Garden Tips

20 of the best trailing plants for hanging baskets and pots

Are you looking to create wow factor in your hanging basket or container garden displays?  This list of the best trailing plants for hanging baskets and pots has twenty fantastic varieties to help you do just that.

Low maintenance outdoor hanging plants

In this post I’ve listed lots of outdoor trailing plants for hanging baskets and pots that will give your containers oomph and help to increase their overall impact.  You’ll also find tips on planting and caring for your container garden, so you can keep it looking fantastic for months.

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Why trailing plants are brilliant for hanging baskets and container gardens

There are lots of good reasons why you should definitely consider trailing plants for pots or a hanging basket arrangement.

First of all, trailing plants look great!  There’s a wide range of varieties to choose from, and you can use them to provide colour, texture, contrast, foliage and scent in your container displays – just like you would with a plant that doesn’t trail.

Another good reason to grow trailing plants is all about volume.  Because they spill over the sides, they allow you to ‘green up’ a larger area than the surface of the soil alone.  This means you can create a bigger impact in a smaller space, which is great for small space gardening or compact pots and baskets.

Cascading plants are also brilliant when it comes to disguising a less-than-lovely basket or pot.  You can use them to cover up a multitude of sins!

Many trailing plants for containers are ideal for helping you garden for wildlife too.  You can use them to boost the amount of food and shelter available to local wildlife without taking up lots of room.

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What plants go together in a hanging basket?

Before we get onto the best trailing plants for hanging baskets and pots, I want to share a super-simple but seriously clever trick for wow factor containers.

The “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” approach is loved by gardening professionals, and for good reason.  Trailing plants play a key role in this easy hack that creates show-stopping hanging baskets and containers.

Here’s how you can copy the pros and design amazing hanging displays.

1. Start with a Thriller plant.  This is the main attraction in your container, so it tends to be bigger or taller than the other plants.  Positioning your Thriller plant in the centre of your hanging basket or pot works well.

2. Next, you need some Filler plants to – you’ve guessed it – fill up your container.  The aim with these is to deliver on colour and interest closer to the soil.  We’re not trying to compete with the Thriller plant here; instead think of your fillers as providing an interesting backdrop with colour, texture and shape.

3. Your Spiller plants are your trailing plants.  These should be planted close to the edge of the container, so they can cascade over the sides easily.  As well as increasing the size of your plant display, spillers are excellent for balancing out the height of other plants in your container.

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How many plants do you put in a hanging basket?

If you’re hanging plants outdoors, the ideal quantity you need depends on the size of your container.

It’s tempting to really pack the plants in for a big impact, but don’t forget that those plants will get bigger.  Remember also that each plant relies on a limited amount of compost for nutrients, so the more plants you squeeze in, the quicker that compost will become exhausted and stop supporting the plants as well.

A sensible approach is to allow a little bit of room around each plant when you plant up your container.  It’s also a very good idea to feed your plants regularly – more on that later.

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The best trailing plants for hanging baskets and pots

Ready to dive into the world of cascading plants for hanging baskets and pots?  Here are my favourite trailing plants for container gardens. I’ve included flowering plants, foliage plants and edible plants, so it’s a one-stop shop for trailing plant inspiration.

Flowering trailing plants for hanging baskets and pots

When it comes to flowering trailing plants for window boxes, baskets and pots, you’ve got lots of fantastic options.  Here’s my selection of the best trailing flowers for container displays.

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Trailing Fuchsia

A favourite with many gardeners, fuchsia plants have beautiful bell-shaped flowers that nod from the stems and last all summer.  A trailing variety will add froth and lots of colour to a hanging basket or pot. The flowers will dance in the breeze too, so you’ll also be able to enjoy a bit of movement.

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Trailing Lobelia

I love using trailing lobelia in containers; I think it’s one of the best hanging basket plants you can choose.  The tiny flowers are perfect for softening edges, and the plant will bloom for months.  You don’t need to deadhead it either.  It works well as a contrast to plants with larger flowers, or mixed in with trailing foliage plants.

