Take the opportunity to get creative with a mix of winter blooms, evergreens, bulbs and berries that will demand attention right through the cool season to lift lack lustre front yards. Putting together a window box design is a great opportunity to experiment with planting combinations, and as winter progresses your display will get better and better.
The joy of window boxes is that they can be introduced no matter how small your front yard or outdoor space. They can be scaled up by adding more plants if you feel they are a little bare or down by removing anything that's faded. Regularly refreshing the look like this means you get more mileage from your window boxes as winter shifts into spring. Bulbs are also a great way of plugging any gaps and will keep the show going for months.
Keeping window boxes looking good in winter is a combination of choosing the right container and plants for the right space (if north facing, for example, your choice will be more limited), as well as planting in the right soil and taking into account the individual needs of your plants.
Now choose from our ideas if you're looking for inspiration on how to make your window boxes look good in winter.
'I love creating winter containers,' says Erin Schanen, founder of The Impatient Gardener, based in Southeastern Wisconsin. 'They can be simple or over the top, and free or quite spendy. All of them bring color at a time of year when the world seems to be in a dull brown haze. Add lights and you have instant holiday cheer.'
We also love a stylish window box that celebrates the winter season. Choose a simple shot of color with flowers or berries and some spectacular foliage as an instant way to boost your curb appeal.
1. Co-ordinate your window box look
Matching your window box planting scheme to your exterior paintwork is an easy win if you want to make a big impact on your street. Sometimes sticking to one color theme just makes sense if you're looking for instant curb appeal.
'Plant cold-hardy pansies en masse using one color,' suggests interior designer Elizabeth Drake of Drake Interiors. 'The fewer the types of flowers in the window box, the larger the blooms for curb appeal. For budget friendly plants, try WalMart Garden Center and pick the best-looking plant in the place to plant en masse.'
Winter pansies come in a huge variety of color choices including neutral whites and creams, so it shouldn't be difficult if you want to match up a particular aspect of your exterior look such as the paintwork. You can keep planting them right through the winter months too and they will continue to bloom into spring. Despite their delicate good looks they are bred to withstand colder temperatures.
2. Add elegant definition with evergreen topiary
Evergreen plants hold their own for months and will anchor your window box design in winter and beyond. They form a permanent display that allows the planting around them to be switched in and out seasonally.
There are plenty of small evergreen shrubs that look wonderful in winter window boxes, and will add plenty of visual interest and appeal over the coldest months.
A combination of clipped structural evergreens with a supporting cast of seasonal winter planting like heathers and pansies let's you create a low-maintenance scheme that offers long-lasting color and structure. When the evergreens outgrow their space they can simply be transferred to the garden.
If you want an elegant, minimalist look, dwarf boxwood balls - available here from Amazon as affordable live plants - are a classic choice for evergreen structure. Alternatively try dwarf varieties of hebe or euonymus to get the look. Winter flowering heathers such as Erica carneaare also top picks for winter window box ideas
3. Brighten your exterior by tucking in pockets of color
One of the dream color combinations for winter window box ideas is pretty flowers and berries in deep reds and dusky pinks mixed with evergreen interest. Some plants combine all three in one, such as skimmia. This winter interest foliage plant has shapely evergreen leaves, dense clusters of white or pink flowers in spring, and colorful berries (as long as you plant a female and male variety together). This means they are a great all-rounder for winter window box ideas.
Another good choice for tucking into window boxes, especially if they're going to be positioned in a shady or semi-shady spot, are primula (also known as polyanthus). These vigorous little plants will add scent and color to lift winter days, producing plenty of flowers and neat rosettes of foliage.
Primula come in a range of colors and varieties. They start flowering in cold weather and their season is a long one. We particularly love these deep pinky-red colored ones, which combine perfectly with skimmia, such as seen here in this design.
4. Introduce little elements of surprise to your design
Consider adding some unique touches to customize your winter window box ideas. The dainty soft and furry silver catkins of pussy willow stems are one of the first signs of spring, and look particularly fine as part of a winter planting design.
Small and compact varieties of pussy willow can be started off in a large container or window box then transferred to the garden once they outgrow the space. There is also a beautiful dwarf weeping variety called Kilmarnock willow that makes a very ornamental addition to window boxes, where it will cascade prettily over the sides.
Alternatively add some foraged twiggy stems as an afterthought to an existing design. Winter window boxes look all the better with the addition of some evergreen boughs such as arborvitae, colored dogwood stems trimmed into bunches, or sculptural twigs to add height and definition.
