Picking Plants for Your Mailbox Garden

R. L. Rhodes
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A vine trained on a mailbox post.

If you’ve read our article on beautifying your curb with a mailbox garden, you’re probably already sorting out your style. The next step is to decide what to grow. Here are several factors to keep in mind when choosing a mailbox garden:

Size

A good mailbox garden is one that adds curb appeal, without making life hard on your friendly neighborhood postal worker. Plants located directly around your mailbox need to be compact enough that they don’t get in the way of mail deliveries, or altogether obscure the box. While you can use shrubs as a backdrop to your box, most are too bulky to place directly next to — or in front of — the post. Even some flowers may grow so tall as to interfere with the box.

Using our plant guide, look for plants plants that grow mostly up, rather than out, and that stand no more than 2 feet tall at adulthood. If you decide to hide an unattractive post by training a climbing vine, be ready to trim it back any time it threatens to overtake your box. A slow-growing variety may take longer to train, but will require less maintenance in the long run.

Safety

Size is not the only factor that may be of concern to your friendly postal worker. You may be tempted to beautify your mailbox with some less than friendly plants. If you plant roses or vines, look for the variety with the least thorns. Be sure to also avoid plants with sharp edges — like palmetto — or cactus-like spines. Finally, some plants are so closely linked to common allergies that it’s best to avoid growing them on surfaces that people are likely to touch on a daily basis.

Sunlight

Chances are, any plant you situate by the curb is going to receive a lot of sunlight. But maybe you live on one of those prosaic tree-lined avenues that keep the sidewalk cool and shady. Before you plant anything, maybe you should make a note to keep an eye on your mailbox for a few days to see just how much shade or sun it gets.

Once you’ve worked that out, you can choose plants that best suit your environment. For shady streets, try impatiens or a splashy coleus. For full sun, petunias or a bright verbena will do better.

Water

If you’re blessed with a big tract of land, a long lawn may stand between your mailbox and the nearest garden hose. Rather than lug a watering can down the walk every time your mailbox garden looks a little peaked, the smart thing to do is plant drought-tolerant varieties that can stick it out until the next rain.

Sedum is a stalwart sort with many attractive varieties. To add a vibrant tuft of color, include lantana or amaranth.

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