One Window Box – Four Ways

window box design

I don’t usually read fashion magazines, but living with a teenage daughter means there’s usually a stack of them lying around somewhere in the house.

While I can pass by them without feeling the urge to read ‘The Top 10 Must-Have Heels For Summer’,  I’ll admit I’m a sucker for titles such as ‘10 Ways to Wear 1 Dress.’

So, with a slightly different twist, here’s my own version where the star isn’t the little black dress, but a copper and iron window box that I change throughout the year.

1.  Summer Hummer-Haven

The window box I’m featuring in this article is one that I found many years ago at Smith & Hawkins (RIP.)

It’s mounted at the base of a narrow kitchen window, which allows me to discreetly watch all the hummingbirds that visit.

Sometimes I feel like a Peeping Tom, spying on these little birds while sipping my cup of coffee.

A few of the hummingbirds’ favorite nectar-rich plants in this combination are:

‘Little Lanterns’ columbine  and Trailing ‘Creeping Fuchsia’ with its tiny fluorescent flowers

Lemon Slice’ Million Bells, dwarf zinnias and lobelia

Fuchsia procumbens "Creeping Fuchsia"

2.  Introducing Fall Colors

kalanchoe chocolate soldier window box

Keeping the echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’, the euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’, and the trailing Creeping Fuchsia, I wanted to create a window box that would easily transition into fall and winter.

First, I removed the spent million bells and re-located the columbine to another part of my garden.

Next, I added a long-lived kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Chocolate Soldier’, with its fuzzy brown foliage, and the glowing orange flowers of bidens ‘Campfire.’ 

The combination is one of my favorites, and no one can resist passing by without touching the kalanchoe!

window box design
window box kalanchoe chocolate soldier

3.  Delightful & Drought Tolerant

ptilotus joey in window box

The following summer, I switched out the colors of this window box, focusing on plants that have softer colors in shades of  blue-silver, pink, and yellow. 

The plants also needed to require little water so as not to cause root-rot in the succulents.


Hands down, the star of this window box is the ptilotus ‘Joey.’  Its unusual flowers are feathery textured with unique coloring – pale pink and silver, tipped with a teeny-tiny little spot of bright pink at the very end.

Ptilotus is very low-water and is the perfect companion plant to neighboring echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’ and euphorbia myrsinites.


ptilotus joey

And once the ‘Topsy Turvy’ blooms, it’s a veritable hummingbird feast.

Colorful salmon and pink flowers slowly unfurl on long, slender stalks that last for weeks, adding a burst of color to this otherwise tranquil color combination.

4.  Fall’s Cool Colors

With this next design, I decided to keep in place the echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’ and euphorbia myrsinites from the previous window box design (see above.)

However, I added richness to the color combination by including darker, vibrant colors in the blue, magenta, and burgundy families.

At first I wasn’t a fan of the dark burgundy-brown colors of the ornamental oxalis ‘Zinfandel’ foliage combined with the magenta colors of the stock and the neighboring silver-blue of the echeveria.

I needed to find a way to introduce harmony within this trio of seemingly disparate colors.  


So, I added a bright chartreuse Creeping Jenny (lysimachia) which would help pull out the yellow colors of the oxalils flowers.

euphorbia myrsinites


And, when the euphorbia myrsinites bloomed with its acid-yellow flowers, I was thrilled with the entire color combination.

Isn’t it funny how adding a particular color can tie everything together?

5.  Echoes in the Shade (even though the title says ‘4’, I thought I’d throw in a freebie!)

window box for shade

After falling in love with the first window box, I decided I had to get another one to mount on the north-facing wall of my office.

Instead of changing out the design seasonally, I wanted this window box to look good every day of the year.

Therefore, instead of relying on a plant’s fleeting flowers for color, I focused on plants that had year-round interest.   I wanted to emphasize the lush feeling of this part of my garden, so I chose plants with various shades of green and burgundy/maroon. 

Burgundy tones are found in just about every plant in this window box:

– the stems of the ‘Lady in Red’ hydrangea

– the stems of the crassula ‘Calico Kitten’ succulent

– the new foliage of the Rosy Maidenhair Fern  (adiantum hispidulum)

– the tiny little flowers of the fuchsia thymifolia

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my window boxes! 

If you’d like to see more examples, several of which include caladiums, click here.


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  • Your windowboxes are breathtakingly beautiful – just like everything else in your garden. I’m so excited to hear about this book and will be getting it for sure! Can’t wait!

    • Thank you so much, Greenwords, and so nice to hear from you – its been awhile! I hope life is good for you healthwise and otherwise? I was talking with some Australian friends the other day and thought of you!

  • Hey Rebecca, I’m Begi, a retired Delta Flight Attendant living in Charleston, SC. I ran across your blog address last night and thought I’d check it out—what a wonderful blog!
    I’m not a MG or anything…just garden loving fool..((^_^)) I look forward to your book release. I have so many questions…. I planted a small vegetable garden and a small flower garden this spring for the first time. So far I’ve had fresh homegrown tomatoes (since Mother’s Day), cucumbers, yellow and zucchini squash, bell and banana peppers! Oh, some strawberries too. However what I have the most of is questions!
    I felt compelled to share my excitement of finding you as my new best friend!!
    Begi ((^_^))

    • How nice to meet another ‘garden loving fool’, Begi! 😉 I’m happy to hear about your garden successes – I can’t believe you have tomatoes already! Mine are marble sized, green and hard as a rock. Soon, though, soon. Sounds like you’re definitely doing something right out there in Charleston!!

