Garden Tips

Hanging flower baskets: how to create a wow factor display

Would you like to create show-stopping hanging flower baskets?  This guide has everything you need to help you plant an amazing display that looks good for months.

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Tips for stunning hanging flower baskets

In this post we’ll cover tips and tricks on planting and caring for your hanging flower baskets.  I’ve also included a list of the best plants for hanging baskets to inspire your plant shopping.

Are hanging baskets old fashioned?

Hanging flower baskets have a reputation of being a bit old fashioned, but there’s no reason why they need to look outdated!

With many of us gardening in smaller spaces these days, vertical gardening is a hot trend – and using hanging baskets for plants is a brilliant way to make the most of that vertical space. The added bonus of using more of your outdoor space for plants is that you can do your bit for garden wildlife too.

You can buy some really modern and funky hanging containers now, so don’t assume you’re limited to the traditional wire hanging baskets.

You can also have lots of fun upcycling household objects to make unique hanging baskets.  Colanders, old watering cans, old wellies and teapots all make fantastic hanging planters.  This approach is a great way to garden sustainably and cut down on the amount of materials you use in the garden.

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Photo by schurch at Morguefile.com

How can I make my hanging flower baskets look better?

Let’s take a look at some easy ways to make hanging flower baskets look better.

What plants go together in a hanging basket?

When creating hanging flower baskets, one of the most important things to get right is the combination of plants.  This has a big impact on the finished look.

Getting the ideal plant combination might sound a bit daunting, but there’s a clever trick that will help you get it right every time.

Thriller, Filler, Spiller

A great hanging basket display will have a combination of Thriller plants, Filler plants, and Spiller plants.  This approach is used by garden designers, and you can copy the pros for great results.  

You need one Thriller plant per hanging basket.  This is the focal point of the display, so it’s usually a bit bigger and taller than the other plants.  Thriller plants work well if you position them in the middle of your container.

Once your Thriller plant is sorted, you can add in your Filler plants.  These fill up the basket, providing colour and texture all over the surface of the soil.  Filler plants should complement rather than compete with the Thriller plant; think of them as supporting actors to the star of the show.

Spiller plants also provide colour and interest, but they trail over the sides of your hanging basket.   They do a great job of contrasting with the height of other plants, and also green up the sides of your container and create the illusion of a bigger display.  Plant your spillers close to the edge of the container, so they can trail over the sides easily.

Remember this simple approach to planting hanging flower baskets, and you’ll be well on the way to a stunning display.

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How many plants do you put in a hanging basket?

The number of plants you need for a hanging basket is dictated by the size of the basket itself.

We tend to pack the plants in when growing in containers and hanging baskets, and this is certainly a good approach if you want your hanging basket to look really full and impressive.

Do bear in mind though that the more plants you use, the quicker they will exhaust the nutrients in the compost.  Once this happens, a hanging basket will start to look tired, and you’ll need to step in with the plant food to keep it looking good (we’ll cover tips on feeding plants in hanging baskets later).

Think about the fact that each plant is going to grow too.  You need to allow some room for them to spread out!

How do you make a hanging basket look fuller?

There a a few simple things you can do to make hanging flower baskets look fuller.

We’ve already talked about using the ‘Thriller, Filler, Spiller’ approach to planting, and this will definitely help you create a full, dense display of plants.

You can also pack the plants in for a big impact.  If your hanging basket has wire or open sides, you can tuck even more plants in around the outer surface.  This is a good place to add in trailing plants for extra oomph.

The other key areas to focus on for wow factor hanging flower baskets are compost and aftercare.

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What is the best soil for hanging baskets and pots?

When you grow plants in hanging baskets and containers, the compost you use is super-important.

Remember that your plants will rely on that small amount of compost for all their nutrients – so it’s a very good idea to use a good quality compost.  General-purpose *peat-free compost will be fine for most plants, but make sure you check plant labels as some varieties need a more specific type of compost in order to thrive.

You can buy compost that’s specifically for use in containers and hanging baskets.  This is a good option if you’re a beginner gardener, or don’t have lots of time to take care of your plants.  It usually has slow-release fertiliser and water-retaining crystals added, which takes some of the pressure off when it comes to feeding and watering.

