Add herbs, vegetable plants and flowering annuals to make a pretty and tasty window box design.
Maybe Jack’s beanstalk in your window box is a stretch, but it might be interesting to include herbs or even vegetables in your designs this year. The herbs featured below are interchangeable as ornamental and culinary plants or include your own favorites. Don’t forget to use organic soils and fertilizers, if planning on cooking or eating your vegetables and herbs.
Sorry Peter Rabbit…
Lettuces and Pansies...
Peter Rabbit won’t be able to rob this garden! A window box is usually out of reach for the average bunny and can become a safe place for a vegetable garden. Since both lettuces and pansies prefer the cooler temperatures, this dynamic duo makes a pretty combination for window boxes. The fresh, crunchy lettuce leaves and the adorable, pansy faces are the ultimate picture of spring and both are edible.
Lettuce varieties: Choose contrasting leaf colors and textures for your greens or simply include your favorites ones. (Butterhead, Romaine or Loose-leaf lettuces, Spinach, Kale and Swiss Chard)
Pansy varieties: Select your favorite pansy flowers with large, cheerful faces or the smaller viola (Johnny Jump Up) in a rainbow of colors.
Light: Both plants prefer full sun but can thrive in partial shade.
Best features: Both plants like it cool. Select these two plants for your first window boxes of the season. When temps rise, replace them with long-blooming annuals.
Water: Keep soil consistently moist in a rich, potting mix.
Bloom time: Spring & cooler temperatures
Bonus: Seasonal color for window boxes with color and taste.
Tip: Harvest lettuce leaves in the early morning with scissors. Wash leaves, pat dry and wrap with paper towel and store in plastic bag in refrigerator. Pinch the youngest lettuce leaves and pansy petals for the mildest taste.
Hot and Spicy…
Basil, Parsley and Petunias (photo)
Spicy and fragrant basil leaves pair well with the hot colors of petunias and coreopsis. Both plants love to be snipped and pruned to encourage fullness, so this window box design only looks fuller and more scrumptious throughout the summer months.
Herb varieties: Choose basil in contrasting green or purple leaf colors or simply include your favorites ones. (Genovese, Green Globe, Opal or spicy Thai basil) Cooks rave about Italian flat parsley for its clean taste and it's also welcome in a window box that is accessible for snipping.
Flowering Annuals: Select your favorite annuals but remember that bright red and yellow flowers really show off among the leafy herbs. Hot pepper plants would also work in this design.
Light: Both plants prefer full sun but can take some part sun in the afternoon.
Best features: Select these pairings for summer window boxes that will take you into fall. When temperatures cool down, replace them mini mums, pumpkins and bittersweet.
Water: Keep all plants consistently watered and make sure that the window box has good drainage. Sometimes it helps to put a layer of coir at the bottom of the window box to keep water from running out the bottom.
Fragrance and Flavor…
Lavender, Nasturtium and Purple basil
Try this fragrant combination for your summer window box. These plants thrive in the sunny, warm months. They all will do well in window boxes with well-draining soil. Although the lavender and nasturtium like a lean soil and no fertilizer, the basil will be happier with a healthy dose of garden compost around each plant.
Lavender: ‘Hidcote’ English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’) has deep purple blossoms and grows in tidy mounds from 12-18-inches tall and wide… perfect for window boxes or edging a walkway. The fragrant flowers are edible and attract butterflies, too. Blooms from mid- to late-summer.
Nasturtium Bushy or dwarf types have red, orange, strawberry-red or yellow flowers that are edible and bloom from summer to frost. Nasturtiums are also available in semi-trailing varieties in salmon, yellow and other colors. Use plants initially but you can double-plant by seed, too. Blooms from summer to fall.
Purple-leaved Basil: Basils ‘Dark Opal’ or ‘Purpurascens’ are aromatic, culinary herbs with striking, purple foliage. Snip young leaves for a spicy addition to salads or an unexpected color in pesto or bruschetta.
Light: full to part sun
Best features: Fragrance and taste. All three herbs thrive in sun to part sun.
Water: Water deeply in a well-drained soil. Make sure window boxes have good drainage.
Tip: Plant lavender in the middle of the window box and higher up in the soil for the best drainage. A poor soil produces bigger Nasturtium flowers. Give the soil around basil plants a healthy dose of compost. Select young leaves or flowers for the mildest taste.