Window wells let sunlight in your basement, fend off soil and water, and are sometimes designed to act as an escape hatch in an emergency. That said, they’re not a house’s most attractive feature, and you may consider ways to spruce them up. Simple and safe ways to decorate include painting the well, setting up a low stone wall or garden fence around it, or adding a layer of decorative stone at the bottom. But what about plants? Depending on the form and function of the window well, you have options. Consider them carefully. To help, here’s what to know about plants in basement window wells.
Clean It up and Clean It Out
Keep your window wells clear. Period. Especially if they’re intended as a basement exit. Don’t let leaves, weeds, soil, and other debris build up. If the wells are exposed, pick up some custom basement window well covers after you clean them out to ensure they stay clean. Trash and yard waste can build up and block the windows, allow water to seep in, or provide a home to mice and other critters who might eventually invade your house. Some sites might suggest shoveling in a layer of dirt and growing plants in the well, turning it into a sort of terrarium. Bad idea. On the other hand, there are ways to beautify your wells with plants.
Pots and Planters
Let’s come back to the covering the window well and creating a terrarium idea. Some plants can thrive down there in the sultry, shady confines. Just make sure they’re thriving in pots or planters rather than a layer of dirt and humus. This can provide a lovely view from the basement, and—if the window opens—you’ll have access to the plant all year round. With bigger wells, you can even create a vertical tiered garden for the window well.
Always Keep Safety in Mind
Once they’re down there, those plants need to be looked after. Inspect them for mildew, mold, and insects. Don’t pick a plant such as ivy that can grow out of control—blocking sunlight, sealing the window, and hosting all sort of bugs. Naturally, if the window is an exit, don’t pack the well with plants, and use pots that won’t shatter or break, providing an added hazard.
And absolutely, positively do not grow cacti!
Upgrade When Necessary
Those are the basics of what to know about plants in basement window wells. Be aware: before putting anything down there, make sure the window well is still doing its job of keeping out soil and water. If it’s rusting, rotting, or crumbling, replace it. Otherwise, the whole window well will eventually collapse—paint, plants, decorative rocks and all.