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Starting a Windowsill Garden: Best Plants and Tips

No green thumb is needed for this simple gardening project. A windowsill plant collection is a gardening approach for everyone, including a complete beginner. Even those who have very little space or poor lighting in the home can start a windowsill garden – be it a collection of potted indoor plants or a hanging window box outdoors. As long as you have the inspiration to grow a few plants, you’re golden. We cover the rest in this detailed windowsill garden guide.

Supplies to start a windowsill garden

Windowsill Garden Beautiful Plants on a Window

There’s a whole world of gardening supplies out there. However, if you’re only just beginning to familiarize yourself with them, we recommend that you start slow and begin with the basics. Here’s a list of basic supplies one needs to start a windowsill garden.

1. Plant containers

Consider which type of container would work best for your home. A few plastic or clay pots are probably the simplest option that will work for an indoor windowsill garden. However, a window box is best suited to an outdoor setting. You can also hang a small hanging basket on a ceiling hook (or even a curtain rail). Whatever container you end up choosing, make sure it comes with drainage holes.

2. Supplies for plant maintenance

  • A soil mix suitable for your plants (if you’re repotting them into a new container)
  • Plant fertilizer - a balanced liquid fertilizer generally works best for beginners. Learn more about fertilizing here: An Express Guide to Plant Fertilizers
Windowsill Garden Watering Plant
  • A vessel for irrigating plants, such as a watering can or a regular bottle
  • A pair of small pruning shears for harvesting and/or shaping plants.

3. Location

As a very general rule, most houseplants will thrive in bright indirect light. For success, choose a window that gets plenty of sunlight. Typically, southern, southwestern, southeastern, western, or eastern windows provide plenty of light. Northern windows tend to get less sunlight throughout the day, so not all houseplants may grow well there.

Related article: A Friendly Lighting Guide for Your Houseplants

Which plants will thrive on the windowsill?

If you have a nice and sunny windowsill in your home, you’ve hit the gardener’s jackpot. A huge variety of plants – indoor plants, flowers, herbs, and even many vegetables – will gladly grow there. It all ultimately depends on your esthetics and wishes. That being said, we’ve prepared a short list of plants that are both low maintenance and will look gorgeous on a windowsill: 

Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens)

Windowsill Garden Areca palm
Many people are after that tropical jungle look in their homes but complain that palms are too difficult to keep alive indoors. The Areca palm, also known as the butterfly palm, is a happy exception to that rule. This palm tree doesn’t require as much humidity as most palm species; it actually prefers dry and sunny conditions, so don’t worry if it dries out between waterings. Areca palms are also pet friendly, so you can let your pets play with the long fronds of the plant too, without worrying about their safety. 

Cacti and succulents

Windowsill Garden Cacti and succulents

You often see people trying to grow cacti and succulents on shelves. While it’s true that these houseplants are low-maintenance in the sense that they require very little watering, these attempts are often unsuccessful for the simple reason that both of these types of plants require plenty of consistent sunlight all year. Otherwise, succulents and cacti start looking shriveled and eventually get root rot; succulents shaped like flowers also tend to look very stretched out when they don’t get enough sun. 

So, the best place to grow succulents and cacti indoors is on a windowsill. Plant them in clay pots to prevent overwatering, and promote drainage even further by planting them in loose soil with plenty of sand, perlite, and pumice. After watering, the majority of water should be running out of the drainage hole, keeping the soil lightly damp. Only water once the soil is bone dry.

Here are a few specific plant recommendations that do well indoors:
Windowsill Garden woman watering a jade plant
  • Echeverias and aeoniums – these beautiful succulents look like flowers, and they come in a variety of colors and shapes.
  • Jade plants – also known as money plants, jade plants have thick stems and thick waxy leaves. These low-maintenance succulents grow very well indoors even in cold climates.
  • Donkey’s tail – these plants have beautiful trailing stems covered in tiny teardrop-shaped leaves. They look wonderful in hanging baskets.
  • Bunny ears cactus – these slow-growing cacti have a flat oval shape that’s so reminiscent of deserts. It’s also considered very low maintenance.
  • Christmas cactus or fishbone cactus – these trailing jungle cacti generally require less sunlight than others. They have smooth leaves and will bloom consistently for you.

Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides)

Windowsill Garden Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides)
The tiny plant is known for its signature round leaves, which is why it's also sometimes called the Pancake Plant. It’s quite compact, reaching a maximum height of about 8-12 inches (20-30 cm), so it will fit a windowsill just right and won’t require very frequent repotting.
As for the required lighting conditions, pancake plants typically favor plenty of indirect light, as their leaves start to burn in the direct sun. No need to water the plant too often, especially in the colder months - this plant actually favors a bit of drying out in-between waterings. Pilea plants are also safe for pets and animals.


Windowsill Garden Herbs

Perfect for the kitchen windowsill, fresh herbs will give your indoor space a touch of green while also adding flavor to your favorite dishes. It’s wonderful to have fresh herbs in the kitchen year-round, and it’s easy too. You can even plant several types of herbs in a single big container. Just make sure to group them according to their water needs.

Our favorite herb combinations are: 

  • Rosemary and thyme – both require less water and more sun
  • Basil and parsley – both are annuals and need frequent watering
  • Chives and oregano – moderate sunlight and watering. 