5. Use symmetry to create an eye-catching display
Choose an easy symmetrical design for a professional looking finish. Think about plant heights carefully, choosing one slightly taller plant as your focal point to create visual interest. Always check the ultimate height of your plant as you don't want to end up obscuring the window.
Used as a center piece a shapely phormium, like the one in this design here, will add architectural definition and a sense of drama to winter window box ideas. Once positioned, simply fan out the rest of your plants in the window box either side in a symmetrical fashion. Combine with ivy to soften the look, a hero plant in the winter garden that can be used as a 'spiller' in window boxes.
This design also uses cyclamen, which is a classic winter window box plant. 'At the beginning of the winter season, choose ivy-leaved Cyclamen hederifolium for your window box,' suggests landscape designer Amber Hine. 'It has dainty nodding flowers in a range of colors from white to deep pink, plus beautiful marbled foliage. These are such fabulous garden plants. Bringing them up to eye level in a window box display is such a seasonal treat, just when everything else seems to be slowing down.'
6. Choose a leafy design that celebrates foliage
A mix of ornamental grasses, trailing ivy and foliage with dramatic splashy markings becomes so much more than a support act when used in your winter window box ideas. A design like this doesn't need any flowers or berries as it becomes the actual planting story.
The speckled strappy leaves of the bromeliad Neoregelia farinosa make a stunning focal point in a leafy window box like the design seen here. It's more cold hardy than many tropical plants, and safe to grow outside in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 and 10 but must be kept indoors as a houseplant during the cooler months in the rest of the US.
Another great choice if you live in a mild climate is Brunnera, with its large, heart-shaped leaves featuring dappled silvery variegation. Meanwhile the exquisitely marked leaves of heuchera come in plenty of vibrant green shades as well as dark plummy colors that bring foliage-filled window boxes to life.
Plant any of these leafy foliage plants against a backdrop of evergreen ornamental grasses such as Carex to give height and contrasting texture, with trailing ivy cascading over the edges.
7. Bring delicate flowers up to eye-level
'As window boxes are at eye-level height this opens up the opportunity for some of the more delicate flowers to be enjoyed,' says Amber Hine. 'They also make the most of tight garden spaces where you may not have much more than a windowsill, so enjoy it and take advantage of the eye-level display with a seasonal window box.'
Delicate and beautiful snowdrops and other late-winter/early spring bulbs could also be considered for a window box in a shaded location. 'The fresh white blooms of snowdrops can be enjoyed in winter window boxes as the new year begins,' says Amber Hine. They look fabulous planted en masse as the stars of the show.
If you love the look of luminous white flowers in your winter landscape, try adding white hellebore to your winter window box as an alternative to snowdrops.
8. Put the spotlight on evergreen ferns
Consider adding interesting evergreen ferns to your winter window box to introduce a shapely architectural detail. The vibrant bright green fronds will add a lush textural look too.
Ferns can be woven in amongst other window box plants to create an exquisite effect. They come in a wide range of foliage types, forms and shades, so there is something to suit every space. The main consideration is to choose winter-hardy evergreen varieties such as the tassel fern.
'Looking both ornate and primordial, the modest tassel fern is a phenomenal backdrop for shade perennials,' according to the experts at Nature Hills plant nursery. 'It's wonderfully sized for use in shaded window boxes and containers as a filler, backdrop and spiller.'
Evergreen ferns are a particularly good choice for window boxes in shade gardens, introducing light and lacy pattern amongst darker green plants. It's attention to detail like this that will give your winter window box ideas real standout.
Winter window box plants to buy now
Be The First To Know
The Livingetc newsletter is your shortcut to the now and the next in home design. Subscribe today to receive a stunning free 200-page book of the best homes from around the world.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about flowers, plants, and garden design and trends since 2015. Having already studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently adding to her list of qualifications with an RHS Level 2 course in the Principles of Plant Growth and Development. In addition to livingetc.com, she's also written for homesandgardens.com, gardeningetc.com, Modern Gardens and Country Homes & Interiors magazines.
The 'Kitschens' Trend is Replacing Minimalism — Designers Say It's "The Perfect Antidote to Bland"
Playful, colorful, and whimsical, so-called 'kitschens' are slated as this year's next big thing. Designers talk how to curate this personality-filled vibe at home
By Brigid Kennedy Published
4 Genius Smart Home Security Trends That We're Going to See in More Homes in 2024
At CES 2024, we saw some interesting home security innovations. Here are four of them
By Alan Martin Published