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Best plants for a hanging basket: Get creative with container gardening

Add some height to your outdoor oasis and embrace the joys of vertical gardening with our pick of the best plants for hanging baskets

When spring comes around, the urge to garden begins in earnest. Hanging baskets can add a beautiful pop of colour to any outdoor space, whether this is at your doorway, in the porch or along the edge of a balcony. You can grow your basket plants from seed, buy pre-existing plug plants or, for the sake of ease, pick up a pre-arranged hanging basket, with styling and arrangement handled for you.

But what flowers should you choose for a hanging basket? Does your chosen spot get sufficient sunshine, or is it often covered in shade? And how do you avoid your baskets drying out? It may seem a bit daunting at first, but hanging your plants and flowers above the ground is actually an easy way to display a wealth of blooms that will last all summer long.

To help you choose the plants you should consider, we’ve put together a guide to the best blooms for your outdoor baskets, along with an in-depth guide on planting up and putting out a hanging basket. Get ready to garden!

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Best plants for hanging baskets: At a glance

  • Best versatile hanging basket: Apricot Shades | Buy now
  • Best hanging basket for shady conditions: Jumbo Fuchsia | Buy now
  • Best hanging basket for sunny spots: Geranium Balcon Mix | Buy now
  • Best indoor hanging basket: Aeschynanthus ‘Mona Lisa’ lipstick plant | Buy now

How to choose the best hanging basket plants for you

Which plants are best for a hanging basket?

Your plant choice will depend mainly on the conditions of your outdoor space: the strength of the sunlight, the level of shade, and the ease with which you can water the plants inside the basket are all important factors to consider. Take a look at your intended basket-hanging spot a few times over the course of a sunny day to note how much direct light is present and when. For a quick reference, consider the following plants:

Shady spots – trailing fuchsias, busy lizzies, begonias, mimulus, marguerite daisies and lobelia

Bright sunlight – petunias, bougainvillaea, jasmine, geraniums and calibrachoa

In winter – violas, pansies, cyclamen, hellebores and heucheras

How do I plant up a hanging basket?

Basket frame: There are plenty of basket styles and materials on the market, but you’re most likely to use either durable plastic or a metal frame that requires a liner. You can upcycle your own baskets, too, as long as you drill a few drainage holes and fix chains to the sides.

Preparation: Find a sturdy surface on which to balance your hanging basket. This will keep it in position while you arrange your plants.

Liner: You can buy liners made from recycled paper, plastic or natural fibre such as coir. It’s also a good idea to press either a small plate or a scrap of non-compostable material at the base of the liner: this will help retain water in drier weather. Many people like to have plants emerging from the basket’s sides to cover the liner’s appearance and make your hanging basket appear fuller. Some liners have pre-cut holes for this purpose; but you can easily cut in a few small holes yourself and push the plant through from the outside.

Potting compost: Fill your basket with a generous amount of rich potting mix or multi-purpose compost, along with a slow-release granular fertiliser mixed in. This will reduce how often you’ll have to feed it – although you could use a liquid fertiliser added at half strength approximately once a week instead. Also consider using water-storing crystals to retain moisture throughout summer. If planting through the sides, fill a quarter of the basket up to the level of the lowest hole so the root ball of the plant can rest on the surface of the compost. Add all your side plants, then additional compost.

Arrangement: This is where the fun really begins with hanging baskets. Similar to arranging flowers in a vase, you can choose a centrepiece plant for your focal point, then add complementary filler plants around it. If you add spiller plants to trail over the sides, it will make for a wonderfully full and mixed basket (this is also known as the “thriller, filler, spiller” concept of planting). Don’t be shy about squeezing in a few extra plants, too – it will make your display look even better!

When in the season can I put my hanging baskets outside?

While you can plant summer baskets from April, it’s advisable to wait until all danger of frost has passed before hanging them outside – this is usually by the end of May. Until then, keep them in a greenhouse or wait to plant them.

For winter baskets you can plant up and place outside between September and October. It shouldn’t matter if there’s frost overnight since any winter plants should be hardy enough to withstand all weathers.

Regardless of the season, it’s worth remembering that hanging baskets aren’t the best environment for plants, since they can dry out quickly. Make sure to stay on top of your watering schedule and give them liquid feed on a regular basis, too.

Hanging baskets are typically used for summer bedding plants outdoors, but there’s no reason that you can’t use the same baskets indoors during winter. You don’t have to plant flowers either: try your hand at some lovely indoor houseplants, or even grow some herbs for the kitchen.

