How to Keep Plants Tidy in Window boxes

The difference between a good and an exceptionally attractive display in a windowbox or trough is only a few minutes of careful attention each day. Within a few weeks of being planted, summer flowering displays are established and creating a radiant array of flowers and leaves. As the summer progresses, flowers fade and stems and leaves often become bent or damaged.

  • Removing dead flowers : As soon as the flowers fade, pinch them off to encourage the development of others. If left, they can cause the onset of diseases. Where the flowers are borne in large clusters, completely remove the flower stem and always cut them just above a leaf-joint. Short spurs dieback and may cause the onset of destructive diseases.
  • Creating bushiness : Many plants in window boxes can be left to create bushy shapes on their own. Others, such as the Wax Begonia (Begonia Semperflorens) , need to have their growing tips removed several times to encourage the development of side shoots. If this is necessary, always pinch them off immediately above a leaf-joint. Snapping shoots sideways is another way of removing them. Before doing this, water the plants as it is easier to snap stems when they are full of moisture.

REGULARLY remove faded flowers. Cut off their stems close to a leaf joint. If dead flowers are left on plants, they encourage the development of seeds rather than the formation of further flowers heads.

NIPPING out the growing tips of plants encourages the development of side shoots and creates a bushy plant. Always pinch out the shoot just above a leaf joint, taking care not to leave short pieces of stem on the plant.

THROUGHOUT summer, leaves become damaged and unsightly. Smarten up window boxes either by using a sharp knife or snapping them sideways. Damaged leaves become brown and can be infected with diseases.


Towards the end of summer, some plants may not look at their best. If they are growing in separate pots they can be easily removed and replaced with fresh plants : pot-grown chrysanthemums are good replacements as they remain in flower for several months. If plants are growing directly in compost in the window box, they can still be removed and replaced by fresh ones. Take care not to disturb the other plants. 

  • Do not leave shoot tips on the compost, as they encourage the presence of diseases. Instead, place them on a compost heap.
  • Damaged leaves and stems :  In a garden display, a
  • few broken leaves or damaged shoots sometimes remain unnoticed , but in window boxes they are easy to see. Remove dead or damaged leaves, either by using a knife or snapping them sideways. Scissors can also be used.
  • Check the leaves carefully every few days to discover the presence of pests and diseases before they attain epidemic proportions.
  • Replacing damaged plants : This is detailed above and , in preparation for this, each year grow a few spare plants in pots ready for transferring to a container. Alternatively, bright-faced pot plants can be bought throughout summer. And if they are still in flower in late summer, transfer them into conservatories.

Troughs packed with summer-flowering plants can be given an extended lease of life in late summer by moving them into conservatories. Do this before the onset of autumn frosts.