Come fall, your old summer plantings look pretty tired – especially the ones still hanging on in your window boxes. Even if your summer plants are still going strong, that first frost of the cooler season is sure to do them in – marking the perfect time to outfit your window boxes with some fresh fall materials for a new seasonal look.

Fall themed window box

Tuck in bits of plant material found around your garden, like cuttings of silvery sage, crabapple berries, pinecones, celosia stems, sedum and aster seed heads. (If the plants aren’t dried already, they’ll continue to do so in the window box for a gorgeous season-long display.)

Photo Credit: Veronica Lorson Fowler

Window box focal points

Place your key elements, like pumpkins and tall branches, in your window box first. They’ll become the skeleton of your design.

Photo Credit: Veronica Lorson Fowler

Inserting plants

Insert stems firmly into the soil so they don’t flop over.

Photo Credit: Veronica Lorson Fowler

This is a very fun project – sort of a large-scale flower arrangement that takes little time, costs next to nothing and is so beautiful you’ll have your neighbors thinking you have a serious “Martha complex.”

Here’s all you do:

  1. Remove what’s dead or dying in your window box. If you have any plants growing in it that will continue to look good for the next several weeks (like cold-resistant annuals), by all means leave them in.
  2. Prepare the soil. When you tear out your spent plants, you’re going to pull out some soil, too. Continue to loosen the soil with a trowel, at least several inches down, so you’ll be able to insert your cuttings and other harvested materials easily. If the soil level is too low after you take out your old plants, pump up the volume by adding some perlite or potting mix. (This will also help lighten the soil.)
  3. Start harvesting! Look around your garden for pretty perennial and ornamental grass seed heads, as well as colorful branches from trees and shrubs, fallen pinecones, rose hips and more. If it’s attractive, you can put it in your window box – and use as much color as you can – that’s what will make your planter pop!
  4. Supplement your findings as needed. If you’re coming up short with natural materials or if everything is brown, purchase materials from your garden center or supermarket. For just a few dollars, you can buy small, colorful pumpkins and gourds. Even some store-bought dried flowers can add just the right touch if your arrangement is lacking!
  5. Start inserting tall plants and cut branches in the back. This is a great place to put those long cuttings from colorful trees and shrubs. (Depending on the size and location of your window box, these can stand a couple feet high.)
  6. Work on the middle ground. You’ll need a focal point (or two or three) for your arrangement. Pumpkins are perfect for this, or you can work in clusters of especially striking dried flower or seed heads, such as those from or tall sedums.
  7. Fill in the rest of the middle ground with groupings of smaller, less striking materials, like clusters of herbs.
  8. Add some trailing plants if you like. (I think window boxes are so striking with them.) Find some that will trail or flop over the side a bit. Colorful vines are ideal for this.
  9. Embellish as desired. If you like, add a small sculpture or seasonal accent to your window box, like a small scarecrow or some Indian corn.

And that’s all there is to it. In just a few minutes time you can have a festive, unique and beautiful window box that celebrates fall’s wonderful bounty!