What Is a Garden Window? A Plant Lover's Dream.

A light-flooded space for plants to thrive inside your home? Sign us up.

March  3, 2022
Photo by Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

Since the onset of the pandemic two years ago, people have turned their attention to their homes like never before, and in the process, discovered houseplants. If you follow “plantfluencers” such as @houseplantjournal and @hiltoncarter, it’s also not new to you that millennials have been at the forefront of this trend, even before the pandemic. Millennials are plant parents who know their stuff, and according to this study, making sure that plants get enough sunlight is their number one concern. No light, no photosynthesis, no plant growth…it’s that simple.

In many homes—large or small—bright, sunny spots where plants thrive are precious real estate. Sure, you can install overhead grow lights, but they take up additional space, and they’re not exactly a stylish addition to your living space. That’s where garden windows come in.

A garden window is a small bay window that protrudes from the façade, kind of like a mini greenhouse attached to the house, with one side open to the interior of the house. A garden window has a three-dimensional, box-like shape. Most garden windows have sharp 90-degree angles and an angled glass roof.

Its installation is not a small undertaking, and it’s not cheap—a prefabricated garden window costs at least twice as much as a standard window. But once it’s in place, you’ll have an excellent light-flooded space for your plants.

A classic garden window. Photo by Simonton Windows & Doors

For Location, Follow the Sun

You can locate a garden window in any room facing east, south, or west, but south is best for maximum sunlight. Over the kitchen sink is a common place for a garden window, and it’s convenient because it lets you grow culinary herbs right where you need them. Depending on the depth of the window, a location where you can directly walk up to the window without a countertop or kitchen sink in the way gives you the easiest access for watering and other maintenance.

For Plants, Go for Small and Sun-Loving

Plants that need full sun are the first choice for a garden window. That includes most herbs, which do best in maximum sun. Parsley, oregano, basil, and rosemary are great choices for a garden window.

For ornamental houseplants, check whether they can tolerate hot sun. The intense light in a garden window can scorch leaves. Plants with thicker, succulent leaves such as jade plants or string of pearls are less susceptible to sunburn than plants with thin leaves.If you want a flowering plant, consider desert rose or crown of thorns (if the spikes don’t bother you) Plant height is also an important consideration. Shorter, slow growing plants usually work best to avoid overcrowding. Unless the garden window has shelving, then you can place the most heat- and light-resistant plants on the top level and the plants that benefit from dappled shade on the lower level.

Starting seedlings indoors also requires maximum light. Provided that there is enough space and it’s easy access, the garden window is an ideal place for your seedling trays. Keep in mind, though, the rapid evaporation due to the strong sun exposure and make sure to water the seedlings at least once a day.

Using a garden window for plants doesn’t have to be year-round, either; it can also be a seasonal home for your sun-loving plants to overwinter indoors and move them outside to a patio or porch when the weather warms up. During the summer, place other decorative objects in your garden window, like a collection of vases.

For the Garden Window, Go for Quality

If you’re ready to invest in a garden window, there are few important things to consider. The window is directly exposed to the elements on all sides and the insulation value is crucial to minimize heat loss and condensation. Double or triple panes create less condensation, as well as improved insulation value. Select a window that has a tight fitting between the frame and the panes so no rain, snow, or condensation gets into the window, which can cause mold and deterioration.

Preferably the window has a built-in sunshade in the roof section, which allows more control of sunlight exposure and gives you more flexibility in the plants you put in the garden window. And, lastly, depending on what you are planning to put in the window, check the specification for the allowable maximum weight.

Do you have a garden window? Then we’d love to hear what plants you grow in it.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Writer, editor, and translator