Make sure you buy the trailing variety of lobelia, as it’s also available as an upright plant.

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Trailing petunia (Calibrachoa)

If you want an easy to grow plant that produces lots of flowers, go for trailing petunias (also known as Calibrachoa or million bells).  You can get months of interest from these easy-going annuals, and there are some fabulous patterned and double varieties available if you like the idea of mixing things up a bit.

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Bacopa

Another candidate for small flowers, Bacopa is covered in dainty blooms and will put on a show from late spring right through to autumn.

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Photo by robenmarie at Morguefile.com

Trailing pelargoniums

Geraniums (or pelargoniums) are a much-loved plant for pots and baskets, but did you know you can buy trailing varieties?

These are often referred to as ivy-leafed trailing geraniums, and are available in shades of pink, purple, red and white.  Use them to add a pop of colour to a mixed display, or combine them with standard geraniums for a more contemporary look.

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Trailing Begonias

Begonias are another firm favourite for pots, and the trailing varieties are extra-useful for turning up the volume on your displays.  There are loads of colours to choose from too.

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Black eyed susan vine

Black eyed Susan, or Thunbergia alata, is a less well-known trailing plant for hanging baskets and pots, but well worth considering.  It’s a climber, but will be happy spilling over the edge of containers too.  The flowers are quite big, so it works well in larger containers.  It’s native to east Africa so will enjoy warm conditions and a sheltered spot in the garden, or you can grow it in a conservatory.

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Trailing Verbena

Verbena plants are reliable and unfussy, producing an abundance of flowers on dense foliage.  Trailing Verbena is great for bulking out your pots and will happily fill in any gaps.

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Trailing Pansies

Pansies are a go-to plant for winter and spring containers, and by including a trailing pansy variety you can get all the benefits of these hardy, colourful plants with the added cascade factor.  ‘Cool Wave’ is a popular mix of trailing pansies which includes yellows, purples and white tones.

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Outdoor trailing plants for foliage in hanging baskets and pots

It’s a good idea to include foliage plants in any container display.  They’re fantastic for adding texture and colour contrast, and work hard to showcase their flower neighbours.  

If you’re wondering what to put in hanging baskets besides flowers, here are some great trailing hanging basket plants for foliage.

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Creeping jenny

Creeping jenny is also known as Lysimachia.  It’s an evergreen trailing plant, so it’s good for container displays at any time of year.  Grow it for the lovely lime green foliage, but it also produces small yellow flowers.  A great backdrop plant to showcase your flowers.

Calocephalus

I don’t know whether this is strictly a trailing plant, but I often use Calocephalus as a spiller in my containers.  It has lovely delicate silver stems that tumble over edges as the plant grows bigger.  Combine this one with shades of purple and pink for a cool, modern look.

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Ivy

Ivies are cheap, readily available evergreen trailing plants for hanging baskets.  Ivy is also a fabulous source of shelter and food for garden wildlife.  And trailing ivy is an extremely tough plant, so if you tend to neglect your containers it’s definitely one to consider.

You could go for a variegated variety to add interest, or an all-green variety for a subtle backdrop to your other plants.

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Vinca

If you grow trailing Vinca (also called trailing periwinkle) in the ground, it will scramble all over the place, and it’s this urge to spread that makes it a good trailing plant for hanging baskets and pots.  You can avoid it taking over the garden too!

Helichrysum petiolare

Another great evergreen option, Helichrysum petiolare (or liquorice plant) has pale stems and grey-green leaves.  The leaves have a felt-like texture, so this is also a great plant for a tactile display.

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Tradescantia Zebrina

The leaves on Tradescantia (which is also known as inch plant) are a thing of beauty.  They’re striped on top and purple underneath, so you get an abundance of colour and interest.  This foliage plant is often grown indoors, but you can get away with a warm, sheltered spot outside.

