What flowers/plants would you use if you only had room for a window box garden?
If you are a frustrated gardener who doesn't have a garden you may resort to having a window box instead. In fact why stop at one window box when you probably have more than one window? If you have four or five windows buy a window box for each of them, and this will allow you to try out all sorts of different ideas.
Once you have purchased your window boxes you will probably be wondering what are the best flowers or plants to grow in them. Many of the suggestions I will have in this hub could potentially surprise you, and I ultimately hope to inspire you to give this a try for yourselves. Even though you will only be growing your flowers or plants on a very small scale, you will be amazed how quickly you become fascinated by what is going on in your window boxes. You will look at them with pride, and positively 'glow' when anyone compliments you on them.
If you are clever you can also use these window boxes to get your children/kids interested in growing plants, perhaps by allocating each of them a window box of their own which they are responsible for. It is incredibly important in this day and age that we encourage our children to see the advantages of growing their own produce, and a window box is a great way to start them on the path to becoming keen gardeners in the future. It is also a very effective way to get your children eating vegetables willingly, as they are far more open to trying vegetables they have grown themselves.
Depending on what you like most, i.e. flowers or vegetables, you now need to decide what you want to fill your window boxes with. Of course if you have a number of window boxes you can always enjoy both options, and if you are involving your children in the process you can let them decide what they want to grow in their own individual window boxes. The next consideration to make will be which plants to grow, and depending on which you choose, whether or not to buy plants or seeds. Bear in mind certain plants simply have to be grown from seed sown where the plants are to mature, so you or your children will need to sow the seeds directly into the compost within the window box.
The following are just some examples of plants and vegetables I have had great success with by growing them in window boxes.
Not the first thing that springs to mind when most people think of window boxes I know, but actually there are many vegetables that will readily grow in a window box, ultimately providing you with healthy, tasty and organic produce that is as fresh as you could possibly hope for. If your children are the ones to grow these veggies they will usually be very excited about eating the 'crops' they have produced themselves, and this is good news for parents who struggle to get their children to eat any kind of vegetable. Just a few vegetables that work wonderfully in window boxes include:
- Radishes. These will be ready in under 6 weeks from sowing, but they must be sown from seed in the window box itself.
- Spring Onions/Green Onions/Scallions. These take anything from 8-12 weeks from sowing to maturity. Again they need to be sown directly into the compost in the window box.
- Cut and Come Again Lettuce. These are ready in varying amounts of time depending on the varieties you choose. The great thing is you can cut just enough young leaves for your salad, and then the plant will sprout new ones. Easy to grow and very tasty. These can be grown either from seed sown direct into the window box, or you can buy the young plants in from a garden centre or plant nursery.
- Shorthorn or Stump Rooted Carrots. The only successful way to grow carrots in a window box is if they are the very short rooted ones. I recommend varieties such as Paris Market Atlas or Chantenay Royals. Approximate time from sowing to harvest 16 weeks.
- American Land Cress. This lovely crop tastes very much like watercress, and although I haven't tried buying plants in, I do know it grows well from seed in many containers. This plant is another 'cut and come again' style crop so you get great value for money out of it. Approximate time from sowing to harvest 7-8 weeks.
- Rocket. A very nice salad leaf with a really good flavour. This is yet another 'cut and come again' variety, making it a very productive plant for your window box.
- Tumbling Tomatoes. Whilst you might only get a couple of plants to a window box, a tumbling tomato will provide you with a huge amount of delicious small tasty fruits. You can buy in the young plants, or you can start them from seed in pots indoors. Time from sowing to harvest approximately 8 weeks. Remember to feed regularly and water frequently.
- Chilli Peppers. These will work well in window boxes so long as you treat them much the same as tomatoes.
- Herbs. Whilst these are not strictly speaking 'vegetables', we do eat them, so I have included them here. You can take your pick from so many, e.g. chives ( with their pretty pink flowers), parsley, basil, sage, oregano etc.
