There are few properties that would not be enhanced by one or two window boxes placed on a window sill or edge of a balcony, or the wall or balustrades of an apartment terrace.


Window boxes planted with traditional geraniums, or a wide range of other suitable plants, are an easy way to brighten up the facades of some otherwise drab houses and apartment blocks throughout the year. Enthusiastic gardeners can make the fronts of village houses, new villas and modern apartment blocks look like  vertical gardens. Tiers of window boxes on four storey village houses and even taller apartment blocks can create an amazing ‘hanging gardens of Babylon’ effect.  So let’s look at the opportunity in more detail.




Window boxes serve several purposes.

  1. To brighten up the outlook from windows and doors onto balconies and terraces.
  2. To provide a screen from prying eyes.
  3. To brighten up the appearance of the house from outside. Both from the garden and from the street.
    1. To give the appearance that the house or apartment is lived in.

     5. To brighten up dull courtyards by hanging on the walls or standing on low walls.

  1. To brighten up the semi shade under large trees – perhaps where you eat or siesta – by hanging window boxes hung directly from boughs or supported on hanging shelves.




   Most traditionally built houses have convenient wide outside window sills that provide space for window boxes between the window frames and wrought iron security grills. Some also have small balconies with metal railings. However most modern plastic/aluminium windows with integral double glazing and security blinds result in very narrow or even no sills. Fortunately many garden centres now stock window boxes with metal supports that can be hung below the window sill. Similar supports can be attached to the railings of an apartment terrace.





The most reliable plants include the following.


All year round: Zonal and trailing geraniums/pelargoniums – except in the heavy frost/snow  belt where they need to be put in a cold frame or a greenhouse for the winter.

Spring, summer and autumn: Trailing petunias, portulacas, zonal and trailing geraniums/pelargoniums, carnations, felicia /agathaea, succulents and in the shade fuchsias and busy lizzies.

Spring: Dwarf trailing sweet peas, verbena and freesias.

Autumn and winter: Heathers and pansies – especially above the frost line.

Winter: Cyclamens, poinsettias, pansies, stocks and bulbs such as hyacinths and daffodils.


Colour can also be provided by the fruit and foliage of plants.

a. Fruits – the fruits on mock pepper and mini pomegranate plants can look very attractive during the autumn once annuals are past their best.

b. Foliage –  begonias, spider plant, variegated ivies, herbs – on the widow sill outside the kitchen- and dwarf conifers especially in semi shaded situations.


If you are an absentee gardener we suggest that you restrict your window boxes to trailing geraniums/pelargoniums, and drought resistant succulents and cacti. If you only use the property only infrequently I suggest that replant your window boxes each time you visit.




Every year new and improved terracotta, ceramic and plastic window boxes appear. Some of the latter having a self watering reservoir that holds sufficient water for several weeks. Very useful when you expect to be away for holidays or short breaks. If you are planting trailing plants these will soon cover the front sides of the boxes. So save money and don’t invest unnecessarily in fancy designs. 





Flowering plants will flower more continuously and for longer if you deadhead regularly. Also remove all dead leaves and ends as soon as they appear to prevent the occurrence of fungal diseases. Naturally trim to shape to improve the overall appearance of your boxes.


© Dick Handscombe October 2014



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