It’s also perfectly possible to make your own version of hanging basket compost.  Simply add some *water-retaining granules and *slow-release fertiliser to your standard compost, and mix well before use.

What is the best plant food for hanging baskets?

Regardless of the compost you use in your hanging flower baskets, eventually the plants will use up all the nutrients.  This is why you need to be ready to feed your plants regularly to stop your display deteriorating.

Most container grown plants will be fine with a general-purpose plant food.  This is widely available in a number of formats.

*Concentrated liquid feed is a popular way to buy plant food.  You need to dilute it before use, so a little goes a long way.  Another option is *granule form, which is mixed with your compost before planting or lightly raked into the surface of the soil.  The easiest option is *ready-to-pour liquid feed, which is added to your hanging basket straight from the bottle.  Ready-to-pour feed is usually more expensive though, and also involves more packaging, so it isn’t the most eco-friendly option.

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Can you overfeed hanging baskets?

Yes.  Using too much plant food on any plant, regardless of where you are growing it, can cause more harm than good, and can even kill the plant.

The plant food packaging will include details on how often you can use it; make sure you read this carefully, and stick to the guidelines.

How often should hanging baskets be watered?

Watering hanging flower baskets is another key area to get right if you want your displays to look amazing for months.

If you’ve ever grown plants in hanging baskets before, you’ll probably know that they can dry out much more quickly than plants grown in the ground.  The compost can only hold so much water, and because the basket is hanging, there is more opportunity for water to drain away.  In addition, the sides of the basket are exposed to warmer conditions, and this can speed up evaporation.

When it comes to watering hanging flower baskets, the trick is to never let them get too dry.  Once the compost is really dry, water tends to run off rather than soak in, and that makes it hard for your plants to get the moisture they need.

Get into the habit of checking your hanging baskets regularly.  Poke a finger into the surface of the soil; if it feels dry, you need to get the watering can out.

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Should I water my hanging baskets every day?

If the weather is really warm, or your hanging baskets are in full sun, you may need to water them every day.  Take your cue from the weather, and remember to keep checking the surface of the soil.

What is the best time of day to water hanging baskets?

With all plants, the ideal time of day to water is in the early morning.  This gives plants time to absorb the water before temperatures rise and evaporation kicks in.

If you can’t manage early morning, go for early evening.  Avoid watering later in the evening, as damp leaves overnight can cause issues with mildew and mould.

How to water hanging baskets

It’s easy to end up with more overflow than actual watering with hanging baskets.  The easiest way to water a hanging basket and avoid this problem is to water them as slowly as possible.

A watering can that has a small rose attachment can be a big help here, as it limits the speed of water flow.  I tend to use my indoor watering can on my hanging baskets for this reason.

You can also water your hanging flower baskets lightly, then repeat in around 10-15 minutes.  Doing this gives the plants more time to absorb water, and reduces run-off.

Another clever trick is to add a small plant saucer to the bottom of your hanging basket when planting.  This will act as a water reservoir, and also cut down on leakage. As an alternative, this video shows you how to use an old plastic bottle to boost your watering:

Remember also that water will be absorbed much better if the compost isn’t bone dry.  Staying on top of the watering will make life much easier in the long run, and keep your plant displays happy too.

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How do you revive a dry hanging basket?

If you’ve got a hanging basket that has become really dried out – and let’s face it, we’ve all been there! – here’s how to deal with it before you lose your plants.

Start by submerging the base of the basket in a bucket of water for about an hour.  After you’ve done this, move it to a shady spot to minimise evaporation.

You can repeat the submerging process on a daily basis if necessary.  I also loosen up the surface of the soil; I find this helps to reduce run-off and improves water absorption.

It’s also a good idea to cut back any plants that are struggling. This will encourage new growth, and neaten up the overall look of your hanging basket.

Try all of these fixes and hopefully your plants will bounce back in a few days.

Can hanging baskets be overwatered?

In my experience, it’s quite hard to overwater hanging baskets, because the drainage is so effective.  However, it is possible to overwater a hanging basket, and that can lead to its own set of problems – namely mould, mildew, and rotting roots.

How do you save an overwatered hanging basket?

