The ideal plants for window boxes are colorful, can withstand sun or part shade and don't have finicky watering requirements. Here are ten that fill various container needs — from low trailing vines to tall vertical spikes — but all are are pretty low maintenance and good choices.
Sweet Potato Vine
This versatile vine is perfect for containers since it gets quite long and looks great creeping over the planter edge. It grows very fast, does well in sun and shade, and is the prettiest bright yellow green. This vivid plant is also a vigorous grower, so don't be shy about pruning it back if you need to.
→ Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea) Plant from Home Depot; $34.99 for a pack of four
Fiber Optic Grass
This annual reminds me of those glow sticks sold at amusement parks. It's tall and grasslike, with little tiny flowers at the ends of the stalks, both of which add a whole lot of texture to your container. These plants prefer partial to full sun, and are pretty tolerant of the sun.
→ Fiber Optic Grass (Isolepsis) Plant from Home Depot; $14.99 for a 4.5" container
Buy these dark green spiky plants when they are young and they'll add height and drama to your container. This great accent foliage can get fairly tall, but they grow slowly. Dracaena can survive in low or medium light, but the leaves will look their best in bright, indirect sun.
→ Dracaena Indivisa Spike from Plants2Door on Etsy; $6.99 plus shipping
White Licorice Plant
The fuzzy, silvery-white variety of this plant adds great texture and looks best in the front of the container since it grows low and wide. They are very easy to grow, like sun, and are drought tolerant — so avoid over-watering. They don't need fertilizer, and can be pinched back if they grow too large for the container.
→ White Licorice (Helichrysum) Plant from Home Depot; $5.99 for 4.25" container
"Blazin Rose" Iresine
This plant (also called a Bloodleaf) is all about its showy burgundy leaves and hot pink veins. It's pretty heat tolerant, can grow up to 18 inches tall, and adds a bright spot of color to your window box. It does best in dappled light, but needs some protection from harsh afternoon sun.
→ Iresine Herbertii from Smart Seeds Emporium on Etsy; $3.99 for 10 seeds
Babylon Red Verbena Hybrid
There are many types of verbena, but this particular hybrid is light and airy with tiny bobs of red flowers that attract butterflies. It's a great choice for the front of a container as it spreads out rather than grows tall. They like partial to full sun, tolerate heat, and bloom pretty continuously.
→ Red Verbena from Root 98 Warehouse on Etsy; $30.99 for 2.5 quart container
This plant comes in several color varieties (some of which are really quite wild) and, although it doesn't tolerate direct, sustained sunlight, it's still a great choice for a container filler. They like moist but well-drained soil. I chose the yellow green variety and the red and green tiger leaf variety (above) but check out the Lord Vordemort here:
→ Coleus Lord Voldemort Plant from Tamianis Stash on Etsy; $2.25 for a 4-6" plant
This grass offers fabulous shimmering texture that is said to look like a waterfall when the wind blows through it. This plant tolerates part shade but also does well in sun. Be sure to water consistently if grown in full sun locations.
→ Frosted Curls Carex Grass from Nursery Seeds on Etsy; $4.50 for 50 Grass Seeds
This another one of those plants with endless varieties, some of which have brand names. The "Angelface Super Blue" above is a grape-scented flower that adds beautiful height and a lovely purple color to a window box. They are long bloomers that don't need a lot of maintenance. They are also last a long time as cut stems for your kitchen table.
→ "Angleface Super Blue" Summer Snapdragon from Proven Winners; $7.99 for a 4.5" container
Salvia is first cousins with the sage and offers beautiful tall shoots of purple color. This perennial is easily grown in average, well-drained soil in full sun.
→ Salvia Nemorosa from Hope Springs Nursery on Etsy; $27.70 for 5 plants
- Re-edited from a post originally published on 6.17.2010 - DF