Window Box Flower Combinations: Flower Box Ideas Inspired By Charleston Window Boxes

If you want to improve your curb appeal with flower boxes (or just want to look out your window at some pretty plants), these Charleston window boxes are sure to be an inspiration. Learn how to use their design ideas and plant recipes to create gorgeous window box flower combinations for your own home.

Plant combinations for window boxes

Adding window boxes to the front of your home is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve the curb appeal of your home.

Not to mention giving you something pretty to look at through the window from inside the house as well.

They add a pop of color that can last all summer long if you use the right plants.

And they give you a chance to be creative by trying out new and interesting flower box arrangements every year.

But that’s where a lot of us (myself included) run into a problem.

How do you design window flower boxes so that they look good?

I decided to get some inspiration from one of the cities that has mastered the art of beautiful window boxes: Charleston, South Carolina.

If you haven’t been there, the whole downtown area looks like it stepped out of a picture book with beautiful old houses, well-kept gardens behind wrought iron gates, and real gas-lit lanterns.

And almost every home has drop dead gorgeous window boxes. Even in the middle of the summer!

So what better place to learn how to create beautiful window box flower combinations?

1 | Use Thrillers, Spillers and Fillers

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When it comes right down to it, a lot of these window flower box ideas are using the same Thriller, Spiller and Filler planting formula that I usually use for my containers.

The “Thrillers, Spillers and Fillers” formula is a common way of creating balance in planters of all kinds.

And the Charleston window boxes were definitely using it to their advantage.

Here’s the basic steps of using this formula to put together your window box.

Use Thrillers To Create Height

Window boxes with evergreens, ivy and impatiens

To start your window box, use large plants to anchor the center of the container and provide a focal point.

Using evergreens is a great way to do this since their needles also provide a contrast in texture with the other plant leaves. And if you live in a moderate climate, they will likely survive through the winter.

Some variegated ivy and bright pink impatiens finish the rest of these really simple window boxes that will flourish in the shade.

Charleston Window Box Plant Combination #1 – Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers

Best In: Shade

Thrillers: Dwarf evergreen (eg. ‘Green Mountain’ boxwood or ‘Emerald’ arborvitae)

Spillers: Variegated ivy, fuchsia impatiens

Plant Spillers To Add Depth

Million bells in a window box

Planting cascading flowers or greenery that flows over the edge of the window box makes them look much bigger and more dramatic.

These Million Bells Calibrachoa are one of the best cascading flowers for window boxes in the sun.

They are available in pretty much any color you want, and really put on a show!

Just make sure to keep them well watered. They will wilt really fast if they get dried out.

Flower Box Plant Combination #2 – Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers

Best In: Sun

Thriller: Dracaena

Spiller: Million Bells Calibrachoa


Fill In The Gaps With Fillers

Window box plant combinations

So far, you’ve seen the Thriller (focal point) and the Spiller (cascading plants), now it’s on to the fillers.

As the name implies, these are the plants that fill out the rest of the box.

They are usually medium-sized plants that add texture or color to the other plants in the container.

Window box with lots of flowers

I love this whole arrangement so much I had to zoom in closer so you could see all the details.

Window Box Flower Combinations #3 – Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers

Best In: Sun

Thriller: Coleus

Spillers: Evolvulus, Scaevola, Licorice plant

Fillers: Mandevilla, Angelonia

2 | More Is More

Charleston window boxes

The first thing I noticed that was common across all of the Charleston window boxes I saw…they use lots of plants!

Every window box was packed full, and that’s what gives them their full and lush appearance.

Window Box Plant Arrangement #4 – Lots Of Plants

Best In: Sun to Part Sun

Thrillers: Dwarf evergreen (eg. ‘Green Mountain’ boxwood or ‘Emerald’ arborvitae), Caladiums

Fillers: Angelonia, SunPatiens

Spillers: Ivy

Window boxes on a Charleston building

I think all that foliage also helps to prevent the soil from drying out as quickly (but more on that below).

Charleston Flower Box Recipe #5 – Lots Of Plants

Best In: Part Shade

Thrillers: Caladiums, Coleus

Fillers: Heuchera, Penstemon

Spillers: Creeping Jenny, Million Bells Calibrachoa

3 | Use Layers Of Color

White, Green and Purple

Caladium, Salvia, Persian Shield and Dichondra in a Charleston window box

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to design your window box, using layers of color is an easy and effective way to go.

I just love this window box using layers of white, green and purple.

This box starts with white and green Caladium as the focal point, then a layer of purple and green Salvia as the filler, and then a layer of Purple Heart. Finally, a dracaena spike adds some height to the back of the flower box arrangement while the silver Dichondra trails repeats the white all the way to the ground.

Window Box Flower Arrangement #6 – Layers Of Color

Best In: Sun

Thrillers: Dracaena and Caladium

Spillers: Persian Shield and Dichondra

Fillers: Salvia

Red, Silver and Green

Flower box arrangement with red impatiens, dusty miller, sweet potato vine, creeping jenny and ivy

This one has a layer of green across the bottom and then alternates silver and red across the top.

