Did you know that the use of window boxes for gardening dates back to the Roman Empire? Even the most modest of homes used this form of gardening to maximize growing space primarily for herbs and medicinal plants. Eventually, window boxes became popular with wealthier Romans who used them to plant flowers and vines in elaborate displays on balconies and rooftops. Window boxes are really just another form of container gardening and they can add charm and brighten the face of any type of home including apartments, condominiums and townhouses. There are few things that can improve the curb appeal of your home in a more dramatic fashion than a lush window box and there are four steps to having beautiful window boxes we would like to share with you.

The first step in the process is to choose the correct container. You can find containers made from a number of different materials ranging from terra cotta to plastic and fiberglass. The container material that may be the most well known are window boxes made from wood. Cedar and redwood containers are very resistant to rotting and wood can help insulate the soil in the box from the summer heat. Caution should be used with metal, as a box made of metal can “cook” your plants if it is placed in a particularly sunny location. Regardless of which container material you choose you do want to make sure that the color of the window box blends well with the trim and siding material of your home. The length of the window box can also have an impact on the aesthetics of your box and it should not be longer than the window itself. Finally, the size of the box is also important as smaller window boxes can dry out quickly and require more frequent watering. A window box that is 8” wide and 8” deep is usually a good size to help minimize this issue.

The next step to consider is properly installing the window box. First, you want to make sure that your box has drainage holes in the bottom otherwise the plant material will probably not survive due to the excessive moisture. It is also a good idea to secure the box in its permanent position before you put any soil in it as it will be lighter and easier to maneuver into place. Securing the box properly is particularly important in urban areas and apartment settings as an improperly secured box can become a projectile and cause serious injuries to pedestrians.  Be sure to secure the box to the structure with steel brackets that are spaced about 18 inches apart and if your home has a brick veneer masonry screws should be used to properly secure the box. An additional precaution is to use a chain to attach the box to the window frame.

Once the box is secured you are ready for Step 3 which is to plant the box. There are several ways to go about this; you can put a liner in the box which will help keep the soil from directly contacting the container.  Particularly if your container is made of wood this step could help the container last longer. You can also put soil directly in the container itself or you can put potted plants in the container and use a decorative material such as Spanish Moss to hide the pots that the plants are in. If you want to line the box or put soil directly in it you want to be sure to leave a space about 1” from the top of the box to the soil line for watering purposes.

The final step is choosing the right plants. Bright colors will usually go well against lighter colored siding and pale colors, like white, are effective when planted next to brick walls. You also want to have plants that will cascade over the edges of the box such as sweet alyssum, lobelia or petunias and some plants with height like geraniums. You just want to be sure the plants you use aren’t so tall that they block the window itself. It’s ok to get creative too. A window box outside of the kitchen can be filled with herbs such as oregano, parsley and thyme and box planted in the fall with crocus bulbs and pansies can give you a beautiful display in the spring. Once the planting is done the ongoing needs of the window box are like any other container. They will need to be watered more frequently during hot and dry spells in the summer. They should be fed at least monthly if not bi-weekly as the need for regular watering will leech the nutrients from the soil and routine “grooming” will keep the plants looking their best.  Now that you know all about window boxes why not try them in your garden this year.

Looking for More Great Summer Garden Ideas?  Check these out:

Nemcsok Farms- Fantastic Foliage For Your Summer Garden 

Drought Smart Plants- Early Morning in the Summer Garden 

Sensible Gardening and Living- Touring The Garden in Mid Summer 

The Gardening Cook - Budget Front Yard Make Over 

Our Good Life- The Summer Secret to Enjoying Your Garden-Parties! 

New House New Home- Creating Your Own Garden Style 

An Eye For Detail- (It's Almost) My Summer Garden

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  • klspurr1a@gmail.com Apr 25

    I have a window box that gets sun all day.  Which flowers would be a great fit for this spot.

    A good window box will have a combination of upright and trailing plants. Here are some suggestions for full sun conditions:

    Upright-Marigold, Zinnia Profusion Series, Geranium, Coleus, Begonia

    Trailing-Sweet Potato Vine, Petunia, Verbena, Calibrochoa, Ivy, Lobelia, Alyssum

    Keep the color combinations in mind too. Here are some suggestions:

    Red, Pink, White,
    Red, White, Blue
    Orange, Red, Yellow
    Purple Blue, White
    Orange, Blue, White

    Let us know if you have any other questions.

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