Over the years we have found which plants are successful in our thirty or so hanging baskets here in Bonnybridge, Central Scotland, where even during the summer months we can get cold winds.
This year we want to help you make your hanging baskets the dazzling centrepiece of your garden.
When planning the location of hanging baskets, note how much sun and shade each location gets as that will determine which plants will do best there.
Before we start looking at plants, let’s select a suitable basket for the type of plants you are intending to grow.
Wicker, Wire or Plastic
Wicker baskets are very effective planted with just one species of plant. We recommend them for areas that get constant wind as we have found they do not dry out as quickly. The disadvantage is you cannot plant around the outside.
For a larger, much fuller basket we would suggest using a traditional wire basket which allows for planting in the sides. They do require more watering but you can achieve a fuller basket look.
Plastic baskets are available in a range of styles and colour and many have water reservoirs saving you to water as much. You can buy ones with side holes for a fuller planting look but as with all plastics, make sure to reuse it year on year for as long as possible.
There are many different options for basket liners: moss, burlap, coconut husks, coir, preformed hard liners, or polythene.
The most important thing to remember is that the liner must be strong in order to hold the weight of the plants and the soil when wet. Remember, once the plants have established, the liner is not going to be visible.
No matter what liner you use, it is always a good idea to place something which can form a reservoir, like an old pot saucer, in the bottom of the basket to help to reduce water loss.
Keep your hanging baskets in the greenhouse until all threat of frost has passed. If you do not have access to a greenhouse, just leave your planting a little later – until the end of May, beginning of June, when all risk of frost has passed.
We like to get our hanging baskets planted up in early May here in Falkirk but we grow them on in our greenhouse until early June.
What to Plant in Hanging Baskets
You could choose a colour theme, a single colour, go heavy on scent, try a basket with just foliage plants, or simply select a range of hanging basket plants that offer a vibrant splash of bold colours.
Edible baskets are another great idea and you could try filling a hanging basket with herbs like parsley, chives, or basil. Including some delicious strawberries in your baskets is a great way to protect your crop from slugs.
With so many options for hanging baskets, it can be hard to know where to start when choosing what to plant.
Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers
Traditionally, hanging baskets are planted on the basis of thrillers, fillers, and spillers.
This is a plant, usually the largest plant, placed in the centre of the basket, often with a tall and upright growing habit.
As the name suggests this plant should be striking in as many ways as possible. Look for plants that have continuous flowering or can give colour and texture in both flowers and foliage.
Plants such as ageratum, bush fuchsias, pelargoniums, and osteospernums are ideal as a thriller plant as are plants such as dwarf roses and lavender to provide interest.
Other plants such as small conifers and heuchera can also be used as thrillers and although these are not flowering plants, they add architectural value.
These are used to add colour, body, and texture to the container. They are usually placed around the base of the thriller plant so the choice of the thriller will have an effect on the plants that you chose as fillers.
Plants can be selected for either their flower interest or to provide foliage contrast. They can be either upright or spreading in their habit and a mixture of plants varieties can be used in a mixture of colours.
Flowering plants ideal for this include bush lobelia, begonias, petunias, and nemesia. Plants such as cineria, helichrysum, and pelargoniums can be used for foliage interest.
Plant flowering and foliage plants around the side of the basket to soften the appearance by allowing them to trail over the sides. Plants ideal for this include calibrachoa, known as million bells, trailing pelargoniums, trailing fuchsias, bacopa, surfinia, and nasturtiums.
One Plant Variety
The same effect can be created in a hanging basket by planting one single plant variety per container using for example, an upright fuschia for the centre thriller, slightly smaller upright fuschias for filling around the sides and a few trailing fuchsias spilling over the sides.
Make sure you have a strong bracket or book on which to hang your basket, a watered basket can be heavy.
You can bring your hanging baskets outside as soon as the risk of frost has passed. If you have been growing baskets indoors then the plants will need to be hardened off for a week before placing in their final position outside.
Provided your plants are not shade-loving, place them in a sunny position, avoiding windy and exposed sites if possible.
Baskets should be watered regularly, especially while under cover or in the greenhouse.
Hanging baskets can dry out quickly in warm weather so do make sure you check the compost regularly and water it thoroughly. If the top half inch of compost feels dry then your container needs watering. If you cannot reach into your hanging basket to feel the compost, try lifting it from beneath – if it is lightweight and easy to lift then it definitely needs watering!
If you opted to use a controlled release fertiliser when planting, you should not need to add extra fertiliser during the growing season, generally between April and October. We use a balanced liquid feed every few weeks to sustain healthy growth and flowering. We start feeding with a high nitrogen fertiliser for the first few weeks then change to a high phosphorus and potassium feed.
Spend time on regular deadheading of flowers to help produce a more spectacular display.
Hanging baskets can help brighten doorways, walls, fences, and sheds with their beautiful trailing foliage, stunning blooms, and even with some fruit and herbs. With planning, there is a basket for most gardeners. With care, your hanging baskets will give you a colourful display from early summer right until the first frosts.
Tom’s Hidden Garden is located in Bonnybridge, Central Scotland – a small garden with over 630 different plants, 200 containers and 30 hanging baskets. Tom Williamson has been developing the garden over the last 35 years, working with David Gallacher over the last 10 to create its unique look. Tom is a keen gardener, planting where he thinks a plant will be happy. David is a time-served gardener in commercial gardens and landscaping. Catch up with more secrets of their garden and their success with plants on their Facebook group.