Window Box Planter #7 – Layers Of Color

Best In: Sun

Thriller: Red New Guinea Impatiens

Spillers: Potato Vine, Ivy and Creeping Jenny

Fillers: Dusty Miller

4 | Repetition Is Key

Summer window boxes

Window flower boxes really make a statement when they are repeated multiple times.

For a more formal look, duplicate the planting pattern exactly across all of the boxes.

Purple and green plants in window boxes on a Charleston home

For a more casual look, use the same plants in each of the boxes but not in the exact same spots.

(The plants included in these two flower box arrangements are listed above)

5 | Plant Greenery Under The Boxes

Repeat The Plants From The Window Box

Geraniums, Angeliona and vinca in a Charleston window box

If you don’t have a lot of windows, another flower box idea is to repeat the flowers and plants from the boxes on the ground underneath them. Which makes it look like one big floral display.

This little garden doesn’t take up much space but you certainly can’t miss it when you’re walking by.

Window Box Flower Combination #8 – Plants Under The Window Box

Best In: Sun

Thrillers: Geraniums, Angelonia

Spillers: Scaevola, Vinca

Fillers: Pentas

Below The Planter: Boxwood and Coleus, Geraniums, Angelonia, Vinca

Add A Mini Boxwood Hedge

Window boxes in shade on the Battery in Charleston

If you have enough less space, adding a miniature boxwood hedge under the window boxes is another way to go.

Caladium and Coleus have multi-colored leaves that make them beautiful statement plants in a container.

These boxes are also using Lobelia which is a great trailing plant with beautiful blue flowers.

Charleston Window Box Plant Combination #9 – Plants Under The Window Box

Best In: Part Shade

Thriller: Calladium

Spiller: Trailing Lobelia, Mandevilla

Filler: Coleus

6 | Match The House Color

Pink house with artificial window box flowers in Charleston

If you want a no-fail solution to picking flowers for your window box, you can always match your house color.

I think those are faux flowers in the window box of this pink house, but they certainly look pretty.

White and black house in Charleston with white flowers in window box

Similarly, using white flowers against a white house is always a classic color combination which looks stunning with the black trim on this house.

Having the planter box finished in the same color as the shutters and the door also helps to create a cohesive look.

7 | Window Box Ideas For Shade

Window box ideas for shade

The streets in downtown Charleston are narrow, the lots are small, and the houses are tall.

All that to say, they have quite a bit of shade. But that doesn’t stop them from having beautiful flower boxes!

You may have noticed that there are actually quite a few window boxes for shade in this list…and here’s a few more…

Blue and White Hydrangeas

Blue and white hydrangeas in a window box for shade

Since I love blue and white as a color combination, it’s no surprise that I absolutely love this planter. (It fits right in with these blue and white garden design ideas I found a little while ago).

The great thing about growing plants in containers is that the limited root space keeps them from growing too big.

Which is why planting small bushes like Hydrangeas in a window box is totally fine.

Flower Box Plant Combination #10 – Window Boxes For Shade

Best In: Shade

Thrillers: Blue and white Hydrangeas

Spillers: Creeping Jenny, White and blue Bacopa

Fillers: Maidenhair Ferns

Go Variegated

Plants with variegated leaves in a window box for shade

Variegated plants are a staple of shade garden design because the white adds some brightness to a darker area of the yard.

Which is what makes this window box stand out.

All of the leaves are variegated green and white, with just a couple of pansies added for a little pop of color.

When spring is coming to an end and the pansies are past their prime, tt will be easy to swap them out for a summer-blooming cascading annual like Bacopa or Browallia.

Window Box Flower Combination #15 – Window Boxes For Shade

Best In: Shade

Thrillers: Variegated Dracaena

Spillers: Ivy, Pansies

Fillers: ‘Everest’ Sedge grass

All Begonias

Begonias in window box for shade

For a really easy window box, try using different varieties of the same shade plant.

This box is full of Begonias.

But you can use any shade plant you like.

8 | Window Boxes For Full Sun

When you’re putting together a window box for full sun, be sure to select plants that can survive in hot and dry conditions. Especially if you live in an area that has really warm summers.

Because window boxes aren’t very deep (and there are a lot of plants jammed into that space), they dry out much quicker and heat up a lot more than larger containers do.

So if you want your flower boxes to look good all summer, the plants you select will need to thrive in those conditions.

Which is why a lot of people choose geraniums for their full sun window boxes. They definitely fit that bill.

But then aren’t sure how many geraniums should go in each box or what other flowers to plant with them.

Two Geraniums Per Window Box

Geraniums, Salvia, Plumbago, New Guinea Impatiens and Alyssum in a window box in full sun

This first full sun window box has two geraniums in it. One on either side of a taller Salvia.

