Garden Advice

How to Plant Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are the perfect way to bring colour and drama to a sunny wall or entrance porch. Brighten up a dark corner with shade-tolerant flowers or use your hanging baskets to grow aromatic herbs, salad, tomatoes or soft fruit.

Here’s how to create a stunning hanging basket display for your garden in three simple steps.

Table of Contents

So, if you:

  • Are a gardening enthusiast that wants to hang up flower baskets;
  • Want to learn how to take care of hanging baskets;
  • Are looking for some additional tips and tricks,

Then read on! This article is for you.

1. Choose the right hanging basket

Re-usable ‘easy fill’ baskets have sliding gates to help add plants to the sides
Image: Thompson & Morgan

There’s a wide choice of baskets available, from traditional wire mesh options through to wicker and solid plastic varieties. Remember that the actual basket is likely to be concealed quite quickly by flowers and foliage, so don’t get too hung up on its appearance.

Wire baskets are traditionally the most popular as they’re light and you can re-use them  each year with the addition of new liners. Wicker is an attractive option but less durable in wet weather. The quickest and easiest choice is a solid, plastic ‘easy fill hanging basket’ which has little ‘gates’ in the sides to help you add plants without damaging their delicate roots. This type of basket often has the added bonus of a water reservoir.

The size of basket you choose is worth some consideration. Small baskets hold fewer plants and are lighter to hang, but you’ll need to water and prune more regularly to maintain them. If your bracket can cope, choose a basket with a diameter of about 14-18 inches. This gives roots plenty of space, and there’s more nutrient-laden compost to retain water.

2. Choose the best plants for hanging baskets

Petunia ‘Trailing Surfinia Mixed’ is used here to create a lavish ball of colour

Image: Thompson & Morgan

Annual summer bedding plants are the most popular choice for hanging baskets. But don’t limit your displays to a few months of the year. Once your summer flowering plants have finished, simply replace them with winter flowering varieties to lift your spirits through the coldest months.

Before you make your final choice, decide on a colour scheme. Do you want a voluminous sphere of flamboyantly mixed colours? A minimalistic display of green foliage? Or an elegant single coloured arrangement? Also bear in mind where your basket will hang so you can be sure to choose plants that will thrive in sun or shade.

The best hanging basket displays usually include a combination of upright and trailing plants.

For summer hanging baskets try geraniums, fuchsias, begonias, petunias, lobelia and verbena. The team at Thompson & Morgan recommends:

  • Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ – Large cascading double blooms that will pour from your containers from June to October.
  • Bacopa ‘Snowtopia’ – A tumbling plant that bears delicate snow white flowers throughout summer.
  • Petunia ‘Trailing Surfinia Mixed’ – Cascading stems renowned for their flower power, weather resistance, colour range and versatility.
  • Fuchsia ‘Pink Elephant’ – Gently trailing double flowers that unfurl from long, rose-like buds to reveal layer upon layer of sumptuous pale pink ruffles.

For winter hanging basket displays, choose things like pansies, primulas, primroses and other winter bedding varieties.

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The Best Plants for Hanging Baskets

3. Plant correctly

Buy the best quality compost you can afford

Image: Shutterstock

When preparing your basket, rest it on the rim of a bucket to keep it stable while you work. Choose plants that are sturdy and well rooted and don’t be afraid to pack them together more tightly than you would in the ground. If you’re not sure how many you’ll need, aim for about one plant per inch of basket diameter. For 12” baskets that’s 12 plants. Still not sure? Check out Thompson & Morgan’s specific advice on how many bedding plants you’ll need for different sized baskets, check out this table.

If you’re using a wire mesh basket, add a liner and half fill it with hanging basket compost. Make some small slits in the sides of the liner at regular intervals and insert the first layer of plants, gently pushing the leaves out through the holes. Firm in the roots with more compost and fill the basket to just below the brim. You’ll need a little space to add water without it running straight off and over the sides. If you’re using a plastic basket with ‘removable gates’ around the sides, it’s simple to add your trailing plants as you build up layers of compost inside.

Arrange the remaining plants on top of the basket until you’re happy with the layout. It’s usually a good idea to start with a taller, central plant for height and structure, adding trailing plants around the perimeter. A layer of moss is an attractive way to cover the compost and helps conserve water. Watch this quick video tutorial if you’d like a visual recap.

When you’re finished, water the basket thoroughly. Summer baskets should not be placed outside until about May, when all chance of frost has passed. Winter baskets are usually planted in October and hung straight away.

How to look after your hanging basket

Deadhead flowers regularly to encourage them to bloom longer

Image source: Shutterstock

Hanging baskets are completely dependent on you for water and nutrients, especially if they’re sheltered from rain. Check your baskets every day and keep them moist throughout the growing season. Feeding plants regularly can help them produce up to four times more flowers.

Finally, deadhead spent blooms and turn your hanging baskets every couple of weeks to prevent one side growing more quickly than the other.

Secrets to success with hanging baskets

  • Use the best quality compost that you can afford – one designed for hanging baskets is ideal.
  • Alternatively, use a good peat-free compost mixed with slow-release fertiliser granules and some water-retaining gel.
  • Don’t add water retaining gel to winter baskets – it can make them too soggy.
  • The more plants, the better. ‘Easy Fill’ hanging baskets let you add a generous number of plants to the top and sides.
  • From mid-June onwards, feed plants once a week with a good liquid fertiliser or a high potash fertiliser to encourage flower production. Replace once a month with a high Nitrogen feed to stop foliage turning yellow.
  • Have some horticultural fleece ready for unexpected cold snaps.
  • Check compost regularly – cold winds can be as drying as hot sun.

And that’s how easy it is to create a stunning hanging basket display for your garden in three simple steps. Bring colour and interest up to eye-level, and remember that you can also experiment with herbs, salad crops and soft fruit such as raspberries, strawberries or cherry tomatoes for something a little different.


  • For easy planting, opt for a plastic ‘easy fill’ basket.
  • The most popular plant choice for hanging baskets are annual summer bedding plants.
  • Summer baskets should not be placed outside earlier than May, while winter baskets can be planted around October and hung right away.
  • Make sure to check on your baskets every day, feed and water them regularly.


About the author:

Sue Sanderson is a horticultural expert for Thompson & Morgan. Plants and gardens have always been a big part of her life. She can remember helping her Dad to prick out seedlings, even before she could see over the top of the potting bench. She trained at Writtle College where she received a BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman’s nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, she joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, she now supports the web team offering horticultural advice online.

Header image source: Shutterstock

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