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Trailing ferns

If you think of ferns as being solely upright plants, think again.  Some types have a trailing habit and are well-suited to hanging baskets and pots.  Popular varieties include Boston fern, maidenhair fern and lady fern.

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Dichondra silver falls

If you’d like some silver-grey in the mix, Dichondra argentea, or silver nickel vine, is a brilliant perennial trailing foliage plant.  The unusually shaped leaves will complement shades of pink and purple, and work beautifully in white plant arrangements too.

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Trailing sedums (trailing succulents)

Love your succulents?  Go for a trailing variety of sedum such as ‘Redhead’, “Bluebubbles” or “Moss sedum’ in your containers.  These hanging succulent plants provide foliage at soil level, and will happily creep over the edges of a pot too.

Edible trailing plants for hanging baskets

Your trailing pot plants can taste good as well as look good!  Here are three great edible trailing plants for containers.

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Strawberries

Strawberry plants work really well in hanging baskets and pots.  By raising them off the ground you can protect the fruit from slugs and snails, plus it’s easier to pick the fruit.  They look great too!  Grow your plants in a sunny spot for best results.

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Tomatoes

You don’t need a grow bag to grow tomatoes; they will be perfectly content in a pot or hanging basket.  You need to go for a bush variety rather than a cordon variety; *Tumbling Tom and Balconi Red are both good options.

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Nasturtiums

This trailing plant could also sit very well in the flowering category.  The bright orange flowers are great for making a statement, but they’re also edible, so you can pick them for salads and garnishes.  Trailing nasturtiums are tough plants that grow quickly, and they will tolerate poor soil and a bit of neglect.  Definitely a great contender for a low maintenance container garden.

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The best tools for planting hanging basket and pots

Gardening in pots and hanging baskets is very straightforward, and you won’t need lots of fancy equipment and tools.  Having said that, having a few basic pieces of kit will definitely make things easier.

Top of my list is a good *hand trowel.  You’ll use this all the time to fill your containers with compost, and top up gaps around your plants.  Go for a size that’s well-suited to your hanging basket or pot; you might find that child-sized tools work best if your containers are on the small side.

Next up is a decent pair of *gardening gloves to protect your hands.  This is very much an area where personal preference is important, but don’t be too distracted by pretty designs!  You need a pair that fit well and allow you to move your hands easily when you’re wearing them.

I also think a pair of *secateurs or *snips are a must-have to help you maintain your plants.  In my experience snips are particularly good for small spaces and hanging baskets.

Finally, make sure you’ve got a *watering can.  I use a *mini watering can for my hanging baskets; you can lift these up high more easily, plus they don’t provide a deluge of water that floods your basket too quickly.

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Choosing hanging baskets and pots for trailing plants

You’re spoilt for choice with the range of hanging baskets and pots available for outdoor plant displays.  Whatever style you’re after, you can probably find it.  Just make sure you think about these key areas before you buy:

  1. Your hanging basket or pot needs drainage holes.  Without them, your plants will sit in a puddle of water, and that can quickly kill them.  Don’t buy anything that doesn’t already have holes, or an easy way to make some yourself.
  2. You may need to also buy a liner for hanging baskets.  Check the size, and if in doubt buy one that’s larger than your basket so you can trim it down.
  3. Pay attention to the hook on a hanging basket.  It needs to be strong and sturdy; once the basket is full of compost, plants and water it will be surprisingly heavy.
  4. Go for a basket that can comfortably hold the number of plants you want to grow.  Always allow a bit of room for them to fill as they get bigger.
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You can also upcycle household objects to make unique plant containers.  Here are a few ideas for things that work well:

  • An old colander with a hanging basket liner, hung up with string
  • A broken watering can – hang it up by the handle, or stand it on the ground
  • A large teacup and saucer
  • Tin cans – hang them up with string, or display on a wall or windowsill
  • An old tyre
  • Old wellies – colourful kids wellies work really well
  • A teapot – hang it up by the handle, or put it on the ground

Whatever you go for, don’t forget those all-important drainage holes.

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What is the best soil for hanging baskets and pots?

