Planting Tips for Window and Porch Boxes

Planting Tips for Window and Porch Boxes
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The first step to successfully planting your window or porch boxes is finding plants that will do well. If it's hot sunny spot then look for drought tolerant plants like nasturtiums, gazanias, dusty miller, moss roses, ivy leaved geraniums, lantana, zinnias, and even morning glories if you add a pole or trellis to your pot. If you want to keep it simple for a spot with full sun and a lot of heat consider planting a lavender plant! The blooms are dainty and the fragrance is soothing--plus the foliage is attractive as well! Add a little sand to your standard container potting soil and you are good to go! (oh, and if you cut the first batch of flowers -be sure to dry them in bunches-you'll get a second bloom.)
If it's in partial shade on your porch or near your door then go more for the plants that will do well in some sun and some shade like impatiens, fuchsias, begonias, variegated ivy for foliage, lobelia, snapdragons (dwarf varieties), browallia, coleus, dusty miller, nicotiana, and torenia are just a few that will do well with limited sun. Check plant tags as you buy and you'll find others.

You want to vary color with blooms and foliage, so when buying plants look for a couple of interesting foliage plants not just blooms. Mix colors or go with all one shade-both look nice. When buying your flowers lay them out looking at them for color, height, and foliage as you buy them, then again when you get home before planting.

When you buy your plants make sure you trim them up, pinch them out if need be, deadhead and really make them look good--it's okay to pinch and cut off damaged leaves-they'll grow back! With hanging baskets you HAVE to do this or they look sloppy and don't do as well.

Just remember that container plants only look good if you can spend the time to care for them. How many of us have seen pots that started out great looking and ended up nasty, dried and spindly? By the way, if this happens trim and water heavily and you may be able to bring it back. It's not really how MANY you have as the quality of the container garden. One well cared for large pot outside your door will look much better than many small dried out pots. I still overdo and end up with at least one of these each year but I'm trying! Remember to water daily, provide good drainage for the plants (drill holes in the bottom if necessary), pick off the dead blooms, and feed your plants with a good organic fertilizer.

More Tips for Boxes and Containers

-IF your plants are outside remove the saucers. Even though you don't want them to dry out, you also don't want them to be waterlogged. It will help to elevate them off the ground slightly too. You can buy those pretty ceramic pot feet from garden centers, or simple set the pot on bricks or stones. This is very important with cactus.

-Use pots around your beds for decoration and to fill spaces you might not be able to put a plant in the ground for various reasons. Or you may want to put a pot of pansies in a spot that is kind of bare right now, then later move them out of the way. Shepherd's hooks are good for this too. Hang plants where you want a little bit of color and later move it somewhere else. I do this all the time!

-Consider potting some cactus and succulents for the patio or other dry sunny spots that you don't have beds. Use a potting soil that has part pumice or sand, and make sure they have super good drainage! Hens and chickens do great in strawberry pots, or try yuccas in nice big pots.

- Remember,if planting in unusual containers, you need holes for drainage-drill 3 or 4 of them, and the container should be at least 6-8 inches deep to hold the soil you need to grow the plants. Old boots, pans, tea kettles-you can use all of them!

-Location-For plants that need full sun plan on using spaces that get at least 8 hours of sun each day. The plants labeled partial shade need 4-5 hours of sun each day.

-Watering-When it's 80 degrees you'll need to water once a day. When it's hotter than that or dry and windy you'll need to water twice a day. If you have sensitive plants that you are concerned about move them to a more sheltered, less sunny location on scorching days or really windy days.

-Fertilizing: There are many types of organic methods and products that you can use. Manure teas (yes, it is a "tea" made with manure), fish emulsion or the water from your fish tank when you clean are two organic fertilizers often used. You can also buy earth worm castings or raise worms to make your own. A good liquid fertilizer used every other week will work as well. Whatever method you choose, you should fertilize container plants. The soil looses nutrients fairly rapidly because of the extra watering needed.

-You can mix your own soil for the container. The combinations that gardeners use are endless. I buy the big cubes of peat mix from Home Depot and add potting soil or top soil to it. I go by feel- not too light and not too heavy. For herbs you can add some sand. You can also add those nutrients I mentioned. Mix it all in a wheelbarrow and fill your containers, porch boxes etc. all at once. The peat goes a LONG way. Any leftover peat can be mixed into other garden beds or saved for later.


P.W. shared this potting soil mix she uses for her containers: buy the largest bag of Perlite (creates the all important air spaces for your plants and 'lightens' the soil mixture) as well as the largest bag of Vermiculite (helps to keep moisture around the roots of your plants). I usually mix these peat moss, Perlite and Vermiculite in about a 2:1:1 ratio (I judge by look). To this I will add compost (another 1 part measure) and or a little bit of top soil.

You'll find seeds for container gardening at Thompson&Morgan or window box kits and plants at


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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