First of all, stop watering!  You can also try moving the basket to a warmer position, to help it dry out a little.  Placing it somewhere with good air flow is also a good way to dry out soggy plants.

If your plants have mildew or mould, remove any affected foliage and flowers to prevent it from spreading.

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How do you rejuvenate a hanging basket?

If you’re wondering ‘can you bring a hanging basket back to life?’, the answer depends on the state your basket is in.

Crispy plants are basically dead, and can’t usually be coaxed back into life.  Similarly, rotten leaves and stems are most likely beyond revival.  However, if your hanging flower baskets are just looking a bit tired, here are some easy ways to bring them back to life.

How to keep hanging baskets looking good

  • Water them thoroughly (see above).
  • Feed them with general purpose plant food (see above).
  • Add in some new plants.  This is an easy way to bulk out a display, or replace plants that are struggling.
  • Prune straggly plants to encourage more bushy growth.
  • Deadhead your flowers (see below).
  • Replant the whole display into a larger hanging basket.  This is a bit extreme, but will definitely give your plants a boost thanks to the additional, fresh compost.

Do you deadhead hanging baskets?

Deadheading is a quick, easy and effective way to keep hanging flower baskets looking full and impressive.

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How do you keep hanging baskets blooming?

All you have to do is remove flower heads that are dead or past their best, plus any seed heads that have formed.  Doing this will stop the plants setting seed, and make them produce more flowers instead.

Try to deadhead your hanging basket flowers every couple of days.  Little and often works well here, and it’s one of those quick gardening jobs that you can fit in whenever you have five minutes to spare.

You can use your fingers to deadhead your plants; simply pinch off the flowers and seed heads.  I like to use a pair of *snips, as they speed things up and deliver a nice sharp cut which reduces the risk of plant damage.

Why do hanging basket leaves turn yellow?

Yellowing leaves are usually a sign that a plant is struggling.  It could be due to a number of reasons, so to deal with the problem you should ask the following questions:

  • Is the plant over or under watered?  Both scenarios will put a plant under stress, and that can cause yellow leaves.
  • Is the plant getting enough light?  Too little natural light can cause leaves to lose their lush green look, and in crowded hanging baskets this might be the cause.
  • Are you feeding your plants regularly?  Lack of nutrients is a common cause of yellow leaves.
  • Are there signs of pests?  An infestation is another reason that your plant is failing to thrive.

Once you’ve worked out the cause of those yellow leaves, you’re in a good position to deal with the issue and get your plants back on track.

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The best tools for planting hanging baskets and pots

Aside from your actual container, you don’t really need any specific tools to plant hanging flower baskets.  The following kit will come in handy though.

Your hands will thank you for a decent pair of *gardening gloves.  Go for a pair that really fits well, while still allowing your hands to move freely.

A *hand trowel is invaluable for filling your baskets with compost, and topping up gaps around plants.  Choose a size that works well with the size of your hanging baskets; if you’re gardening on a small scale you may find that child-sized tools are the best option.

I’ve already talked about *snips, these are great for pruning and deadheading hanging basket plants.  A pair of *secateurs works well on larger displays too.

And of course, you’re going to need a *watering can.  As I mentioned earlier, a *mini watering can is good for hanging baskets, for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, it’s easier to lift a small watering can up high, and secondly, they allow you to water slowly and steadily.

Choosing hanging baskets for wow factor displays

Ready to choose your hanging baskets?  You’ll be spoilt for choice.

Obviously you will want to go with a style that suits your garden, but do bear in mind these practical considerations as well:

  • It’s vital that your hanging basket has drainage holes.  Plants generally hate to sit in a puddle of water.  Lots of hanging baskets have plastic liners; if you choose one of these, make sure you poke some holes in the liner before planting.
  • If your chosen basket doesn’t have a liner, you may need to buy one.  Check the size carefully when lining a hanging basket, and if in doubt go for one that’s slightly larger than your basket; you can always trim it down.
  • Check the hook on the basket.  It needs to be nice and sturdy; remember that once the basket is full of hanging plants, compost and water, it will be pretty heavy.
  • Have a rough idea of the number of plants you want to grow, then choose a hanging basket that will comfortably fit that quantity.
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How do you plant hanging flower baskets?