The compost you use is a really important part of gardening in hanging baskets and pots.

Plants grown in containers only have access to a limited amount of nutrients, because the compost itself is limited.  This means at some point the plants will use up all the nutrients, and when this happens they start to struggle.  We all tend to pack lots of plants into pots and hanging baskets, so your plants can reach this point quite quickly.

The best way to keep your plants happy is to choose a good quality *peat-free compost.  A general-purpose compost will be fine for most container plants, but do check your plant labels as some are a bit fussier and need a particular type of compost.

If you’re a bit nervous about looking after your plants, or want to be more hands-off with the maintenance, you could go for a compost which is specifically designed for hanging baskets and pots.  This will usually contain some slow-release fertiliser plus water-retaining crystals to take care of your plants with minimum effort.  You can of course make your own version of this by adding *slow-release fertiliser and *water-retaining granules to standard compost.

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How do you plant a trailing hanging basket?

Here’s a quick guide to planting up a hanging basket.

  1. Most hanging baskets don’t have a flat base, and this can make it hard to keep them steady while you plant them up.  If you sit your basket on top of an empty plant pot this will help to make planting easier.
  2. If your basket needs a liner, add that first.  Make sure you trim it to size for a neat finish.
  3. For hanging baskets with plastic liners, use a knife or scissors to poke some drainage holes in the plastic.
  4. If you’re adding slow-release fertiliser or water-retaining granules to the compost, mix these in before filling up your hanging basket.
  5. Add compost to the basket, until it’s nearly full.
  6. Remove your plant from its pot carefully, to protect the roots.  A good way to do this is to slide your fingers around the base of the plant, then tip the whole thing upside down and ease the pot off with your other hand.
  7. Arrange your plants on the surface of the compost.  Remember the Thriller-Filler-Spiller trick!
  8. When you’re happy with your arrangement, fill in any gaps around the plants with a bit more compost.
  9. Water your hanging basket really thoroughly, then allow it to drain for a few minutes before hanging it up.
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Photo by schurch at Morguefile.com

How do you make a hanging basket look fuller?

We all want our hanging baskets and container displays to look lush and amazing straight away, don’t we?  But this is one of those times when you need a little bit of patience!

Don’t be tempted to overfill your container for instant impact.  Doing this gives the plants no room to grow, and is only a short-term gain.

Instead, give your plants a bit of space and wait for them to grow and fill out. If you take good care of them this won’t take long.  You can help to speed things up by feeding and watering regularly.

If you’re using a wire hanging basket, you can also add plants around the sides to create a fuller display.  To do this simply poke a hole in the liner, then carefully push your plant into the compost.  Keep the hole small to minimise compost leakage.

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Care tips for trailing plants in hanging baskets and pots

So you’ve planted up your hanging basket or pot, and now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the results of your hard work, right?  Sort of.

Container displays don’t need lots of maintenance, but there are a few things you can do to keep them looking good and get the maximum impact from your plants.

Right plant, right place

The most important of these is to position your container in the ideal spot for the plants inside it.  This is known as ‘right plant, right place’ in the gardening world, and it’s a great way to make hanging flowers look good.

Every plant has a specific set of conditions that it prefers.  That could be full sun, a sheltered spot, partial shade, good drainage, or a particular type of compost.  If you provide your plant with these conditions, it will do well.  If you don’t, it will struggle.

As well as helping your plants grow strong, positioning them in the right place can also cut down on maintenance and make them less vulnerable to plant pests.

You can usually find the ideal conditions for a plant on the care label it comes with when you buy it.  If this is missing or there’s not much information, you can look the plant up online, or use a plant identification app.

Once you’re armed with the best conditions for your plants, you can work out the ideal location for your hanging basket or pot.  This works the other way around too; you can start with where you want to put your container, then buy plants that do well in the conditions provided there.  This second approach is particularly useful if you’ve already installed your hanging basket bracket!

