Best Plants for Window Boxes

Plants That Will Thrive in Sunny or Shady Window Boxes

Window boxes - best bets - Thinkstock

A window box adds charm and a splash of color to this home.

Photo by Thinkstock

When planting window boxes, choosing plants that match your sun exposure is the key to success.

The leaves of shade-lovers will get scorched in the high light levels of a south or west-facing wall; plants that thrive in full sun will grow tall and leggy in a northern exposure.

Often overlooked for window boxes are foolproof flowering bulbs. Whether you do a fall planting of miniature daffodils, snowdrops, or hyacinths for springtime bloom, or you do a late-spring planting of lilies, alliums, or dwarf gladiolus for summertime bloom, be sure to tuck a few bulbs and corms into your window boxes for added impact.

Connoisseurs may choose to add topiary forms as a focal point. Ivy or fig-vine standards (“lollipop trees”) or other identifiable shapes can capture the imagination. Climbers can be trained around the window frame for an ensemble effect.

(for a shady, cool, north-facing window)
cardinal flower
English daisy
fern (maidenhair, tassel, Boston, asparagus)
garden heliotrope
lamb’s ears
lemon balm
lenten rose
mophead hydrangea
tropical houseplant
wax begonia
creeping myrtle
sweet autumn clematis
variegated English or Algerian ivy
wandering jew
sweet autumn clematis
trumpet vine


(for a sunny, hot, south or west-facing window)
dusty miller
miniature rose
opal and bush basil
ornamental pepper
rose-scented geranium
airplane plant
‘Blackie’ sweet potato vine
dwarf soapwort
‘Homestead Purple’ verbena
peppermint-scented geranium
prostrate rosemary
sweet marjoram
Carolina jessamine
golden hop
miniature climbing rose
moon vine



This article was originally published in 2008 and has been updated.


Reader Comments

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I live on the Atlantic Ocean,

I live on the Atlantic Ocean, my window boxes face south and get full sun, I love color and hanging, what loves sun?

Annuals for Window Box

I have a window box that's east facing. I live in south central Illinois, it's in the low to mid 70's during the day most days now. I want to do a mixture of flowers and vines. I like bright flowers and my house sits a little ways off the road I want something that will be seen. I know that sweet potato vine does good but it can take over too. What is your suggestions? Thanks so much.

Hey - I've got railing boxes

Hey - I've got railing boxes on our roof top deck - full sun almost all day long…any suggestions? Thanks!

Many flowers thrive in window

Many flowers thrive in window boxes if you have full sun. We don't know where you live, but some general suggestions are: French marigold, geranium, heliotrope, and verbena. Hope this helps.

Hi! I have window boxes

Hi! I have window boxes facing east, but they are also under some casement windows that open outward. So, I was thinking of some creeping petunias in there so that I can still open my windows. Would these work? I live in Wisconsin. Thank you!

Yes, a low-growing, trailing

Yes, a low-growing, trailing variety of petunia sounds perfect.

What flowers would I use for

What flowers would I use for an east facing window box?

Hi Maygirl, East-facing

Hi Maygirl, East-facing windows usually get morning sun. Plants that have this preference include: fibrous rooted bedding begonia, lobelia, ageratum, dusty miller, viola, sweet alyssum, seed dahlias, snapdragons and coleus along with the always popular dwarf marigolds. Keep the soil moist and don't forget to deadhead!

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for replying! Now my children and husband have a list of flowers to get me for Mother's Day and my birthday!!!

I live in Greenbelt Maryland.

I live in Greenbelt Maryland. My question is when should I start to put the liquid food in my hummingbird feeder?

Hi, when you start feeding

Hi, when you start feeding depends on where you live and the type of hummingbird. In general, ruby-throated hummingbirds often start their migration in March and April. For Maryland: hummingbirds usually arrive around first week of April though it can vary. In the spring, while you are waiting for the first hummingbird to arrive, just fill up your feeder about 1/3 full or less to avoid wasting the nectar. Hope this helps!

I live in north Alabama. What

I live in north Alabama. What flowers and vegetables can I plant in May?

In northern Alabama, you are

In northern Alabama, you are most likely in Zone 7. Check out this listing of flowers, herbs and vegetables that can be grown in your zone: Good luck!

Where can I find those Zone

Where can I find those Zone links? I'm in Zone 8a, Terrell Texas.