted with fall flowers.

Think Outside the Window Box

A window box planting can be as simple or as decorative as you want. Geraniums and petunias seem to be the easiest flowers to maintain, but why not experiment with unusual combinations of plants for added pizazz?

The secret is to plant boxes so they overflow with vibrant colors and interesting textures. Expand your selections from annuals to include bulbs, perennials, houseplants, scented flowers, and frilly foliage plants. For window boxes within easy reach, mix edibles with flowers for an attractive and delicious planting. Just be sure all the plants have similar needs for sun, shade, and water.

The plants and containers need to be in proportion to each other, too. Compact begonias are good window box plants if they’re blooming over the top of the box instead of stretching to peek over the sides.

If you’re planting a series of window boxes along one side of the house, stick to the same combination of plants for the most cohesive look. Whether it’s a cascade of color or different plants in similar colors, repeating patterns are the most pleasing to the eye.

For window boxes you’ll see up close, embellishments such as a weather vane, birdhouse, or a short trellis add special detail.

Use Best Planting Practices

Because window boxes are more exposed to the elements, they need extra care. Here are the top tips for planting and maintaining your window boxes:

  • Cover the drainage hole with a piece of landscape fabric or coffee filter to keep soil from washing out.
  • Place a layer of gravel on the bottom of the container, fill the window box half full with moist potting soil, and mix in a granular slow-release fertilizer.
  • Try different arrangements of plants on top of the soil before planting to visualize how the combinations will look together. Place tall plants in back, trailing or vining plants in front, and fill in with medium-height plants.
  • Start planting from the middle of the window box and continue planting to the edges, filling in potting soil as you go. Stagger the rows instead of placing in a straight line, and place plants close together so they can fill in faster.
  • As an alternative, leave plants in their individual pots and firm soil around them. As annuals stop performing remove the plant and pot and replace with a fresh bloomer.
  • Monitor window boxes and give them plenty of care through the season. Keep up with watering in hot weather and feed with a liquid fertilizer every few weeks to help plants stay healthy. Pinch or clip stems often to encourage full, but compact growth.

Whether you have a single window or a house with several stories of windows, you can add irresistible appeal by planting window boxes. Consider making a personal statement with these small accent gardens that are an extension of your landscape or a replacement for one.