Containers and Window Boxes: Instant Garden!

Robin Sweetser
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Everyone would like a yard full of flowers, but we often don’t have the right space or enough time for a traditional garden. Whether you have an apartment balcony or rooftop terrace or small patio, container plantings and window boxes allow us to indulge our love of plants in new, creative, and exciting ways

If you have a troublesome spot where nothing will grow, try planting an instant garden in a container.

A dazzling display of plants in a pot or hanging basket can transform a set of steps or an ordinary doorway into an inviting entry.


If you lack sunny spots to grow all your favorites, containers will provide you with additional growing space. Striking container plants can act as focal points and interesting accents or they can fill those bare spots that occur over the growing season. They are quick and easy to plant, portable, and the pots can be rearranged or replanted as needed.


Planting Your Container

To ensure success, use a large pot with good drainage. You can use just about anything that will hold soil but it has to have holes in the bottom for drainage or you'll have floating plants after the first thunderstorm. Poor drainage is the most frequent cause of failure in container gardening.

You need good quality potting soil. Instead of buying large sacks at the garden store, see how to make you own potting mixes.

What you plant is a matter of personal taste but always choose the healthiest plants you can find. See our best bets for window boxes.

Be sure to group plants by their sun and water requirements but there are no hard and fast rules for design; whatever is pleasing to you is perfect.

One formula used by designers is to include at least one spiller, thriller, and filler in each pot. The filler can be anything bushy, the spiller is a trailing plant to soften the edge, and the thriller can be a bloomer or something with interesting texture or weird foliage to provide the wow factor. If you like you can plant all thrillers! This is your chance to try something different.


If you usually stick with pastels but your alter-ego loves bright orange and lime green, go for it! By planting in a container you aren't committed. If you hate it, you can move it someplace else or even take it apart and replant it.

When planning your creation consider where you will be placing the pot. Will it be seen from all sides or just the front?


Don't be afraid of using tropicals such as colocasias, bananas, and cannas in really big pots to make a statement.

Because of the intensive planting, you will need to fertilize and water your containers often. A slow release fertilizer mixed in the soil at planting time will keep the plants blooming all summer long. Deadheading and grooming the plants will keep them looking gorgeous. Don't hesitate to shear back bloomers if they look tired and leggy. They will reward you with more blossoms later in the season.


There are no excuses for not planting at least one container this summer but once you get started you will find it hard to stop with just one. Try to contain yourself!

Read more about how to make a container garden planter.