The Q&A Archives: What Do I Plant In A Winddowbox That Gets Lots Of Wind And Ash, But Little Light?

Question: I plant a windowbox in downtown Tulsa, OK, that gets a lot of wind. It has a northwest exposure, but big buildings across the street block much of the light. Also, lots of passersby stub out their cigarettes in the planter. Begonias, dusty miller, and salvias do okay, but petunias, pansies and verbenas do poorly, and sweet alyssum do not get enough sunlight there. Any more ideas for wind and ash-resistant flowers?

Do you think Heavenly Blue morning glories can make it? Will they bloom all day, not just in the morning? Would vinca (white with red center type) make it okay? (I'm aiming for a cheerful, patriotic theme.)

Answer: Begonias, dusty miller and salvia are all very resiliant plants and tolerate a range of light conditions as well as some drying of the soil which would be due to wind. You might try adding a water-holding polymer to the soil mix to try to combat some of the drying effect of the wind. For a blue flower you might try the "Victoria Blue" salvia and possibly the blue and white "Sea Breeze", since you have had luck with the salvias. Another possibility would be one of the blue flowered ageratums. The morning glories really need sun all day and do close up by noon except on cloudy days, so I would hesitate to suggest them -- they also need more soil than a window box usually provides. The vincas also require more sun than it sounds like your situation provides, but you might tuck one in as an experiment and see how it does. As far as the cigarettes go, perhaps you could set a container of sand nearby that would be more convenient to use, and maybe a small sign pointing to it? Another approach I have seen is a bit of screening wire tucked along the base of the window box to make it difficult for people to put their hands close into it. Tucking in a few thorny branches might help too, if the culprits are "regulars".

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