Not all plants are suitable for window boxes. The plants that you grow in your window box will be seen by everyone passing by so you want them to look nice and colourful and for as long as possible during the year.
Usually plants that don’t grow too tall are best for window boxes or else they will start to block your view. This may or may not be a bad thing depending on how good your view was in the first place.
Also give thought if you have a box that sits under your sill. If the plants grow too tall it might be difficult to open your window without damaging them.
Try and avoid perennial plants. These are plants which grow every year but are not usually suited to the limits of a window box, requiring deeper soil. They can also look untidy when not in bloom and take up the space you could be using for a succession of other flowering plants.
A lot of people like to use spring bulbs. Even before they flower they look good and once the flowering period is past they can be removed and summer flowering plants put in their place.
Read also our very detailed guide on flower box ideas here.
1. Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow)
This is a hardy outdoor plant that produces blue star shaped flowers from February to April. Depending on the species, they grow to between 4 to 8 inches high (10 to 20cm). They like sunshine and should be planted about 3 inches (7.5cm) deep late in the year.
There is a large variety of crocuses available being of different species and hybrid forms. They grow to 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15cm) high and flower from January onwards depending on the type. They come in purples, yellow and white. You can spread out the flowering times by choosing different varieties. They should be planted in small groups about 2 inches (5cm) deep.
These are a well known and a common yellow flower very suitable for window boxes. There is also a dwarf species that grows to about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20cm) high, flowers in February and can also tolerate shade. These types would be preferable for a window box. Daffodil bulbs should be planted about 3 inches (7.5cm) deep.
These look a bit like tulips that have spotted flowering bell shaped heads hanging over. They grow to about 6 inches (15cm) making them suitable for window boxes. There are several varieties; Nobilis comes in a purple to brown colour and also yellow. Aurea has yellow flowers with brown spots. The bulbs should be handled carefully and planted in September, about 3 inches (7.5cm) deep.
This is a very popular bulb for window boxes but avoid them if you are in a windy location as they can be blown over. Try not to buy big bulbs as they will produce top heavy flowers. The bulbs should be planted in September and should be put in about 3 inches (7.5cm) deep.
These flowers are bluebell like and are an easy to grow species very suited to window boxes. The best one for window boxes are Scilla sibirica and Scilla bifolia as they grow to about 6 inches (15cm) high will flower in march. The white version is called “Alba” and Sibirica is a bright blue. The bulbs should be planted about 2 inches (5cm) deep in early autumn.
There is a huge range of tulips available but not all are suitable for window boxes as they grow a bit too high. Some of the best for window boxes are the early versions like Pink Beauty, Proserpine, and Keizerskoon. Some of the bicolour ones are Shakespeare, Johann Strauss, and Fritz Kreisler.
All of the bulbs mentioned above can be taken out of the window box when they have finished flowering and replaced with a summer flowering type. Keep the leaves on the bulbs that have been removed and leave them lying in the sun until the leaves die off. You can if you wish leave them in the box and they will flower again next year. You can use a different window box for flowering displays in summer or for different times of the year.
These should be planted in May. Some of the varieties can be very bright (Picasso, Ringo, Cherry Glow and Bright Eyes). The miniature varieties don’t normally grow more than about one foot (30cm) and some of these are Carolyn and Red Black Vesuvius.
Ivy-leafed geraniums which trail down 2 or 3 feet (60 to 90cm) can be planted around the edge of your window box. The more suitable varieties of these are Madame Crousse (Pink, double), La France (Lavender blue), and L’Elegant (creamy white). These are all a good follow on from the spring bulbs.
These are also a good follow on from spring bulbs and can be grown in a variety of ways. They can be bought as plants and put into your window box, or planted as seed into your window box, or grown in a seed tray and transferred to your window when they are ready.
Other good annuals suitable for window boxes are:
9. Alyssum (Maritimum)
The best varieties for window boxes are the ones that only grow to about 6 inches (150cm) high. Two of these are Violet Queen and Little Dorrit which has a white flower. The seeds can be grown in seed boxes in February and transplanted into the window box in March.
10. Calendula (Marigold)
These are usually very easy to grow and will also grow in poor conditions. The dwarf varieties grow about 12 inches (30cm) high and are very good for a window box. Some of the varieties are Orange King, Golden Gem and Fiesta Gitana. The marigold seeds can be sown in March straight into the window box.
