Patio Makeover: Selecting Plants for a Window Box

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Garden magazines and makeover television shows depict amazing transformations in homes and gardens.

Somehow, it doesn’t always seem feasible or realistic for most of us.

But it is! The key is to break it down into simple, actionable steps.

So to inspire you, I wanted to share a recent patio makeover I did for my brother and sister-in-law.

They are busy professionals and live in a condo with a small sitting area.

They enjoy relaxing outside in the evenings and wanted a complete makeover of the space.

The goal was to create a cozy, intimate, retreat-like setting with a tropical feel.

The patio faces east, so it gets morning sun.

There are large trees, creating a partly sunny to shady growing environment.

The first makeover area is the left side of the patio.

There is a window box under the dining room window and a raised planting area.

Several years ago, they planted lilies and they have done well, so they would like them to stay.

Otherwise, it is a blank slate.

Rejuvenating an Old Window Box

The window box liner was several years old, so I started by replacing it and adding fresh soil designed for container gardening.

This window box is visible from the inside the condo, so the goal was to design it so that it was beautiful from any angle.

Plants For a Window Box

There are three types of plants that I use in designing a window box: thrillers, fillers and spillers.

Thrillers are the specimen plants that create structure and a focal point.

Depending on the size of the window box, I use 2-3 thriller plants towards the back of the planting space.

For this project, I used Blue Rush grass.

It has a whispy growth habit that adds height and a unique texture.

Examples of other great thrillers:

Filler plants are those that add color and substance to the main planting area, creating a focal point of color.

One of my sister-in-law’s favorite plants is yellow Reiger begonias.

They are bright and cheery, so I used five in the middle center of the window box.

The window box needed more color and contrast, so I added white New Guinea impatiens and purple impatiens around the yellow Reiger begonias.

This filled the center and main area of the window box.

I tend to plant flowers closely together so that when they grow, they fill the box to the point of overflowing.

This creates a professional, magazine-worthy look that everyone dreams of!

Examples of other great fillers:

Mostly Sun:

Mostly Shade:

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The final touch for a beautiful window box is adding a few spiller plants.

These are vines or cascading flowers that help create that abundant, overflowing look a professional designer would create.

For this project, I planted two Lysimachia towards the front of the window box.

They have light green foliage that will contrast nicely with the colors and textures of the other plants.

Examples of other great spillers:

Designing a Flower Bed

The key to creating a professional-looking flower bed is to plant flowers in large groups.

This creates a bold, dramatic statement of color.

I wanted the flowers in the bed to coordinate with those in the window box.

Since Reiger begonias are my sister-in-law’s favorite, I planted eleven pink to contrast with the yellow in the window box.

This is a bright, cheery contrast that she will enjoy after a long day at work.

Begonias thrive in the partly sunny/shady conditions.


Tropical Element in the Flower Beds

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To add a vertical element and a tropical feel, I planted a Parlor Palm.

This softens the backdrop of the building and begins to add the “retreat feel” to this space.

Below the palm, I planted a color block of white New Guinea impatiens.

White flowers brighten a space and are a great contrast to the dark green leaves of the Parlor Palm.

Among the white New Guinea Impatiens, I tucked in two English Ivy plants.

The vines will grow throughout and cascade over the pavers that edge the bed.

For more information about selecting plants for your yard click here.


Planting large groups of flowers in the same color is a technique professionals use to create a visually impactful landscape.

Whether in a window box or in a flower bed, it can work for small gardens too!

This is a great start to the makeover, but there is much more!

To see the next steps in this makeover, click here

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