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How to plant hanging baskets and containers

How to plant hanging baskets and containers

Hanging baskets, containers and flower pouches allow you to decorate your walls, fences and patios with colourful flowers and foliage! They can really brighten up a dull area whether it's in sunny or shady position. In this article you'll find planting advice and suggestions for the best plants for hanging baskets and patio pots.

When to plant hanging baskets & containers

Hanging baskets and containers are traditionally planted in April and then given frost protection in a greenhouse until late May or early June. This brings the plants on faster giving an earlier display. If you don't have means to protect your plants from frost then it's best to plant up your containers and hanging baskets in late May or early June. Winter hanging baskets are traditionally planted in early autumn, between September and October.

Choosing plants for your container

You can grow all sorts of plants in containers from perennials to bedding, fruits, vegetables and even shrubs and small trees! If you're looking for climbing plants for containers then try climbing roses, clematis or sweet peas. Growing strawberries in hanging baskets and containers will prevent slugs and snails from eating your delicious crop. Many other fruits and vegetables can be grown in containers such as herbs,lettuce, tomatoes, dwarf beans, blueberries and rhubarb! Due to their invasive nature, mint, and bamboo can be grown in containers and sunk into the ground to restrict their roots.

To decide how many plants you'll need to fill a container, consider the types of plants you will be growing. Trees and shrubs will each need their own container whereas annual bedding plants are packed quite closely together to provide a full effect. For hanging baskets a general rule is to use one plant per inch of basket diameter - so 12 plants per 12 inch basket. You will only need 5 plants per 12 inch hanging basket for bigger plants such as Geraniums (Pelargoniums), Surfinia Petunias, Fuchsias and culinary herbs. Take a look at the table below for ideas on plants for winter and spring hanging baskets, and summer containers.

Plants for hanging baskets and containers

Annual plants for containers

Full Sun Sun or Shade
Argyranthemum Begonia
Bidens Busy Lizzie (New Guinea)
Calibrachoa Fuchsia
Diascia Geranium
Marigold Laurentia
Nasturtium Lobelia
Osteospermum Pansy
Petunia Viola
Sweet Pea

Winter containers

Full Sun Sun or Shade
Cordyline Carex comans
Dwarf conifers Carex flagellifera
Dwarf Hebes Cyclamen
Heather Euonymus
Thyme Heuchera
Winter pansies

Perennial plants for containers

Full Sun Sun or Shade
Abutilon Acer
Agapanthus Clematis
Albizia Fuchsia 'Lady in Black'
Daylily Heuchera
Dianthus (Pinks) Holly (Standard)
Gaillardia Hosta
Jasmine Phlox

Planting hanging baskets and containers

  1. Place your empty basket on to a bucket to hold it steady whilst you plant.
  2. If you have a wire hanging basket you'll need to line it with a pre-cut liner or you can use sheet plastic disguised by a layer of straw or hessian. Trim off any material which overlaps the rim of the basket. Cut a series of 5cm (2 inch) slits around the sides of the basket to allow for trailing plants. To take the hassle out of lining your basket you can use a plastic hanging basket or our own polypropylene basket with pre-cut holes!
  3. Create a compost mixture by adding water retaining granules and controlled-release fertiliser to a multi-purpose compost. This will prevent your containers drying out too quickly and will help feed your plants throughout the growing season. For permanent container displays use soil-based compost such as John Innes No. 2 or 3.
  4. Fill your basket until the compost is level with the layer of slits. Firm the compost down gently to get rid of any air pockets.
  5. Insert your trailing plants into the slits around the sides, pushing them head-first from the inside through the slits. To protect the delicate young growth, wrap your plants in polythene before guiding them through the holes. Position the plant so that the root ball is sitting on the compost surface with the leaves on the outside of the basket and then remove the protective polythene.
  6. Keep planting until you have filled every slit and then gently tease out the roots of the plants. Fill around the roots with further compost, filling up the basket to within 5cm (2 inches) of the rim.
  7. Plant more trailing plants around the rim of the basket - you'll get a more balanced overall shape if you position these to grow in between the plants below. Use bushy upright plants to fill in the centre of the basket.
  8. Firm in around your plants with compost, aiming to reserve a 2.5cm (1 inch) gap below the rim of the basket to prevent compost being washed away when watering.
  9. Finally water your basket well with a fine-rose watering can and place it in a greenhouse or conservatory to grow on. If the risk of frost has passed you can place your hanging basket in its final position outside.

How to plant a Flower Pouch

To plant your Flower pouches fill them with a compost mix such as the one used for filling hanging baskets (see point 3. above). Temporarily seal the top of the pouch with pegs or similar whilst you plant it up. Lay the pouch down and carefully insert one plug plant into each slit. Keep aside one plug plant and pot it up ready for planting into the top of the pouch later on. Water your flower pouch and, keeping it flat; place it somewhere bright and frost-free to grow on. Once the plants have established and are growing well you can un-clip the flower pouch and plant the last remaining potted plant into the top of the pouch. Your flower pouch is now ready to hang up in its final position!

General care

Planting outside:

Containers and hanging baskets can be placed outside once all risk of frost has passed. If you've been growing your container or basket indoors then the plants will need to be hardened off for a week before placing in their final positions outside. Provided your plants aren't shade-loving, place them in a sunny position, avoiding windy and exposed sites if possible.


Containers and hanging baskets will dry out quickly in warm weather so make sure you check the compost regularly. If the top half inch of compost feels dry then your container needs watering. It's best to do this either early in the morning or in the evening to try and reduce the amount of water lost through evaporation. If you can't 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! To get an idea of how much the basket should normally weigh try lifting your hanging basket after it has been thoroughly watered.


If you opted not to use a controlled release fertiliser when planting then you will need to give your plants a balanced liquid feed every few weeks to sustain healthy growth and flowering. Only feed container displays between April and October.


To get the best performance from your containers and hanging baskets spend some time deadheading the plants occasionally. Removing the faded flowers stops the plant producing seed and wasting energy it could otherwise use on producing more beautiful flowers!

With a little care your containers, flower pouches and hanging baskets should give you a colourful display from early summer right through until the first frosts of autumn!

Quick Links:

Van Meuwen strawberry planter

You can grow all sorts of plants in containers, including fruit such as strawberries - shown here in a growing bag.

Cutting slits in hanging basket liner

Line your hanging basket and cut a series of 5cm (2") slits around the sides to allow for trailing plants.

Adding fertiliser to compost

Add water retaining granules and controlled-release fertiliser to the compost before planting.

Plants inserted through sides of basket

Insert your trailing plants into the slits around the sides of the basket.

Teasing out a plant root ball

Gently tease out the roots of the plants.

Firming compost in a hanging basket

Aim to reserve a 2.5cm (1") gap below the rim of the basket to prevent compost washing away during watering.

Van Meuwen planting a hanging basket

Use bushy upright plants to fill in the centre of your basket or container.

Cutting the excess hanging basket liner

Trim off any material which overlaps the rim of the basket.

Van Meuwen freshly planted basket

Place your summer hanging basket or container in a frost-free place until all risk of frost has passed.

Van Meuwen summer hanging basket