Window Box Basics

Learn how to make a Charleston-style window box that will spruce up any home with a splash of organic color.

Follow the Magic Formula
Photo: Photo: Ralph Anderson, Window Box Design: Tracee Lund

When saluting the beauty and grace of Charleston, South Carolina, one of our readers' favorite destinations, you'll soon discern the town's signature signs of welcome – window boxes overflowing with flowers.

Window Boxes For The Win

Charlestonians favor window boxes for two very practical reasons. One, Charleston is a tourist destination and residents like to dress up for the visitors. Two, many homes in the historic district don't have front yards. Window boxes provide the only gardening space available.

There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to start a window box and then to nurture the plants you choose. Let's focus on what is right, and get those windows beautified just the way you want them.


Be sure the window boxes have drainage holes. Leave at least 1/2-inch between the window box and the side of the house for water to drip through. This is especially important for houses with wood siding. You don't want your window box to be a detriment to the outdoor surface of your home.

Watch Your Weight

Make sure the filled window boxes won't be too heavy for the support brackets that hold them to the house. You can significantly reduce weight by using fiberglass window boxes and filling them with potting mix, not soil.

Black Window Box

Variety Is the Spice of Window Boxes

One simple rule to make window boxes like these more interesting: variety. Plant a thriller (something tall), like a spiky cordyline; a spiller (something to trail over the sides), like white bacopa; and colorful fillers, like yellow million bells, coral twinspur, and orange snapdragons.

Plant Seasonally

For cool weather, plant million bells, lobelia, bacopa, twinspur, snapdragons, violas, nasturtiums, and flowering kale. For warm weather, switch to lantana, verbena, begonias, angelonia, impatiens, coleus, sweet potato vine, fanflower, narrowleaf zinnia, and Wave petunia.

Keep That Box Hydrated

Don't forget to water. Plants in window boxes dry out faster than those planted on the ground. Fertilize every two weeks with water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro. Or incorporate a granular slow-release fertilizer, such as Dynamite, into the potting mix before planting.

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