What Can I Plant in a Flower Box?

By   | Last Updated :   September 16, 2021 | Filed In :   Growing Guides

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.

window flower box

Choose a flower box to suit your style and fill it with beautiful blooms. Image credit: @larry_watkins_photography

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.

metal flower box

Add a riot of colour for the brightest flower box. Image credit: @millstonenursery

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.

structured flower box

Keep planting simple and structured for the wow factor. Image credit: @cadoganlandscapes

Herb box

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.

fragrant herb flower box

Fragrant herbs are a striking addition to a flower box.  Image credit: @hooksandlattice

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!

edible flower box

Nasturtiums are a flower box favourite, blooming through summer. Image credit: @ryans_ingleby_garden

Vegetable box

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.

vegatable flower box

Plant edibles in a flower box to create a mini vegetable garden. Image credit: Lazy Flora

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.

shade loving flower box

Show-stopping, shade-loving plants.  Image courtesy of @cultivate_south_haven

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.

seasonal flower box

Add a festive touch to your flower box. Image credit: @primplanters

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.

evergreen flower box

Add evergreen plants for year-round interest. Image credit: @fieldandcanvas

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.

budget flower box

You can create beautiful flower boxes with end of season plants. Image credit: @mardi_antosh

Top flower box tips

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


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