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Planting up mixed containers and window boxes for instant effect


Create an instant effect with containers and window boxes flowering plants in season densely planted in containers or window boxes are higher maintenance, but create a delicious riot of bounteous colour. The effect is seasonal, but some of the free-flowering indigenous perennials will give a long-lasting show.  Plant for instant effect using a combination of upright plants and trailing ground covers. Sometimes, it may be necessary to loosen the soil of the root balls to get a good fit, but good watering straight afterwards allows most plants to tolerate this with equanimity.

Create an instant effect with containers an window boxes

Planting up containers and window boxes in this way is almost like a flower arrangement rather than a garden in that arrangement of the plants is aimed at the instant effect on an intense and small scale. Choose the showiest plants to reap instant rewards.


Be ready to carefully remove any plant that is past its showiest from the container or window box (after checking for buds). The retired ‘showgirls’ can go into the garden or be replanted into separate pots or containers where they can be nurtured back to prime condition, and the gap in the arrangement gets planted up with something fresh and exciting.


Alternatively, the plants can be kept in their pots and packed into the window box or container, concealing the tops of the pots with Sphagnum moss or coir fibre. The effect is less striking because the pots cannot be arranged as densely, but the replacement of ‘tired’ plants becomes much easier!

Succulent plants such as the Portulacarias,  Crassulas and Aloes have interesting foliage which can be used to create contrasts of colour and texture in a mixed container or window box that will be interesting even though the plants may not be in flower. They will also tolerate thinning and replacing very well. Some of the more vigorous succulent groundcovers such as the free-flowering Delosperma virens will cascade prettily over the sides of the window box or container but may need occasional trimming to keep within bounds.

Rule number one – there are no rules

Break all the rules, make crazy colour combinations, mix ground covers, shrubs, bulbs and succulents – anything goes, just remember to keep an eye on your watering.

Ideas for seasonal colour combinations when Planting up mixed containers and window boxes

In Spring, one can be rather spoiled for choice! Spring flowering bulbs like Babiana and Lachenalia are deliciously colourful and unusual.

Try bold Arctotis and Gazanias with the jewel-like colours of Tecoma or aim for a soft effect with blue Felicia daisies or lilac Selago combined with a haze of dainty white or mauve Sutera.

Make a strong statement in midsummer with Euryops ‘Sunshine Classic’ in yellow or Orthopsiphon labiatus with its pink and lilac, sage-like flowers. Combine these upright plants with sky-blue perennial Lobelias or pretty purple Monopsis ‘Royal Flush’  that will cascade gracefully over the edges of the container.

Autumn colour to brighten the eye can be found in the combination of pink to orange Rutty’s (Rutty, Ruspolia and Ruttyruspolia species) with yellow Cineraria saxifraga which flowers all year.

From July the winter-weary can create a patch of spring with pink or red Diascias and upright Osteospermum hybrids in shades of pink, white or purple together for a riot of colour that should last well into the spring and early summer.

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