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 Window Bog.”
The Window Bog
This box is a challenge. But success comes down to four key factors: proper soil (potting soil is fatal to carnivorous plants), the right kind (and amount) of water, lots of sunlight, and dormancy, which we’ll explain in a minute. The fact is, you can’t beat the thrill of watching a Venus flytrap closing in on its prey. Find high-quality carnivorous plants at specialized nurseries, carnivorous plant shows, and reputable online sources like CaliforniaCarnivores.com. The most iconic carnivorous plant might be the toothy green spell caster that is the Venus flytrap (thanks, Little Shop of Horrors), but there’s a whole bloodthirsty world of bug-eating plants out there. The carnivores we’re planting hunt best in the bright, damp, humid conditions found in their native bogs.
Outdoors; USDA zones 8-10
South- or west-facing
For the sundew section: two parts sphagnum peat moss, one part coarse silica sand, one part rinsed perlite; for the flytrap and sarracenia section: all long-fiber sphagnum moss
Very high (see below)
Live insects, once or twice a week at most
A. Drosera filiformis var. filiformis ‘Florida Giant’ (sundew)
B. Sarracenia × ‘Abandoned Hope’ (pitcher plant)
C. Sarracenia ‘Scarlet Belle’ (pitcher plant)
D. Sarracenia leucophylla ‘Tarnok’ (pitcher plant)
E. Dionaea muscipula ‘Red Dragon’ (Venus flytrap)
F. Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap)
G. Drosera filiformis var. ‘Tall Paul’ (sundew)
H. Drosera binata (forked-leaf sundew)
I. Drosera capensis (Cape sundew)
1. Create a bog environment in your box see, “Build a Bog Container” with a constant water level of 1 – 2 inches in the bottom of the box.
2. Mix and moisten soil ingredients with distilled water. Use gloves when mixing the long-fiber sphagnum moss.
3. Install one partition in the middle of the box. Fill the sundew side with peat-sand-perlite mix, and the pitcher plant and flytrap side with long-fiber sphagnum moss.
4. Form narrow holes in the soil with your fingers and insert the plants. Fill in with soil. Water immediately until you see water draining from the raised drainage tubes.
Let’s Fly Away
To catch a live fly, stun it first lightly with a swatter. Place the wiggling insect inside your flytrap. Feeding a flytrap more than twice a week will not lead to bigger traps, so don’t overfeed it.
There’s a reason why Audrey II is so demanding
Avoid watering with tap or bottled water, which are full of dissolved mineral salts that will kill these plants. Use collected rainwater, reverse osmosis (the kind found at fill stations outside of supermarkets), or distilled water.
Maintain moist, well-draining soil by watering once or twice a week until water flows out of the drains. Never let the top level of soil dry out completely. If a fungal breakout happens (dark spores on foliage, collapsing greenery), improve circulation and light exposure and replace your soil.
Fertilizing is not recommended. If you feel like plant growth is flagging, try lightly dampening the foliage with an orchid/epiphyte foliar spray diluted to one-fourth strength.
Most of your plants will go dormant in the winter. Keep them cooler — between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night — and exposed to a shorter photoperiod. In freezing winter temps, stash the box in the coolest unheated area of the house with some natural light (like the garage near a window). Don’t worry about feeding.
Plant with Personality
The reddish stain we used on this box adds drama to this garden, while the grain plays off of the veiny variegations of the pitcher plants.
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.