Maybe you don't find the prospect of growing vegetables in your window boxes too appealing, and that is fine as well. Lots of people prefer the traditional look of a window box full of flowers because they like the colours and the scents of flowers. The following flowers all work very well in window boxes and either look or smell great (or both.)
- Violas (sweet violets). Essentially miniature pansies with delicate little attractive flowers that spread to fill the entire surface area of the compost. They have the added advantage of being very fragrant in most cases.
- Pansies. Larger than violas and very popular for container growing of any kind.
- Surfinias/Petunias. These trumpet shaped flowers come in a wide variety of colours, as well as being either scented or non-scented and upright or trailing. Truly one of the best plants for any container growing.
- Marigolds. Orange coloured flowers, very easy to grow and usually readily available from garden centres or mail order catalogues in a number of different shapes and styles. They often have a scent, although not one I personally find relevant enough to influence my choice to grow them.
- Miniature Daffodils. These have a double bonus because not only do they look beautiful, but they grow from bulbs so you can lift them at the end of each season and replant them the following spring.
- Dwarf Tulips. As with the miniature daffodils, dwarf tulips can be replanted years after year. They have the added advantage of coming in many colours.
- Geraniums/Pelargoniums. These come in a range of colours although mostly known for pinks, reds and whites. Very popular and cope well with minimal water.
- Dianthus. Essentially a dwarf carnation that comes in various colours. Many of these also have a wonderful sweet scent.
- Miniature Roses. These look very attractive and providing you feed and prune them appropriately they can last a good few years. If they outgrow your window box you can transplant them into the garden, at which point they seem to take off and grow to an excellent size, (as I found out.)
- Alyssum. A lovely carpet forming flower with a delightful fragrance. Perfect for window boxes.
- Impatiens. These bloom in shades of red, white and pink. They like part shade, and some varieties will produce flowers even in deeply shaded areas.
- Nasturtiums. These are easy to care for and have edible flowers as a bonus (use them on your salads.) They come with red, yellow or orange flowers.
- Lobelia. One of my favourites as they are just so perfect with their tiny flowers of blue, white or pink.
- Crocus. Very pretty flowers, and they are available in many colours that look extremely attractive in a window box, (plus you can lift the corms for replanting the following year.)
Another unusual choice you might think, but grasses look so attractive, especially when the breeze blows through them and they make a delightful rustling sound. They come in a variety of colours, and they cope well with a very small amount of water. Some varieties you might like to try include:
- Festuca Glauca. A beautiful blue/green grass that will last for years if you care for the window box correctly.
- Stipa Tenuissima. This pale green grass has lovely feathery foliage and very attractive seedheads on the ends of the fronds.
- Bronze Carex. Reddish bronze in colour and very striking to look at.
Ivies make lovely window box plants because they are evergreen, and they can either be grown alone as trailing plants, or they can be intermingled with flowering plants. They require little water, and depending on the variety can be quite fast growing. They also come in either plain greens or variegated leaf colourings.
- English Ivy. This is probably one of the most popular for all the reasons I describe above.
- Variegated Algerian Ivy. This is an attractive variegated ivy ideal for a window box.
- Trailing Ivy 'Silver'. Very eyecatching with lovely mottled silver leaves splashed with green and white.
- Ivy 'Glacier'. A plant which has beautiful gray-green leaves with silver to creamy white patches.
I could continue this article forever, and just realised I was in danger of doing exactly that. For this reason I have stopped at this point, and hope I have already provided you with plenty of great ideas for your various window boxes. Don't forget to check which plants and flowers are appropriate to the season you intend your window box to be at its peak. It is going to be of no use to you whatsoever to plant a summer plant in the winter for instance, so be sure the plants you choose will thrive in the season you have chosen to grow them. Also remember to check out whether the plants you have decided upon need sun, shade, part shade etc.
Other plants that I did not add to this article (and that are a little different for a window box), include hostas and cacti. You might want to add these to your list of possibilities.
Did you find this article helpful?
#24 of 30 in the March 2012 Challenge