  • I took down the “window” box (actually it was between 2 windows) because I have really wide eaves and the area beneath seldom gets wet. What can you plant in a situation like that? The previous owners were “growing” silk flowers in it when I bought it.

    • Hi Diane – all of my window boxes are under eaves as well. One of them relies on me hand-watering them, but since it’s located right outside of my kitchen window it’s unlikely that I’ll forget since I see it every time I walk in the kitchen. The other one, however, is hooked up to irrigation, with the tubing running discreetly up the back of the box, hidden by the trailing plants (ivy and succulents). If you’re unable to irrigate yours, then succulents are the way to go as they’re so darn tough and if they’re not in the full baking sun can go without water for several days (sometimes weeks) at a time. They’re very forgiving! If you’re trying not to have any water drip down on the surface below, can you place another container under the window box to catch the run-off? There’ll still be draining water, only not quite as much.

  • Congrats on the new book, Rebecca! How exciting! I love the different looks for your window box, and I’m not sure I could even pick a favorite. Sometimes you just need to try out all the looks, one right after the other, right?

    • Thanks, Pam! I love window boxes precisely because I can so easily change them whenever I feel like it (versus my garden which is not so easy). They’re like wardrobe accessories, in a way 😉

  • I can’t wait to get my hands on your new book! Congratulations!
    And thank you for the great window box ideas.

    • Thanks, Christina – coming from you that’s a real compliment!!

  • As always, no matter what you do in your garden it is always so perfect. You have just motivated me to do more window boxes. My biggest challenge is the watering although since I have incorporated Succulents in to my garden and containers, it has been more fun than work. Thanks for the inspiration Rebecca.

    • Laura – I have no doubt you’ll create a fantastic succulent window box!! And when you do, please send a pic (or better yet invite me for iced tea so I can finally see your gorgeous garden!!) 😉

  • I just redid my windowboxes which get blasting heat in the late afternoon because they’re west-facing. I planted succulents of course. But even if I weren’t “the succulent queen” they’re a great problem-solving plant for hot, dry locations. Previously I’d had geraniums (zonal and ivy) which looked great for a while but then got leggy. Any thoughts on challenging locations for windowboxes? How much sun exposure do yours get?

    • Well, Succulent Queen, you’re definitely doing what I’d do if I had a box in the full, blazing sun. And yours is even worse because it gets the reflective heat from your driveway and stucco wall – triple whammy! I think succulents and cacti would be about the only thing that would thrive in that location. Good thing we love succulents so much, right?? I’m lucky because one of my boxes is in morning sun and the other is in full shade.

  • Your next book…congratulations! When is it going to be published?

    I love to put plants together, and I am learning everyday. One thing though, it is a time consuming activity to maintain containers, they only last one year and they need to be redone. Since I hate throwing plants away I have few containers that need to be replanted and not having enough time, they are looking rather unattractive.

    I hope to see you presenting your book to the Marin Master Gardeners.

    • Hi Laura – it’ll be published this September (yay!). Just like I told Becky (below) I always include something that stays evergreen in my containers or window boxes because, like you, who has the time to constantly fuss with them?? My shady window box is evergreen year-round (or nearly so) and I haven’t had to replant anything in several years. I can’t believe how it thrives on neglect!! I hope to see you at another MG meeting, too!! Are you going on the Marin Garden Conservancy tours this year??? They’re coming up, I believe….

      • Rebecca, I think the tour is this Saturday.

        Good idea about always having an evergreen planter. I think I need to change plant selection because some plants don’t work well in my containers. Oh well….

        There is MG event this Fall, maybe I will see if they still need presenter, you could come and give a talk with your new book….

  • I fear I can only dream of putting together planters that look as gorgeous as these! I never seem to get the mix right. I better pre-order your book, too. Thanks for sharing these incredible photos. They really are inspirational.

    • Thanks for the nice comment,Becky, but I know you can do it!! I rarely plant containers using only perennials or annuals, preferring to mix in something that’s evergreen and beautiful year-round (the succulents, ferns and fuchsia in my case). Maybe that little tip can help tie everything together for your planters?

  • Amazing! I’ve never been a big fan of window boxes, but these take it to a whole new level! Also I think the fuchsia could be Fuchsia thymifolia.

    • Ahhh – you’re right, Max! It IS a Fuchsia thymifolia – thanks so much! 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words, Charlie – I’m glad you enjoyed my post!

  • What good timing for this article, dear friend. You gave me some thoughts for a new client that loves pinks, purples and whites but no yellows! It will be an interesting challenge to do about 12 sun containers without yellow! As always, you inspire me.
    Excuse me though, I’ve gotta go and pre-order you new book. Have a good rest of your week!

    • No yellows? Not even the palest shade? Well, if anyone do it YOU can, Sheila. Have a good week, yourself, and good luck! (any orange??)


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