The Timeless Tradition of
Window Box Gardening

Starting a Window Box Garden, Designing a Window Box Garden, Planting a Window Box

wrought iron window box

Starting a Window Box Garden


You will need a nice deep window box that runs the width of your windowsill, give or take a few inches on each side depending on your preference.  Don't forget to look for brackets or hooks to hang the box to your window sill or under a window. You will also need a bag of potting soil, some type of mulch such as small pebbles or dried moss, and water retaining crystals.


Before you begin planting your window box, you will need to install it securely, as it will be much heavier once it's filled. 


When positioning the window box, consider where water will drain:  use a removable drip tray, if possible, to prevent excess water from running down walls. Position the box and cover the first inch with broken pottery or other drainage material.  A sheet of heavy plastic punctured with drainage slits will help retain moisture.  In colder climates, a layer of plastic foam will give the roots of the plants some protection for rapid freezing and thawing. 


Caring for your window box is simple. Just check the box two to three times a week to be sure you do not need to water it.   Use Rain Mats or Rain Mat Rolls to keep the potting soil from drying out too quickly.


Window Box Planter

Designing a Window Box Garden


If you're not sure how to design a window box garden, try one of these simple planting themes:


  • If you love to cook, a culinary window box may be the ideal choice for you. For a standard sized window box, you will need to buy one parsley plant, one oregano or basil plant, and three chive plants. Position the plants so that you have one chive plant on each end and one chive plant directly in the middle.  Other herbs to grow are sage, thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, marjoram, mint, dill, hops, sorrel, lemon balm, and bay.

  • If you enjoy flowers, you may want to change your window box several times a year.  Some spring flowers include pansies, tulips, daffodils, crocuses, primroses, lilies, and violas.  If you wany flowers through the summer, plant geraniums, lavender, impatiens, salvia, petunias, daisies, begonias, zinnias, fuschias, and nasturtiums.  In late winter, plant a row of six to nine daffodil or tulip bulbs. When the bulbs are done blooming and the weather grows a bit warmer, remove the bulbs and plant three geraniums and two Dusty Miller or two vinca vines in the box.

  • For permanent window boxes and year-round greenery, a "winter interest" window garden can include evergreen such as Dwarf Alberta spruce, bristlecone pine, mugho pine, and small cacti.  Dwarf evergreens grow at a rate of an inch per year, so they are ideally suited to long-term window gardening. Finally, trailing plants are great for year-round greens. Some examples are ivy, myrtle, creeping Jenny, sweet potato vine, and vinca.

Planting a Window Box

Planting your Window Box


When your window box is installed, begin preparing the box for planting.  If your potting mix is not pre-moistened, dampen it so it will not be so dusty to work with. Mix your potting soil with the water retaining crystals and fill the bottom of the window box with the mixture. Leave the top four inches of the window box unfilled so that you can place your plants in the box without making too much of a mess.


Once you select your plants and place them in the box, carefully use the rest of your potting soil mixture to fill in the empty spaces around your plants. Be sure you do not cover the plant’s stems and leaves with the potting soil. They should be planted so that the new potting soil is even with the soil already on their roots. Gently press down the potting soil around each plant and then thoroughly water your window box.  Be careful not to add too much water. The soil should feel as wet as a sponge after excess water is squeezed out.


Finally, apply an even layer of your mulching material over the surface of the potting soil in your window box. The mulch should be approximately an inch thick.  Be sure not to place the mulch directly against the plants' stems. They need a bit of air around their stems to stay healthy.



Fragrant plants:  Sweet basil, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbana, lemon thyme, dill, peppermint, spearmint, pineapple mint, sweet alyssum, nicotania, lavender, jasmine, and moonflowers.