11. Godetia (Clarkia)
Try and get the dwarf varieties of these as the normal varieties are a bit too tall for window boxes. The dwarf varieties are Dwarf Mixed, Crimson Glow and Salmon Princess. The seeds can be sown in March or April directly into the window box.
12. Iberis (Candytuft)
The dwarf varieties are best for these. Rose Cardinal, Pink Queen and the Fairy Mixed. These can be sown from March onwards directly into the window box. They can be used to extend the flowering season by planting from March right through to the end of summer.
13. Lathyrus (Sweet Pea)
There is a dwarf variety of this called Little Sweetheart, which is suitable for window boxes and comes in various colours. They should be sown in a seed box first in March and move them to the window box in late April.
14. Linaria (Toadflax)
Try and buy a variety called Fairy Bouquet which comes in various colours and is a dwarf variety. They should be planted in February in seed boxes and moved to the window box in April.
There are quite a number of varieties of these. There are varieties that will hang down over the front of your window box and look really nice. Two of these are Sapphire and Blue Cascade. There are compact varieties which can be used to fill out the window box. There is one called Cambridge Blue which is a very close match to Blue Cascade if you want to keep the colours the same, or if you want a contrast try using Rosamund which is red with a white centre. The seeds should be planted in a seed box in February and transferred to the window box in May.
16. Malcolmia (Virginia Stock)
These are an old favourite and are easy to grow. This normally grows to about 8 inches (20cm) high though there are shorter varieties available. The seeds can be planted directly into the window box from March onwards to keep the flowers showing for several months.
17. Phacelia Campanularia (California Bluebell)
These have bell shaped flowers with five deep blue to purple petals fused into a bell and five protruding stamens with light-coloured anthers. They grow in clumps of brilliant colour to about 9 inches (25cm) high. They can be sown directly into the window box in March.
18. Tropaeolum (Nasturtium)
These will last right through summer and will be brilliant in colour trailing down over the front of your window box. Sow the seeds directly into the window box in April. There is an early flowering type called Jewel Mix which will produce a variety of colours, and also a dwarf called Tom Thumb.
Watering Your Window Box
It shouldn’t really be a problem watering your window box as there is usually a water supply in the building that the box is on. Access is easy as well; just open the window and water. Try not to spill too much if there are people walking around underneath, they might not appreciate it. You might still need to water your window box even when it rains as some boxes being close to the building might be sheltered and not receive enough water, so that is a point to watch. If you are away for long periods, especially in summer, you might consider buying an automatic self watering window box which is not too expensive.
Hanging baskets full of flowers of colour can be one of the most beautiful kinds of container gardening that you can get. However they can be a little bit difficult to establish.
First you must decide where you want to place your hanging basket.
Hanging baskets can be attached to various things, a wall, an upright stand, or the outer edge of the ceiling of a porch, balcony or veranda.
There is also a type of basket that is flat on one side to fit against a wall, and rounded outwards in a semi-circle to hold the plants. These can be positioned anywhere on the wall to form a pattern or design that you like.
Remember though to make your fixings strong and secure. A basket full of soil and plants plus water can get a bit heavy, so make sure that not only your fixings are strong but also the cables or wires that it is suspended with are up to the job.
Watering Hanging Basket
When it comes to watering them it may not be as easy as watering a window box. They might need to be watered more than once a day in hot weather depending on their location, (are they in a shaded area or not). Also the height that you have them hanging at, you might not always be able to have them hanging as low as you would like, they might be in the way for passing by. You may need to have a small set of steps to water them, or a pulley arrangement can be made to lower them down for watering.
Also remember that after watering a hanging basket it will drip and there is not a lot you can do about it, so make sure that the ground or floor surface underneath is not something that will be harmed by the water.
Hanging Basket Materials
Hanging baskets are made in many different materials and come in different shapes and sizes. Some can be fitted with plastic drip trays that clip on.
Some wall hanging baskets are made from reconstituted stone and you may find some that match the wall of your building so blending in. Other materials are plastic, wood and metal, all with their own weights and properties, so choose the best one for you. Hanging baskets can usually be planted the same way as window boxes.
The older type of hanging basket which was usually made up of an open frame work of galvanised or plastic coated wire is a little bit more difficult to plant.
The deeper bowl shaped ones are best as the shallow flatter ones can dry out very quickly.
