How to Window Box: Small-Space Plants to Grow Indoors or Out (Clarkson Potter, 2018), by Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit teaches readers how to build the right window box to fit their individual needs. The window boxes vary from low water and light to high water and light. Grow a convenient window box full of lettuce for easy chopping or a box with detoxifying plants to clean the air they are in. This excerpt is located in, “The Tiny Island.”
The Tiny Island
Primarily native to tropical regions—the Hawaiian Islands in particular—bromeliads add flash to areas deprived of direct sunlight. The Bromeliaceae family is wildly diverse, encompassing the pineapple plant, Spanish moss, and the ever-popular air plant. Most bromeliads are “monocarpic,” meaning a plant flowers only once before dying. But take heart: it’s not unusual for a bromeliad’s flower to last three to six months. A bromeliad will produce pups, which are mini offshoots that can be gently separated from the waning parent and grown on their own. Online resources like Bromeliads.info provide invaluable guidance on caring for your “bros.”
* This box can also be grown outdoors. Avoid placing in harsh, direct sunlight; a bright spot under a tree canopy is ideal in USDA zones 10–12. Don’t expose to temps below 55°F.
Window: East- or west-facing, or south-facing with filtered light
Soil: Two parts potting soil, one part pumice, one part fine orchid bark
Topping: Black lava rock
Feed: 6-16-16 liquid fertilizer diluted to one-half strength
A. Guzmania lingulata (scarlet star)
B. Guzmania conifera (cone-headed guzmania)
C. Neoregelia carolinae (blushing bromeliad)
D. Neoregelia ‘Sheba’
E. Vriesea splendens ‘Splenriet’ (flaming sword)
Air Plants (Aka Tillandsias)
F. Tillandsia funckiana
G. Tillandsia xerographica
H. Tillandsia ionantha hybrid
I. Tillandsia stricta
J. Tillandsia brachycaulos × T. schiedeana
K. Tillandsia tenuifolia
L. Tillandsia juncea
M. Tillandsia tectorum
N. Tillandsia tricolor var. melanocrater ‘Red’
O. Tillandsia capitata var. domingensis
P. Tillandsia ionantha ‘Fuego’
1. Make sure your box has good drainage. If not, drill drain holes along the bottom of the box. Insert a screen cut to the size of the box’s bottom to prevent soil from escaping or clogging the holes.
2. Mix the soil and add a healthy 3- to 4-inch layer to the bottom of the box.
3. Remove the plants from their containers and loosen the soil around the roots, breaking up any root-bound bundles. Arrange the plants on top of the soil. These plants have small root systems, so they can be spaced very close together.
4. Fill in the box with additional soil until the entire surface is level, and the bases of the plants are about 1 inch below the top of the planter. Feel free to gently adjust the plants until their bases line up across a smooth soil bed.
5. Top-dress the soil with lava rock.
TIP: Place air plants on a higher nook or trellis for good air circulation. (See the DIY: Window Box Trellis.) You know those glass orbs that have become trendy homes for tillandsias? Don’t use them. They block airflow and are basically death-bubbles for air plants.
Be Nice to Your Bros
Place your box in a setting with bright, indirect light, like an east-facing window. Some direct sunlight in the morning is okay, as it is gentler than afternoon sun. Feel free to close the blinds a bit if your box is receiving too much direct sun.
Water your terrestrial bromeliads when the first 2 inches or so of soil are dry.
Mist your air plants with a spray bottle twice a week and give them a good drenching under tap water every other week. Shake off any excess water and place them in a spot with good airflow. If plants become dry or hardened, soak the parched plant for up to five hours, keeping any flowers above the water’s surface.
For terrestrial bromeliads, feed once a month, applying fertilizer directly to the soil and making sure not to get any in the plants’ central “tanks”; for air plants, every other watering, add a small amount of water-soluble fertilizer to your spray bottle. Think 1 teaspoon per gallon.
Plant with Personality
• A top dressing of black lava rock is a nod to the plants’ volcanic Hawaiian homeland.
• Add a trellis for your air plants, which will love the air circulation. A second apron trellis below your box provides a place for your spray bottle and pruners. See DIY Trellis.
Reprinted from How to Window Box: Small-Space Plants to Grow Indoors or Out Copyright © 2018 by Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit. Photographs by Ryan Benoit. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.