The spiky shape of the Salvia contrasts with the rounded shape of the Geraniums to give the box a symmetrical feel.

The rest of the window box is filled in with other sun-hardy plants, like Plumbago, New Guinea Impatiens and Alyssum.

Window Box Plant Arrangement #12 – Window Boxes for Full Sun

Best In: Full Sun

Thriller: Salvia

Spillers: Alyssum, Ivy

Fillers: Geraniums, Plumbago, New Guinea Impatiens

One Geranium In A Window Box

Geraniums, Angeliona and Vinca in a window box in full sun

This window box flower combination basically reverses the pattern of the last one.

It uses one large Geranium in the middle, and then flanks it on either side with spiky flowers. In this case, white and purple Angelonia.

Which achieves the same effect of adding contrast and interest to more rounded Geranium plant.

You can find the full plant list in plant combination #9 above.

Sun Window Box Without Geraniums

Verbena, Snap dragons, foxtail fern, pansies and phlox in a window box in the sun

Of course, if you’re not a fan of Geraniums, there are lots of other flower options for full sun window boxes.

This beautiful window box is meant for spring, since the pansies will peter out when it gets too hot.

But with the way they are positioned, the verbena should grow into the gaps, making it an easy transition into a summer flower box when the time comes.

Charleston Window Box Plant Combination #13 – Window Boxes for Full Sun

Best In: Sun

Thriller: Fox Tail Fern

Spillers: Pansies, Verbena

Fillers: Snap dragons, Phlox

9 | Perennial Window Box Ideas

If you don’t want to replant your window box every year, consider filling it with mostly perennials.

Fill In Spaces With Annuals

Boxwood, creeping jenny and other perennials in a window box in Charleston

Most perennials don’t have as long of a bloom season as annuals.

So if you want season-long bloom, create the backbone of your planter with perennials. Then fill in the gaps with annuals.

Make sure to select perennials that are not finicky in your gardening zone. Window boxes are usually colder in the winter and warmer in the summer than other planting mediums. So the plants need to be tough to survive.

It’s also a great idea to include some evergreen plants (like the boxwoods and creeping jenny in the picture above) so you have year-round interest.

Flower Box Plant Combination #14 – Perennial Window Boxes

Best In: Sun

Thrillers: Boxwood, Asparagus Fern

Spillers: Pansies, Alyssum

Fillers: Snap dragons, Phlox (perennial), Poppies (perennial)

Add Foliage Interest

Heuchera, boxwood, sedge grass, ivy and Cyclamen in a perennial window box

If you don’t want to worry about planting annuals in your perennial flower box, add interest with the foliage instead.

In this window box, a yellow-leaved variety of Heuchera adds contrast to the dark green leaves of the Boxwood and Cyclamen.

And the Sedge grass creates even more interest by adding a difference in leaf texture.

When the Cyclamen is in bloom, it’s an additional pop of color to the window box. But the plant combination shines in the shade even without the blooms.

Flower Box Plant Combination #15 – Perennial Window Boxes

Best In: Shade

Thrillers: Boxwood

Spillers: Ivy

Fillers: Heuchera, Sedge grass, Cyclamen

10 | Water The Flower Boxes Automatically

Okay, so this isn’t really a window box design idea, but I think it’s kind of an important step for having beautiful window boxes all summer long.

And I noticed that most of the Charleston houses do this.

Automated watering system for window boxes

Automatic Container and Hanging Baskets Watering Kit*

They use an automated container watering system like this one*.

If you look closely at the pictures, you’ll see a lot of them have tubes running down the wall. I think that explains how all of their window boxes still look so good in the middle of a hot South Carolina summer!

I set this up for my planters (find out how HERE) and I love it! No more crossing my fingers that it rained enough to keep them alive while I’m away 🙂

Well, that’s it for my window flower box inspiration. Now I’m off to see what I did with those old hay racks I used to have…maybe I can add a little bit of Charleston to my house…

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Do you have comments or questions about how to design window box plant combinations (inspired by Charleston window boxes)? Tell us in the section below.

This post was originally published on March 29, 2020 but was updated with new content on September 15, 2022.

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  1. So much appreciated you contrabution here. lt is so informative. Where l live in Tennessee , noone has a window box. Till mine! The 2 planter boxes l use where the kind designed for a deck rail, made the saddle a 2×4 as well as a 2×6. Useing 2 T posts, painted to match the house, then used a mix of spiderwort, mountain mint, phlox, and other perennials that l forgot names of. And added a blanket solar lights for night time display. mine is north facing. It has worked so well l want to do similar on my bedroom window, south facing.

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      You’re window box sounds beautiful, Arlin! Maybe you’ll start a trend with your neighbors 🙂 Good luck with your next one!

  2. Steve Brian says:


    Nice ideas am happy to know this . Hope it will benefit to know others.

    Keep it up.


  3. christine says:

    This is a wonderful resource for me as I plan for my new shaded planters in the hot and humid south!

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Thanks, Christine! I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