To fill the basket, first place it over a bucket or some form of a tub, just to keep it in place while you work on it.
Usually the basket is lined with what is called Spagnum Moss. This holds the soil in place and also lets it drain. Fresh Spagnum Moss may be hard to find and if you do get it you may find it difficult to arrange it neatly and without any gaps if you haven’t done it before.
It is also possible to use plastic sheeting instead of the moss and puncture some hole in it for drainage. Sheeting sometimes doesn’t look very nice and can be difficult to fit flat, but if how it looks doesn’t bother you then it is cheap to use. Often some piece of discarded plastic sheet can be used.
These days you can buy shaped basket liners made from an artificial material that is porous for drainage and is made in colours such as brown or green that is more suitable for the garden.
Once you have lined your basket, fill it to within 2 inches (5cm) of the rim with a suitable compost. In the late spring or early summer plant flowers in your basket that are just about to bloom.
In the centre of the basket make a hole in the compost and plant one or two tall plants. If you want trailing plants, make some holes in the compost round the edge and put each plant in at an angle so that it hangs over the edge of the basket.
Add more compost if required and fill up any spaces with smaller plants.
When everything is planted in place, sit the basket in a large bowl or tub of water for about an hour to give the compost a good soaking. Watering can be a problem with hanging baskets and even if the summer weather isn’t too hot, you might still need to water three times a week. If the summer is really hot they might need watered once or twice a day. Remember to water over the leaves of the plant as well if they have not been rained.
Every couple of weeks add some liquid fertiliser to the water.
What to Plant in Your Hanging Basket
All the plants that were suitable for window boxes are suitable for hanging baskets. With hanging baskets a better effect is to use trailing or pendulous plants.
If you prefer to have only one kind of plant in your hanging basket there are some plant families that have the ordinary upright growing sort and also a trailing sort. You can mix the ordinary sort with the trailing sort and have a very nice effect.
For example plant the centre of the basket with the upright pink “Rosanna” begonia and have the pendulous “Red Cascade” along the edge. You can do this with other kinds such as geraniums and fuschias.
Having said that, a combination of plants usually looks better. There are no fixed rules though and experimentation is part of the fun.
Here is the plants suitable for hanging baskets:
Quite often the leaves of this plant and also the stems have a red tinge. Some of the varieties are Major, which is violet, and Guerrero which is mauve.
Try and get the hybrids called North Sea, which is mauve, Blue Chip and Blue Angel. These flowers can last from May until the first frosts of winter but you will have to keep them well watered and remove any dead flower heads that you see.
This asparagus is ornamental and has unusual feathery leaves and sometimes grows red berries.
These are hybrid hanging begonias and many varieties are available. Some of these are Rose Cascade (which is pink), Scarlet Glow, Red Cascade, Lou-Anne (pink), dawn (a pale yellow), and Blanche (white).
This is normally grown in a greenhouse and can produce a mass of mauve, violet like flowers. It can be grown in a basket if it is in a sheltered space and warm.
This is another plant which is best grown in a sheltered area. It produces a mass of purple flowers around August and September. There is a white variety called Alba.
The ones mentioned here are the most suitable for hanging baskets. Marinka, Red flowers with green leaves; Golden Marinka, Red flowers with gold coloured leaves; Cascade, red with white sepals; Falling Stars, red with light red sepals; Swingtime, white flowers with red sepals.
These should be raised indoors or preferably in a greenhouse and planted out when the frost and cold weather is past.
The flowers that come on these are not as attractive as the hybrids that are listed above, but after the flowers come very attractive red berries. These plants are usually hardy enough to be left out in frost but not if the winter is severe.
The ivy-leafed look good planted around the outside of the basket and zonal geraniums in the centre.
These varieties of pendula come in Red Cascade, which is a red with a white eye, and Blue Cascade and Sapphire which are bright blues.
This is sometimes called Creeping Jenny. It has cup shaped bright yellow flowers from June onwards.
This has often been grown as a house plant and called Mother of Thousands as it produces lots of plantlets suspended from its stolons. It is an ideal plant for a hanging basket and is better outdoors than in. It is a hardy plant in most weathers, even winter, and can tolerate shade.
These are bright red flowers that are bourne in spikes.
This has striped leaves that are purple on top and a reddish colour underneath. This has hanging stems and can look a bit straggly and untidy if not trimmed back.