How to Make a Window Box Garden

24 May 2021

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

For many people, warm weather means growing things in the ground. Gardening is popular activity all around the world.

But what about people who do not have the space to garden? Not to worry! Today, we will give you information about growing beautiful window boxes.

Associated Press writer Beth Harpaz talked to several expert gardeners, and they shared their suggestions.

Location and safety

Window boxes are not just for the outside edge of the window, called the sill. They can also sit on other structures such as, walls, porches, or front steps.

This window box is on the front steps to a brownstone home Brooklyn, NY. The owners entered their window box in the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest. (Undated photo by Brooklyn Botanic Garden via AP,)
This window box is on the front steps to a brownstone home Brooklyn, NY. The owners entered their window box in the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest. (Undated photo by Brooklyn Botanic Garden via AP,)

If you live in an apartment without outdoor space, you can garden in a window box. "But safety first: People do get killed by falling window boxes," says Nina Browne. She is the community program manager at New York's Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Make sure your window boxes are secure so they will not come down in a storm. Because of these possible dangers, window boxes are sometimes banned by property owners. If that is the case where you live or if you feel your window box could be unsafe, you can have an indoor window box.

Light and water

Before choosing plants, check your window box location for light and rain. Window boxes dry out faster than in-ground plants. So, they need more water. And if a window box is close to a wall or other structure, it may not get enough rainwater.

Even if all your windows get little sun, do not give up. Browne says one of her greatest successes as a gardener is a beautiful window box in a full-shade spot. She gets a great look using plants and flowers that love the shade.

Many shade-loving plants -- like caladium and oxalis -- have leaves in beautiful colors and interesting shapes. Some vegetables such as sweet potato and peas have vines and add interest to a window box.

Now, let's talk about succulents. These are plants that hold water inside them and are often found in dry environments. Matthew Pottage is an expert gardener at the Royal Horticultural Society Garden Wisley in Surrey, England. His window box full of drought-tolerant plants has "survived the wet and cold of London for some seven years."

Another gardener, Steph Green, is the owner of Contained Creations in Richmond, Virginia. She uses plants that add different colors, heights, and plant structure.

She may select a tall plant such as dwarf Alberta spruce and sago palm for the back of the box. To fill the space, she could use plants such as boxwood or dusty miller. Then she might choose sweet potato vine or petunias to grow down from the box.

For shade boxes, she likes to use Kimberly queen fern and Dracaena lemon lime; boxwood, coral bells, and impatiens; creeping Jenny, dead nettle and English ivy.

You can grow herbs and edible flowers, like parsley, basil, and nasturtiums. If the window box is big enough you can grow some types of vegetables like peppers. You can even add small, wooden structures for the plants to grow up. Get creative!

The "wow" factor

So, what gives some window boxes their "wow" factor while others are just so-so? Create a theme! This is a central idea for the plants. For example, you may have a widow box that is all cactuses or all edible plants. Or you could have a color-themed window box with only purple flowers and plants.

Gardeners Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit turn "window box" into a verb. Their book "How to Window Box" shows how to create eye-catching window boxes. For more ideas you can check out their website, The Horticult.

Besides having a theme, Benoit adds that upkeep is important. "People who have really nice window boxes," he said, cut off anything dead. He adds that they also water their window boxes often and change things a lot.

He suggests knowing which plants look best during each season. That means replacing spring flowers -- for example tulips and hyacinths -- with summer flowers, like petunias and zinnias.

In colder weather, try mums and flowering kale. And Benoit warns to not let quick-growing plants get out of control.

Whether you are an experienced window box gardener or trying it for the first time – this small project might be just what you need.

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report. I'm Anna Matteo. And I'm Bryan Lynn.

Beth Harpaz wrote this story for the Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in This Story

garden – n. an area of ground where plants (such as flowers or vegetables) are grown : gardener – n. one who gardens

porch – n. a structure attached to the entrance of a building that has a roof and that may or may not have walls

shade – n. an area of slight darkness that is produced when something blocks the light of the sun

leaf – n. one of the flat and typically green parts of a plant that grow from a stem or twig

vine – n. a plant whose stem requires support and which climbs by tendrils or twining or creeps along the ground

drought-tolerant – adj. Plants that can live in dry climates and withstand not being watered often.

select – v. to choose (someone or something) from a group

herb – n. a plant or a part of a plant that is used as medicine or to give flavor to food

edible – adj. fit or safe to eat

wow factor – adj. a quality or feature of something that makes people feel great excitement or admiration

so-so – adj. moderately well