Mint is the exception to this rule. We recommend growing mint in a separate container, as it’s a rapid grower and will take over the entire pot, superseding all other plants.

African violets (Saintpaulia)

Windowsill Garden African violets (Saintpaulia)
Some people prefer green foliage, whereas others are all about colorful flowers. If the thing you really want to see in your home are vivid flowers with dainty fuzzy leaves, you’ll fall in love with African violets. There are hundreds of African violet types to choose from - ranging in flower type and colors like blue, purple, pink, and white.
The praised feature of these plants is that they will bloom even if you do not provide them with a lot of light. African violets prefer moderate and average humidity and indirect bright light. Just make sure to keep these delicate flowers evenly watered – they cannot tolerate drying out. A great bonus is that African violets are also safe for pets.

Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

Windowsill Garden Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

If ordinary plants just don’t do it for you, you can always grow something more unique like a predatory plant. The Venus flytrap is probably the most easily accessible predatory houseplant out there. Watching its trap clamp shut once you stick a finger in it is weirdly satisfying. This plant stays quite small too, so it will surely look nice on a windowsill.

Do keep in mind, however, that Venus flytraps are known to be a bit finicky. They must be grown in moist sphagnum moss and watered with filtered water or rainwater, as any minerals will kill the plant. Venus flytraps also require lots of humidity, so people find that the best way to grow them is by keeping the pot in a shallow plate with water and watering the plant by topping up the plate. A couple of times a month, you’ll also need to feed the plant with fish food flakes, flies, or other insects.


Windowsill Garden Streptocarpus
Here’s one flowering plant that you can grow indoors during the winter and then move into a window box in the summer. Streptocarpus plants are native to the understory of South African forests; therefore, these plants don’t require a lot of sunlight and can be grown both indoors and outdoors.
Like African violets, the flowers of these plants come in many color variations, with even yellow, red, and mixed white-fuchsia cultivars available these days. The care is similar to that of African violets.


Windowsill Garden Alocasia
The last houseplant featured on this list is a trendy one. Alocasias are tropical plants with marvelous big leaves that can have colorful veining, and even a textured or velvety finish. Even though some cultivars get to be quite large, variations like “Polly” and “Black Velvet” have compact but very beautiful leaves.
All Alocasias need bright light, warmth, and high humidity to thrive. If you have a southern window in a steamy bathroom, that is an ideal place for this gorgeous houseplant.

Plant propagations

Windowsill Garden Plant ​propagations

For those of you who have some houseplants here and there around your home and would like to make more plants out of your existing plant collection, a sunny windowsill also serves as a wonderful propagation station. I find that the extra sunshine and warmth will make plant cuttings sprout new roots much faster than they do in the shade. 

Try this with some easy-to-propagate plants like golden pothos vines monstera deliciosa, and you’ll be surprised by how fast they will develop long roots in water and be ready to plant in soil. To learn more about plant propagation, go here: Plant Propagation 101 - Easy Ways to Multiply Any Plant

Tips to start a windowsill garden

So you were bitten by the gardening bug, and you’re ready to start your windowsill garden. That’s amazing! But before you go, read these useful tips to ensure gardening success:

1. Choose your containers wisely. If you rarely water plants, go for ceramic or plastic pots. However, if you’re an overwaterer or have plenty of desert plants like cacti and succulents, opt for clay pots. There are a few other options too; we explain it all here: How to Choose the BEST Pots For Your Houseplants

Windowsill Garden Plant in a windowsill

2. Wash the windows often. To make sure that the windowsill you’ve populated with plants gets the most sunshine, wash the windows. Dirt and water droplets on the window can cause the light to scatter, depriving your plants of the sunshine they need to be happy and healthy.

3. Clean those leaves twice a month. Just like dirt on the glass, dirt on the leaves can block sunlight and photosynthesis. This trick also helps prevent and spot plant bugs early, so it’s also crucial for your plants’ long-term health. Take a damp clean cloth, and wipe the leaves gently until clean. As for plants with thin and delicate leaves, like rosemary or thyme, you can also give them a rinse in the shower.  

4. Plant houseplants in the right soil. Unlike the soil in your garden, the soil in containers can be customized to help your plants thrive and grow. Take advantage of this by using the right soil for various plants. For example, your herbs and cacti need very different soil; the former needs more compost, fertilizer, and water retention in the soil, whereas the latter will benefit from plenty of drainage materials. Read up on this article to learn everything about potting mixes: Potting Mix Guide: How to Customize and Choose Potting Soil

Windowsill Garden plant with pretty leaves

5. Know how much water to give each plant. As we’ve tried to point out throughout the article, different plants have different hydration needs. Watering needs are typically determined by the habitat a plant is originally from (desert, tropical forest, etc.). We highly recommend reading about the plant species you decide to get and how much water each of them requires. For example, it could happen that you only need to water your cacti once a month, but your African violets need watering twice a week.

6. Insulate your windows in winter. Many plants are very sensitive to cold damage, and a cold gust of wind can freeze and wilt its leaves or worse – cause root damage. So let our last tip be that insulating the windows will prevent this from happening (as long as you don’t let plant leaves touch the glass), and it will save you money on utility costs too.

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