A window box can add charm and seasonal flair to your home’s exterior. Contrary to what some may think, fall window boxes don’t have to be difficult to design or maintain.

The key is choosing low-maintenance plants and fillers that will keep their beauty in the colder months. With the right plants and materials, you can create a beautiful fall display that will impress visitors. 

With a few simple steps, building a window box will be a breeze. Whether attached to a railing, a ledge, or mounted on the wall, a fall window box livens up your space. Place them by your front door, on a porch, flanking a window, or anywhere visitors will see them.

Follow the below steps for inspiration for your next DIY window box. 

1. Plan Your Design

When planning your fall window box, focus on plants and materials that will withstand cooler temperatures and even light frosts. I recommend choosing a cold-hardy option that will look vibrant well into fall. Go for a balance of textures and colors, mixing heights, shapes, and shades for visual appeal.

What separates a fall box from a spring box or other seasons are the seasonal themes. National elements like corn, gourds, leaves, and acorns bring that quintessential autumn element. Choose a few of your favorite fall items and incorporate them into your box.

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Additionally, I suggest using the “thriller, filler, spiller” approach. Opt for a visually impressive “thriller” plant in the middle, add a “filler” plant around it, and place a “spiller” trailing plant along the edge that gives off a cascading effect. 

2. Select Your Plants

Annual plants complete their entire life cycle in one season, while perennials return year after year. When selecting plants for your fall window box, choose mostly annuals that flourish in cooler weather. However, you can incorporate some hardy perennials, too, like peonies and beebalms.

Here are some top recommendations for achieving a sensational fall window box using the “thriller, fillers, spiller” method:

  • Ornamental kale: With stunning leaf colors, ornamental kale makes an eye-catching thriller plant. Varieties like peacock can change to purple, pink, and cream.
  • Ornamental cabbage: Similar to kale, ornamental cabbage comes in colors like red, pink, and white for cool weather. Try saka red or ariko.
  • Chrysanthemums:  Available in almost every fall color, mums give a burst of late-season blooms. Plant them densely for a bold effect.
  • Ornamental grasses: Grasses like purple fountain grass add fluid and airy texture. They continue to look attractive into winter.
  • Snapdragons: A fall favorite, snapdragons bloom profusely in shades of red, pink, yellow, purple, and white. They withstand light frost.
  • Pansies: With their cheery faces, pansies provide a pop of color well into fall. Go for a mix of colors for excitement.
  • Ornamental peppers: Hot peppers transition to shades like orange, gold, and burgundy in the fall. Try compact varieties like black pearl.
  • Swiss chard: The colorful stems and foliage of Swiss chard give an unexpected pop. 
  • Kale: Beyond ornamental kale, regular kale offers edible, ruffled foliage. Redbor and white Russian are two nice ones.
  • Ivy: English ivy, Algerian ivy, and other ivy varieties spill gracefully from containers. They remain green into winter.
  • Sweet potato vine: A great alternative to ivy, sweet potato vine trails with chartreuse, purple, or burgundy leaves.
  • Creeping Jenny: Known for its vibrant chartreuse color, creeping Jenny will form a tent of foliage around the edges.
  • Creeping thyme: In addition to spilling out, creeping thyme gives off a pleasant herbal scent.

3. Use Natural Decorations

Natural elements like colorful leaves, seed pods, twigs, and dried flowers are essential for creating an authentic fall look. You can collect these items through foraging or purchasing.

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I recommend mixing and matching different natural pieces for variation and visual appeal. For example, lean small bundles of sticks or mini corn stalks against the side of the box.

Glue acorns, whole peppers, or crusty seed heads in between plants. Then, tuck leaves, eucalyptus, or dried flowers around the edges. Weave grapevines or other flexible branches through plant stems, then add a fall wreath, bow, burlap, or other thematic decorations for interest. The variations are endless, so let your creativity run wild.

How to Maintain Your Fall Window Box

Proper care and maintenance will keep your fall window box looking its best into the colder months. Follow these tips to maintain your box and keep it thriving in the coldest of temperatures: 

  • Water early in the day, aiming the stream at the base of plants. Water when the top inch of soil is dry. You may need less watering as temperatures drop.
  • Watch for frost damage on more tender plants. Cover or move the box on cold nights.
  • Remove dead leaves and flowers to keep things neat. Take out any fallen leaves from adjacent trees.
  • Fertilize sparingly, if at all. Slow growth and reduced light mean plants need little feeding.
  • Replace damaged plants or fill holes with natural materials to maintain fullness.
  • Consider adding a grow light or moving the box to a sunny indoor location if the outdoor light dims too much.

With the right strategy, you can get months of enjoyment from a beautiful fall display. Just take advantage of hardy plants, natural elements, and creative decorations to set the seasonal mood.

So, Is a Fall Window Box Worth the Effort?

Creating a fall window box takes more thought and effort compared to spring and summer versions. The key is to select plants that can handle decreasing temperatures and light and visually complement your fall lawn and garden

The contents also won’t last indefinitely, like simpler evergreen options. However, the visual impact and temporary nature are what make fall boxes special. You can delight in colors and textures unique to the season that you wouldn’t find at other times of year. 


FAQs About Fall Window Boxes

What is the best size for a fall window box?

The length of your window box can vary, but a depth of at least 8 to 12 inches provides room for thriller, filler, and spiller plants. Place your box on a sturdy bracket or ledge designed to hold its weight when filled.

How often should soil be replaced in window boxes?

Plan to replace the potting mix every two or three years. Fertilize lightly in the fall. Soil may last longer if you compost the old mix before reusing it.

Should I fertilize my fall window box?

Use fertilizer sparingly on fall boxes. Lower light and temperatures mean slower growth that requires less nutrition. An early fall feeding with a balanced fertilizer should suffice.

What should I plant in a partially shaded fall window box?

Some plants for partial shade include pansies, ivy, ferns, ornamental kale, grass, chard, heuchera, impatiens, and begonias. Avoid sun-loving varieties like petunias.

When should I plant my fall window box?

It’s best to plant fall window boxes around Labor Day when temperatures cool but before harsh weather arrives. Start earlier for slow-growing plants. Add chill-tolerant annuals later as desired.

How do I prepare a window box for winter?

Remove dead plant material, gently till the soil, and add a fresh layer of compost or leaves to insulate plant roots. Consider moving the box to a protected area.

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Lauren Greene

Staff Writer

Lauren Greene is a passionate storyteller with over 4 years of experience writing and editing. She attributes her expertise from working at local magazines, newspapers, and corporate marketing and communications teams. She has worked on content with topics ranging from plant care, home decor, and home improvement. Lauren resides in Raleigh with her adorable Shih Tzu. You can catch Lauren attending to her plants, spending time with her puppy, enjoying the greenway, or lifting weights at the gym when she’s not writing or researching the latest home improvement topics.

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Lori Zaino

Lori Zaino is a freelance writer and editor based in Madrid, Spain. With nearly two decades of editorial experience, she’s written and edited for publications like Forbes, CNN, Insider, NBC, Newsweek, The Points Guy, The Infatuation, and many others. Having just completed her first home renovation, she’s more interested in home improvements than ever, dedicated to bringing you fresh and accurate content to help you update your living spaces.

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