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Feeding trailing plants in hanging baskets and pots

As I’ve already mentioned, plants grown in containers have limited access to nutrients.  To stop them going hungry, you need to feed them regularly.

What is the best fertiliser for hanging baskets and containers?

A general-purpose plant food is fine for most container grown plants, and you can buy this in a variety of formats.

A *concentrated liquid feed must be diluted before use, while *ready-to-pour liquid feed can be added to your container straight from the bottle.  Plant food is also available as *granules, which need to be mixed with the compost before you start planting.  The easiest option is ready-to-pour feed, but bear in mind it won’t be the cheapest; it also involves more packaging, so if you want to garden sustainably it’s not ideal.

Can you overfeed hanging baskets?

It’s possible to overfeed any plant.  Overfeeding can kill plants, so stick to the recommended intervals between feeds – check the packaging for this info.

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Watering trailing plants in hanging baskets and pots

Watering is really important when you’re growing foliage and flowering plants in pots and hanging baskets.

Plants grown in containers usually dry out much quicker than plants grown in the ground.  This is because the compost can only retain a finite amount of water, but also because the sides of a container are exposed to warmer temperatures which speeds up evaporation.

To avoid a parched planter full of crispy plants, you need to check them on a regular basis.  If the top of the compost feels dry to the touch, your plants need a drink.

Should I water my hanging baskets every day?

The answer to this question depends on the weather.  In very warm conditions you may need to water every day, or even twice a day.  Be guided by the weather where you live, and how dry the soil feels.

Watering hanging baskets can be a bit tricky, as they tend to overflow before the compost and roots can absorb the water.  Try to water them as gradually as possible; you can even water them lightly, then come back in ten minutes and repeat the process.

Another good trick is to place a small plant saucer in the bottom of the basket before you plant it up.  Doing this creates a little water reservoir and helps reduce leakage.

If you make sure the soil doesn’t really dry out between waterings this will help with water retention too.  Water tends to simply pour over very dry soil, rather than soaking in.

What time of day should you water hanging baskets?

Early morning is the best time of day to water any plants.  Watering before the hottest time of the day minimises evaporation and gives plants a better chance of absorbing the water.  The next best option is to water in the early evening, but don’t leave it too late; damp leaves overnight can lead to problems with mould and mildew.

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How do you keep hanging baskets blooming?

As well as feeding and watering your hanging baskets and pots, there’s another quick and easy way to keep them looking good for as long as possible.  Welcome to the world of deadheading!

Deadheading sounds like a serious business, but it’s actually super-simple.  All you do is remove any drooping or dead flower heads, plus any seed heads that the plant has formed.  When you do this, you stop the plant setting seed, which in turn stimulates it to make more lovely flowers.

You can use your fingers or a pair of *snips to deadhead your plants.  Try to do it on a regular basis; as well as keeping the time required to a minimum, this will help to keep your containers looking neat and tidy.

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I hope this guide to the best trailing plants for hanging baskets and pots helps you to create some amazing container displays.  If you’ve got any top tips for container gardening please do share them in the comments 🙂

More container gardening resources

Here are some more container gardening blog resources that you might find useful.

If you’re interested in the best outdoor plants for pots in general, my post on low maintenance outdoor potted plants is packed with ideas for gardening in pots all year round.

I’ve also got a spring-focused list of spring flowers for pots and hanging baskets, and a guide to creating wow factor hanging flower baskets.

If you’re planting pots and hanging baskets for winter interest, make sure you also check out my posts on the best winter plants for pots and the best plants for winter hanging baskets.

Containers are ideal for growing lots of edible plants too.  My post on easy vegetables to grow in pots has ten brilliant crops to try.

Gardening in hanging baskets and pots is also perfect for kids because of the small scale.  I’ve got posts on growing sunflowers in pots, growing salad, making mini gardens and growing micro greens.  Another favourite of ours is making a bulb lasagne, this one’s a brilliant autumn gardening project.

And finally, my gardening jobs for each month series is brilliant for beginner gardening and generally getting you organised!

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