Here’s a quick guide to planting hanging baskets for beginners – and anyone who wants to create a fantastic display.

  1. If your hanging basket doesn’t have a flat base, sit it on top of an empty plant pot to keep it steady while you’re planting.
  2. Add your liner, and trim it to size.
  3. If your basket has a plastic liner, use scissors or a knife to create some drainage holes.
  4. If you’re using water-retaining granules or slow-release fertiliser, mix these into your compost.
  5. Add compost to your hanging basket until it’s almost full.
  6. Carefully remove each plant from its pot, to protect the roots.  Slide your fingers around the plant’s base, then tip it over and ease the pot away with your other hand.
  7. Arrange your plants in the basket – remember Thriller/Filler/Spiller.  Don’t be afraid to re-position things until you’re happy with the layout.
  8. Fill in any gaps around your plants with a little more compost.
  9. Water the whole hanging basket thoroughly, then let it drain for a few minutes and hang it up.

What plants should I put in my hanging baskets?

Need some inspiration on the best hanging basket plants?  Here are 25 brilliant options that will help you create a show-stopping display.

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Flowering hanging basket plants

Wondering what are the best flowers for hanging baskets?

There are so many lovely flowering plants for hanging displays.  All of these varieties will help you build stunning hanging flower baskets.

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Photo by robenmarie at Morguefile.com

Pelargoniums

Also known as geraniums, pelargoniums have been a stalwart of hanging baskets for decades.  If you like a strong hit of colour in your hanging basket they’re perfect, and the leaves are often interestingly patterned too.

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Fuchsia

The gorgeous bell-shaped flowers of fuchsia plants look great in hanging baskets and hanging pots.  You can buy standard or trailing varieties, so they’re really versatile too.  The flowers have a nodding habit, making fuchsias a good option for creating movement in a hanging display.

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Petunias

Easy-going, full of flowers, and happy to bloom all season, petunias can be relied on to keep a hanging display going.  There are lots of colours to choose from, plus some lovely double and patterned varieties.  You need to deadhead petunias to keep those flowers coming.

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Calibrachoa (million bells)

This is a trailing variety of petunia, so it’s going to give you all the flower impact of petunias, but with added trailing power.  Calibrachoa have one advantage over petunias too; you don’t need to deadhead them.

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Lobelia

Lobelia is available as an upright or trailing variety, and it’s one of my favourites for hanging flower baskets.  The dainty little flowers are perfect for filling in gaps and bulking out a display, and you don’t need to deadhead them.  I like using lobelia with larger flowers to create contrast.

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Bacopa

Bacopa is another good choice for small flowers in hanging baskets.  It’s very long-flowering too, and a good option for a trailing plant.

Sweet alyssum

My third choice for small flowers is Alyssum.  The tiny white flowers have a sweet scent, and are ideal for adding some froth to your basket plants.

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Osteospermum

If you like daisy-shaped flowers, go for osteospermum (also known as African daisy) in your hanging flower baskets.  They work nicely alongside smaller flowers, and enjoy full sun. Deadhead them regularly for maximum blooms.

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Verbena

Verbena is a no-fuss, reliable bedding plant, and in a hanging basket it will produce an abundance of blooms on dense foliage.  You can buy verbena as upright or trailing hanging basket plants; both are good for adding volume to your display.

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Begonia

Another good all-rounder for a hanging basket display, begonias are low maintenance outdoor hanging plants that are very long-flowering.  You’re spoilt for choice on colours as well.  Their bronzed foliage works particularly well with white and pale yellow flowers.

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Nigella

Nigella is such an unfussy plant; you can grow it from seed pretty much anywhere.  Scatter a few seeds in your hanging basket when you plant it up, and you’ll have some extra blooms a few weeks later that will perk up your display.

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Wildflowers

You don’t need loads of space to grow wildflowers.  They can look amazing in a small pot or hanging basket, and they’re extremely low maintenance plants.  I’ve got a whole post on growing wildflowers that you can explore; this is a particularly good kids gardening project.

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Impatiens

Impatiens, or busy lizzies, will produce flowers for months in a hanging basket.  They’re compact plants, so they work well in containers, and are available in lots of bright shades.  Deadhead them regularly to keep them flowering.

