Head to your garden centre and you’ll find shelves jam packed with lots of tempting annual bedding plants that can be planted into baskets to make an attractive feature, which will provide colour and interest all summer long.
Choosing plants for hanging baskets
Choosing plants for baskets isn’t easy as there’s such a wide choice, but there are some key rules to creating a pretty and tasteful display.
Avoid putting too many different plants with lots of contrasting colours together or your basket will end up looking like an over elaborate wedding cake. Instead keep your choice of plants simple, using colours that work together well, such as soft yellows, pinks and white, or for something with a bit more zing, try different tones of red.
When creating a hanging basket you will need several different types of plant. To give height in the centre of the basket choose pelargoniums, marguerites or fuchsia. Lobelia, pansies and cineraria are great for filling in gaps, while dichondra, petunia and trailing begonias can be planted at the edges to cascade over the sides of the basket.
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Flowers suitable for hanging baskets
Here are a selection of some of the best and most commonly available plants that are suitable for hanging baskets. Many of these plants are also available in trailing varieties that cascade over the side of the container.
- Busy Lizzies (Impatiens)
- Sweet pea
If you're on a budget or have a lot of containers and hanging baskets to fill you will probably find the best prices online, where plug plants can be bought in bulk for very low prices.
Choosing your container
What kind of hanging baskets should you choose? Well, it comes down to taste, but 35cm (14in) wire baskets are great as you can plant up the sides, while natural rattan and Victorian style cast-iron baskets look more classy – these are fairly heavy, so make sure you screw the bracket to hold it securely to the wall.
Plastic hanging baskets are also becoming increasingly popular as they are affordable and hard wearing.
Choosing your compost
Use a multi-purpose compost, and add a handful of perlite to improve drainage and aeration and stop the soil becoming compacted.
If you struggle with frequent watering special gel granules can be added to the compost to absorb water and slowly release it between waterings.
Slow-release fertiliser granules can also be mixed in to feed the plants.
Find out more about choosing compost and compost improvers.
Planting up your hanging basket
To make planting up easy stand your basket on top of a large pot or bucket to prevent it moving and remove one of the chains so they don’t get in the way.
Cover the inside of the basket with a liner and, if using a wire basket that can be planted up at the sides, add a 2.5cm (1in) layer of hanging basket compost to the base. If using a solid basket fill almost to the top.
If planting on the sides make three cuts at soil level, 2cm (0.75in) across, through the liner.
Select plants for the sides (trailing plants are ideal) and from the inside of the basket, carefully thread each plant through a slit until the rootball is snug against the liner. Tease out the roots, then firm soil around the rootballs.
Fill two thirds of the basket with compost and repeat step 4.
Add more compost until it is within a few centimetres of the rim and finish by planting the top of the basket.
Water well and put in a light, frost free place until it is ready to go outside in late May.
Looking after you hanging basket
The large amount of plants in a basket means it can dry out quickly, so water daily or even twice a day during warm weather.
To keep the basket going all summer long, feed every week with liquid tomato food and dead head flowers regularly.
Growing fruit in baskets
Hanging baskets don't just have to be ornamental. Strawberries make good hanging basket plants, as so some varieties of tomatoes such as 'Tumbling Tom'. A new thornless blackberry called 'Black Cascade' has been specially bred to grow in hanging baskets.
Flower pouches are ideal for adding a hanging column of colour to large vertical spaces such as fences. These long, plastic sacks have pre-cut holes throughout. Fill with compost and carefully thread trailing plants through the holes as you go. They also work well with herbs and strawberries.
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