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The best hanging basket plants to buy in 2022

1. ‘Apricot Shades’ Pre-planted Basket: Most versatile hanging basket

Price: £20 | Buy now from YouGarden

Begonias are a wonderfully versatile flower and a brilliant choice for a hanging basket. Equally happy in either sun or semi-shade, this variant produces plenty of large double blooms in a variety of warm shades – apricot, orange and gold – that will gently trail down from the basket for a gorgeous spilling effect. These begonia blooms are good in all weathers, and hardy enough to last throughout the summer, right into autumn – although they’re usually regarded as an annual flower.

When placing this basket, try to choose a sunny spot that’s sheltered from high winds, and make sure you keep the plants well watered. Remove smaller, more faded blooms to encourage larger flowers to grow.

YouGarden has lots of pre-planted hanging baskets for sale in durable green plastic, which takes all the guesswork out of choosing a complementary set of flowers to pair together. You can also re-use the basket in future seasons – perhaps for your own arrangements!

Key details – Size: 25cm/10in hanging basket; Light: Sun to semi-shade

Buy now from YouGarden

2. Pre-planted basket (Green) Jumbo Fuchsia Mixed: Best hanging basket for shady conditions

Price: £20 | Buy now from YouGarden

Bold fuchsias are a great choice for shadier areas of your garden or outdoor space, with bell-shaped flowers in shades of pink, purple, magenta and red. The delicate-seeming petals are surprisingly hardy, and the plant will happily trail and cascade downwards from the basket’s edge. This basket, which is pre-planted for an instant display of colour, comes with five varieties of fuchsia that will last all summer, including the white-centred ‘Snowcap’, the purple and dark pink ‘Dark Eyes’, and the delicate cream-coloured ‘El Camino’ varieties. If planted out in June, they should continue flowering until October.

Pinching out the growing tips of each plant when small can help result in a bushier basket overall, as will deadheading any faded flowers. Keep compost moist but not soggy, and feed frequently with a liquid fertiliser, approximately once a week.

Key details – Size: 25cm/10in hanging basket; Light: Sun to semi-shade

Buy now from YouGarden

3. Geranium Balcon Mix: Best hanging basket for sunny spots

Price: from £13 | Buy now from Suttons

Geraniums are a firm favourite for hanging baskets, and it’s easy to see why. This ivy-leaved ‘Balcon’ variety will bloom throughout the summer, offering a stunning array of bright flowers in purple, red and pink. The foliage fills the basket really well and should trail up to 45cm (18in) – although for a little variation you could help them climb upwards by tying the stems to a frame with garden twine.

Geraniums are particularly resilient to all manner of British weather conditions, and will be happy anywhere that receives four to six hours of full sun per day. Regularly deadheading will see these Balcons continue to flower all summer – and as a half-hardy perennial, they should flower the following spring, too, if you keep them out of frosty conditions during the winter.

This basket arrives pre-filled with both compost and plant food, along with the plants in-situ, so simply pick the perfect sunny spot and ensure to feed and wateron a regular basis, especially during a hot or dry period.

Key details – Size: 10.5in hanging basket; Light: Sun to semi-shade

Buy now from Suttons

4. Aeschynanthus ‘Mona Lisa’ lipstick plant: Best indoor hanging basket

Price: £33 | Buy now from Crocus

Hanging baskets aren’t only for outdoor spaces. There are plenty of stunning plants that can brighten up the inside of your home, too, with flowering houseplants adding an extra touch. We love the trailing stems of the lipstick plant, which produces beautiful little red flowers in a lipstick tube shape when placed in a brightly lit spot without direct sun.

The Aeschynanthus plant has a number of varieties, but all have dark green waxy leaves and bright clusters of flowers in common. The vines of the lipstick plant grow quickly when it’s happy, blooming in springtime and lasting through to early autumn, if you keep the plant sufficiently watered. As a tropical plant it loves humidity, and needs damp (but not moist!) soil throughout the hotter months.

Lipstick plants are relatively rare in the UK, so it’s worth snapping it up when you spot one.

Key details – Size: 15cm hanging pot; Light: Bright and indirect

Buy now from Crocus

5. Mixed Herb Promo: Best edible hanging basket

Price: £39.98 for two | Buy now from Thompson & MorganAn often-overlooked idea for a hanging basket isn’t flowers at all, but culinary herbs. This trio of hardy perennials can be hung just outside your kitchen door or window for all your cooking needs – simply stretch out a hand to grab some fresh rosemary, thyme or mint to accompany dozens of recipes. The best part of growing your own herbs? Regular harvesting of the leaves is what encourages fresh new growth!

Once the rosemary grows too big for its pot, you can plant it out in a sunny, sheltered location in your garden where it will continue to flourish. If you’re concerned about the longevity of your other herbs, consider bringing them inside for the winter, hanging back out once the warmer weather returns. Bees are also particularly keen on mint and rosemary, so you’ll be helping out your local pollinators too.

Key details – Size: 20cm hanging basket; Light: Bright and indirect

Buy now from Thompson & Morgan

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