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Nasturtiums

I think nasturtiums are one of the best plants for a hanging basket.  They will really earn their space, they’re super-tough, and they have lovely, bright orange flowers that really stand out – and those flowers also happen to be edible.  Nasturtiums are trailing plants, so position them at the edge of a basket for best results.

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Pansies & Violas

You can’t plant a winter hanging basket without some pansies or violas.  Hardy and colourful, these tough little plants provide a shot of colour when most other plants still haven’t got going.  Deadheading will keep them flowering for months.

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Primroses

If you’re planting a spring container, primroses are a cheap, reliable plant to include.  They’re low maintenance and in-your-face, which is sometimes just what we need in the garden.

Foliage hanging basket plants

Including some foliage plants in your hanging basket will provide lots of contrast and texture, and is also a great way to grow a bigger, more impactful arrangement.

Here are some good options for foliage hanging basket plants.

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Coleus

Coleus is becoming more and more popular as a bedding plant these days, and for good reason.  The foliage is beautifully patterned and available in some stunning colours, and they’re pretty low maintenance plants for outdoor pots and baskets.  Combine Coleus with bold flowering plants in pots and baskets for maximum impact.

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Ivy

Good old ivy.  Cheap and easy to get hold of, its trailing habit makes it perfect for hanging baskets.  As an added bonus, ivy is a really tough plant, so it will cope well with a bit of neglect.  Variegated varieties are ideal for making a statement, while all-green varieties will provide a glossy, subtle backdrop for showier plants.

Helichrysum petiolare

Also know as liquorice plant, Helichrysum has beautiful grey-green leaves and pale stems.  Definitely a foliage plant to make a statement, it’s perfect for contemporary hanging baskets.

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Creeping jenny

Creeping jenny, or Lysimachia, is an evergreen trailing plant with lime green foliage.  It works particularly well with hot colours, where the zingy green will hold its own and provide good contrast.

Calocephalus

If you like silver foliage, calocephalus is a great choice.  It’s not strictly a trailing plant, but the delicate stems will tumble gently over the edge of a hanging basket.  You can also grow it as an upright plant to provide texture at surface level.

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Cineraria

Another great silver-grey foliage plant.  The interestingly-shaped leaves of cineraria have a soft surface which just begs you to touch them. It works well in cooler colour schemes; I particularly like using it alongside shades of purple.

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Ornamental cabbage

Another great candidate for a contemporary hanging basket.  Ornamental cabbage has beautifully patterned leaves, and a flower-like shape.  It works well with shades of pink, purple and white.

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Succulents

If you’ve ever browsed the world of container gardening on instagram, you’ll be very familiar with succulents (and if sharing plants on insta is your thing, you need my nature hashtags lists).  They work really nicely in contemporary hanging baskets; stick to one variety for a modern feel, or mix things up with different shapes and colours.

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Heuchera

This is one for large hanging baskets.  Heuchera plants range in colour from bright green to deep purple, and they’re great for adding height and drama to a container.  They’re also perennial plants, so you can re-home them in the garden once your hanging basket has finished flowering.

I hope you’ve found this guide to hanging plants outdoors useful, and that you grow some amazing displays.  Happy planting!

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More hanging basket and container gardening tips

For more advice and ideas on container gardening, take a look at these resources.

My list of low maintenance outdoor potted plants covers the best outdoor plants for all types of containers, and has lots of suggestions on gardening in pots throughout the year.

On a more seasonal theme, I’ve got posts on the best spring flowers for pots and hanging baskets, plus lists of plants for winter hanging baskets and the best winter plants for pots.

I’ve also got a list of trailing plants for hanging baskets and pots if you’d like some inspiration on cascading plants.

If you like the idea of growing your own in containers, my post on easy vegetables to grow in pots has ten perfect crops you can try.

Gardening in hanging baskets and pots is a great small-scale project for children too.  I’ve got guides to growing sunflowers in pots, growing micro greens, growing salad and making mini gardens, all of which will keep kids busy and entertained in the garden.

And if you just need some help getting organised, my gardening jobs for each month series is the one for you.

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