Often placed under windows, along fences or railings or outside garden buildings, flower boxes offer a creative way to add colour and visual interest to your outside space.
Flower boxes are usually elongated containers, lined and filled with soil and you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to what to plant in them! Flower boxes are as at home in urban spaces as they are in country gardens and you can fill them in any way you like.
Types of flower box
When it comes to flower boxes, there are a few different types to choose from:
Plastic flower box
Usually the cheapest option, plastic flower boxes come in an array of colours, sizes and with or without fixings, depending on whether you want to hang your box or place it on the ground. Extremely durable and practical, they don’t need lining and in terms of maintenance will just require an occasional wipe down.
Metal flower box
A tougher option than plastic, good quality metal flower boxes can last for many years. They can be sleek and modern or more decorative in style.
Wooden flower box
If you like a more rustic look, wooden flower boxes are a perfect choice. Because wood will eventually rot, you might want to line a wooden planter box, it’ll also help to keep the soil moist if the box is positioned in a sunny spot.
Wire wall flower basket
Designed for wall mounting, these wire baskets are lined with coco fibre and look like long hanging baskets.
What should I plant in a flower box?
This is the fun part! What you plant in your flower box is dependent on a few things. Consider where your box will go, if it’s in a shady spot, be sure to choose plants that don’t require full sun. Add some rich compost (John Innes no 3 is good as it retains moisture well) and decide whether you want to add flowers, foliage or both.
Here are some ideas for creating beautiful, unusual and even edible flower boxes:
Rainbow flower box
For a welcome burst of colour, try planting flower box favourites such as petunias, lobelias, ranunculus, hardy gerberas, pelargoniums, honey-scented alyssum and pansies. You can create a literal rainbow of colour, stick to a couple of contrasting colours or opt for a zingy burst of oranges and pinks. The brighter and bolder, the better! These flowers are all easy to care for, will flower for weeks on end and love the sunshine so be sure to position them where they can bathe in the rays.
Formal flower box
If a more structured flower box is your thing, you can achieve incredible results with a little planning. Mini conifers like lemon cypress or Mediterranean blue cypress look elegant when grouped with trailing ivy and showy astilbe Ellie. Palms and grasses add structure and colour or try your hand at topiary with neat, compact box shrubs. Have fun mixing colours and textures, keeping taller plants towards the back of the box and trailing varieties at the front. The key to a stylish, formal box is to keep things simple. Stick to 3 or 4 plants and keep planting symmetrical for maximum impact.
Filling a flower box with herbs is a great way to create a mini kitchen garden. Not only will it look beautiful, but it will smell incredible too. Chives will come back each year and their attractive purple blooms are loved by pollinators. Star herbs for flower boxes include lavender, basil, chives, sage, coriander, thyme and mint.
Edible flower box
For a floral feast, try planting your flower box with edible blooms. Nasturtium flowers and leaves can be added to salads and add a spicy flavour. Violas, lavender, dandelions, marigolds and borage are all edible. Did you know you can eat certain rose petals? The damask rose Rosa damascena and the white beach rose Rosa rugosa alba are said to be delicious!
Some vegetables and fruits will grow happily in a flower box and provide you with a great, space-saving solution if you want to grow your own produce but don’t have much room. Strawberries, dwarf tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, rainbow chard and round varieties of beetroot have attractive foliage. You can mix them with edible, companion flowers such as marigolds for a boost of colour. Most vegetables love full sun so make sure your box is positioned to catch maximum rays.
Shade-loving flower box
You can achieve stunning results with shade-loving plants. Hostas, trailing ivy, ferns, coleus and hellebores can be grouped for an incredible display. Think about different textures and sizes when choosing your plants.
Seasonal flower box
If you’re feeling super creative, you could have a flower box for every season. Think mini scotch pine trees at Christmas, next to which you could add sticks of artificial berries or baubles. Create a spooky Halloween box with fake webs and lots of trailing ivy or add bright narcissus and crocuses for a spring-themed feel.
Evergreen flower box
For year-round interest, you can plant your flower box up with entirely evergreen specimens. Choose mini conifers, trailing ivy, box, grasses and succulents. It’s a lower-maintenance option than a seasonal flowering box, just make sure you regularly water and feed your plants so they thrive.
Budget flower box
If you’re on a tight budget, you can still create an insta-worthy flower box. You can often pick up cut-price plants from garden centres towards the end of the summer, from mid-July onwards. Potted geraniums, daisies and other flowering plants will still have weeks of flowering time left, even if some are a little leggy!
Also, think about growing your flowers from seed. You can start them off indoors or in a greenhouse from March onwards, transferring them to the window box when they’re thriving seedlings and all risk of frost has passed. Cornflowers are very easy to grow and you can harvest the seeds for planting the following year.
Top flower box tips
- If you’re using a wooden box or crate, make sure you add drainage holes so the plants don’t become waterlogged.
- As flowerboxes will dry out quickly, try adding some moisture-retaining gel to your compost mix.
- Flower box plants will be hungry so you’ll need to regularly fertilise them, or mix some slow-release fertiliser in with your compost when you fill the box.
- Structure your box – keep larger plants towards the back and place smaller or hanging plants at the front and sides
I’ve come up with some flower box ideas and themes, but really, the sky’s the limit when it comes to planting up a flower box. Just be sure to use plants that are suitable for container growing. Happy planting!
Read More: How to make a flower box bouquet