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Container Gardens: 5 Tips for a Perfect Window Box

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Container Gardens: 5 Tips for a Perfect Window Box

July 30, 2017

The best window box is the one you can’t see. Whatever you planted in there should be so happy that it cascades down the wall to spill onto the sidewalk, threatening to trip passersby. Here are 5 tips to get the look:

Pick Plants That Get Along

On Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights, a window box overflows. Photograph by Douglas Lyle Thompson for Gardenista. See more in Curb Appeal: \15 Ideas to Steal from Brooklyn Heights.
Above: On Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights, a window box overflows. Photograph by Douglas Lyle Thompson for Gardenista. See more in Curb Appeal: 15 Ideas to Steal from Brooklyn Heights.

A window box is a constrained universe where everybody has to get along, so pick plants that have the same water and sunlight requirements. For instance, coleus, sweet potato vine, and caladium go together well. They all like a little shade, which makes them the perfect combination to plant beneath a balcony or eave.

Add “Anchor” Plants

White peace lilies flit above white-and-green caladium leaves; boxwood and dwarf cypress fill in the gaps. Photograph by Douglas Lyle Thompson for Gardenista.
Above: White peace lilies flit above white-and-green caladium leaves; boxwood and dwarf cypress fill in the gaps. Photograph by Douglas Lyle Thompson for Gardenista.

As a backdrop to colorful flowers, plant some miniature evergreens—such as boxwoods or cypress—in a window box. They will provide a constant layer of greenery.

Rely on Repeat Bloomers

Bacopa is a good choice for a window box. It flowers profusely and grows quickly; it will cascade over the edge of a container. Photograph by Meredith Swinehart.
Above: Bacopa is a good choice for a window box. It flowers profusely and grows quickly; it will cascade over the edge of a container. Photograph by Meredith Swinehart.

Include some annual plants—such as lobelia, petunias, and alyssum—because they produce profuse flowers and stay in bloom for months at a time. For more ideas, see our garden design guide for Annuals 101.

Water Daily

Our editor Meredith uses a galvanized watering can to thoroughly soak the plants in her window boxes in San Francisco. Photograph by Liesa Johannssen for Gardenista.
Above: Our editor Meredith uses a galvanized watering can to thoroughly soak the plants in her window boxes in San Francisco. Photograph by Liesa Johannssen for Gardenista.

Soil in shallow window boxes dries out quickly. Keep soil moist and encourage roots to grow by watering daily. (An automatic irrigation system is your friend in a situation like this.)

Fertilize Regularly

A \20\1\1 finalist in the the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual Brooklyn’s Greenest Block contest. For more, see The Greenest Block in Brooklyn. Photograph via Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Above: A 2011 finalist in the the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual Brooklyn’s Greenest Block contest. For more, see The Greenest Block in Brooklyn. Photograph via Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Fertilize your window box plants regularly to keep them growing. When you plant the boxes, add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil. After the pellets disappear, fertilize weekly with a liquid fertilizer.

N.B.: For more tips to planting a window box, see:

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