Planting Window Boxes for Shade

Window boxes can add charm and color to a home, and they're popular in urban areas where gardening space is limited.

Gardening author Cassandra Danz calls window boxes "the gardens of New York." She offers suggestions for planting a healthy and attractive window box that will thrive in the shade.



Window boxes add personality and color to a house or deck.

Make sure your container has drainage holes so water won't sit in the bottom of the box and rot the roots of your plants.

Cedar is a good choice for window-box planters because it lasts a long time and is naturally rot-resistant. To make your wooden window box last even longer, place a plastic window-box liner inside it – just make sure it has drainage holes too.
To create a beautiful design for your window box, you'll need plants of various heights: tall ones for the back, medium-height plants for the middle and something trailing in front.

Trailing plants: Good choices include ivy, ivy-leaved geranium and nasturtiums. Plant near the front of the window box so they can cascade over.

Plants for the middle of the box: Consider impatiens, primroses in the polyanthus group and Primula obconica, spotted deadnettle (Lamium maculatum), poor man's orchid (Schizanthus pinnatus) or holiday cactus (Schlumbergera). Choose selections with complementary colors.

Tall plants: Coleus, monkey flower (Mimulus x hybridus) and dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) would work well at the back of a window-box planting.

Fill the planter half-full of a good-quality potting mix. Add the plants, starting with the front and working your way to the back. Fill in around the root balls with soil, making sure that the tops of the roots are just barely below the soil surface. Planting too deeply may cause your plants to rot. Add a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote, and mix it into the soil surface.

Mount the planter securely in the desired location, and water well.

There are a variety of window boxes to choose from. Redwoods are attractive, but they tend to dry out quickly. Terra cotta window boxes keep the soil from drying out and hold salt and chemical deposits away from the soil. There are even self-watering window boxes available, with a hole in the side for water so you never need to water the soil. Plastic window boxes have the advantage of being the lightest to carry and install.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Shade Garden

A shady backyard doesn't have to be considered a problem area. A shade garden can add interest and color to an uninspired all-green canvas.

Shade-Tolerant Plants

Check out 11 shade-tolerant plants and the planting information for each zone.

Plant Varieties

Learn about 11 plant varieties and the planting information for each.

Shade-Loving Herbs

Consider growing these herbs that can make do on four or fewer hours of sun each day.

Plants for a Shade Garden

Check out annuals, perennials, groundcovers, shrubs and understory trees that are made for the shade garden.

Shade Gardening Tips

Tips on how to cultivate a shade garden.

10 Best Perennials for Shade

Looking for something to plant in that shady area of your garden? These perennials thrive without sunlight and add great garden color in beds, borders and containers.

Perennials That Love Shade

These 10 plants will add color to your shade garden and return year after year.

Plant Labels

You can learn a lot about a plant simply by studying its label.

Scrappy Little Plants to Grow Indoors for Food or Fun

Re-grow kitchen scraps to cut your grocery bills or make new houseplants.

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Consult Our A-Z Guide

Everything You Need to Know

Browse a full list of topics found on the site, from accessories to mudrooms to wreaths.  

How-To Advice and Videos

Get video instructions about kitchens, bathrooms, remodeling, flooring, painting and more.

Watch DIY Downloads Now

Watch DIY Network LIVE

Don't miss your favorite shows in real time online.