Shade Loving Plants for a Window Box

Window boxes bring instant charm and beauty to any home. They're an excellent choice for homeowners who want to add color to an otherwise bland landscape, or to give an instant and inexpensive fresh look to their home's tired paint job. Window boxes are also popular with apartment dwellers, where gardening space is often very limited. While most people focus on sun loving plants when thinking about what to plant in their garden, plenty of shade-loving plants will do well in window boxes.

Flowering Plants

Select a mix of flowering trailing plants and low growing flowers to keep your box looking tidy and compact. Impatiens is a classic shade garden favorite, but it can get tall and leggy. For window boxes, select dwarf varieties to avoid this risk. Lantana is a beautiful trailing plant that is hardy and produces continuous color. Select from a range of vibrant hues, or go with more subdued shades of soft pink or butter-yellow lantana. Fuchsia is another striking shade lover, with its magenta blossoms, it works in harmony with less colorful flowers (such as lantana) to add interest and depth to the garden.

Plants Grown for their Foliage

Container gardens look best when flowers and plants that are mainly grown for their foliage are planted together. Coleus is a shade lover, and comes in rich colors of red, yellow, green and pink. Its variegated leaves add instant color and texture to window boxes. While some gardeners frown upon English ivy as a nuisance plant that tends to take over gardens, smaller varieties such as Hedera helix are perfect for the container garden; the graceful vine-like shoots drape over the side of the box. For a real eye-catching window box, plant shade lovers in soft hues of silver and white. Dichondra 'Silver Falls' and caladium 'Candidum Jr.', with its creamy white and pale green leaves, are both great choices to add interest to a garden.

Planting Considerations

When planting a window box or other container garden, the more you pack in the container, the better the look and appeal of the garden. Many gardeners make the mistake of under-planting in their window boxes. They think the plants need room to grow, which is true, but the goal of container gardening is to pack a visual punch--sparse use of plants lacks visual appeal. Under-planting also means you run the risk that if a particular plant does not thrive, it will be very obvious to the eye. Placing plants snug up against each other does not deter their growth at all. When planting your window box, gardening book author Cassandra Danz suggests planting taller plants in the back and trailing plants in the front so they can cascade over the sides of the box. Check with your local garden center for additional plants specific to your climate zone.

Keywords: shade plants window box, window box garden, shade plants garden

About this Author

Lisa Brei has written for Los Angeles Family Magazine, L.A. Parenting Magazine and for various non-profit newsletters and blogs over the past seven years on the subjects of education, family travel, gardening, children's health, raising multiples and infertility. Brei holds a Master of Arts in Education from UCLA.