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Native plant window boxes: calling apartment and townhome dwellers!

Might a window box provide habitat? Well you just know the answer is yes! One of life’s truisms is every little bit counts. That’s why when reading about native plants or gardening with the environment in mind, you will often come across encouragement to garden with what you have, even if it is a single container or window box.  Last week, as I sat on our deck at my computer, a scene with song sparrows unfolded reminding me how much every little bit does matter.

I knew there was a bird’s nest in this window box.  I had peaked at the nest a few days back and could see a bird sitting on hatchlings but had somewhat forgotten about it. A ruffling sound got my attention and I looked up to see this little guy or gal struggling to get a foothold at the top of the dwarf arborvitae.

The small song sparrow spent the next 20 minutes on my gardening boot chirping intermittently while its parents flitted above with caterpillars in their mouths continually calling for the young fledgling.

And then:

Fledgling Go Time:

Which native plants are best to plant in window boxes? The window box here was planted four years ago with this combination of coral bells (Heuchera) and dwarf arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Rheingold‘) for this full and part sun deck railing. It has survived through rain, wind and snow and other than adding a bit of fresh potting soil or compost hasn’t required any maintenance.  Other plants that have done well in window boxes include Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata),  foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) and seersucker sedge (Carex plantaginea) in shade and sun tolerant heuchera, blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium), phlox (Phlox stolonifera) for part sun and sun. I really think many native perennials will do fine in window boxes as long as they get adequate water.

The key to success with the window boxes above is a ‘self watering’ window box. If you are not familiar, these are window boxes with a built-in reservoir beneath the soil so that the box never entirely dries out. The one above from Gardener’s Supply Company works really well. The great thing about window boxes and containers is you control the soil and moisture and can tailor it to the plants you most want to grow.  As always, combine plants that like similar sun and moisture levels together for the best outcome. Creating habitat one box at a time!


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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