Glorious hanging baskets are a national institution – but how do you plant a basket that’s dressed to impress?
How to plant up hanging baskets?
1.First, wire baskets will need to be lined using moss or even a pre-formed liner. Moss looks more attractive before plants fill-out, however rigid liners are quick and easy.
2. Before filling with compost, stand the basket on a bucket or large pot and place a plastic saucer with a deep rim in the base. It will act as a water reservoir, preventing wasteful run-off and also keeping thirsty plants quenched in scorching weather.
3. Part-fill with compost and plant trailing plants (lobelia, petunia, bacopa, verbena and nasturtium) through holes at the edges. Do this before adding more compost and settling more upright forms such as osteospermum and geranium in the centre. Add the trailing fuchsias towards the edges.
4. Plug gaps with compost and water well.
For the ultimate show of flower power, why not plant a single basket of petunia or begonia to create a ball of colour?
Choosing the right compost for your hanging baskets
Bedding plants in hanging baskets, window boxes and pots need lots of water and nutrients to reach their full potential. However they do have limited space to stretch their roots. That’s why planting into a quality peat-free basket and container compost is essential. Container compost includes water-retaining granules that capture and store moisture. This prevents plants from wilting between watering in scorching conditions. Although a good container compost will incorporate slow-release feed, regular liquid feeding helps summer bedding to pack a punch and carry on flowering with bigger blooms until the season winds down. Boost All Purpose Plant Feed is ideal as it will give you 4 x more blooms* for a stunning display to be proud of. (*Bedding plants versus unfed)
Choosing your bedding plants
Fashions come and go in gardening but there’s one certainty: come spring, window sills and greenhouses will be brimming with young bedding plants that are gearing up to set gardens ablaze with colour all summer. Bedding plants transform patios and borders into a riot of floral hues throughout the warm months. Choosing the best plants to plant up holds the key to pots, containers and hanging baskets that’ll be the envy of your neighbourhood.
Busy Lizzie (Impatiens walleriana) – the king of summer bedding!
Destined to dazzle all summer, busy Lizzies are a must for hanging baskets, window boxes and containers. Bizzie Lizzies flower profusely in vibrant shades all summer long. These showy blooms can succumb to impatiens downy mildew, so it pays to grow a disease-resistant mix, such as Unwins’ Impatiens ‘Beacon Mixed’. Sow under cover into a peat-free seed compost between February and April. Once hardened off and planted out in a sunny spot, plants will be carpeted in a vibrant mix of blooms. The blooms include white, red, orange, pink and purple – from July until October. For best results, plant into a peat-free container and basket compost that contains water-retaining granules, so plants won’t go thirsty when temperatures rise.
French marigold (Tagetes patula): for a riot of summer colour
These beautiful pompon flowers will illuminate patios, borders, window boxes and containers. Unwins’ marigold (French) ‘Marionette Mix’ is a star performer that’s weather-resistant – good to know in the UK’s unpredictable climate. Plants bloom in a mix of fiery shades, including orange, red and yellow (and bi-colours), emitting a powerful scent that’s believed to deter aphids from infesting susceptible plants growing nearby. Sow indoors into peat-free seed compost from February to April and plant out after all risk of frost is over for a dazzling display from June until September. French marigolds are dish of the day for slugs and snails though, so protect plants using organic slug pellets and remove faded flowers regularly.
Gazania (Gazania rigens): some like ‘em hot
If you’re looking for a summertime bloom that’ll add wow factor to your garden, you won’t go wrong with these daisy-like blooms. Perfect for starting indoors in peat-free seed compost between February and April. These vibrant sun-lovers will keep pots and borders ablaze with colour until September. For masses of compact, robust, yellow blooms that reach no higher than 25cm, sow Unwins’ Gazania ‘Daybreak XP Yellow’. Or ramp up the drama with Unwins’ Gazania ‘Tiger Stripes Mix’ which is awash with vibrant, striped flowers in bright orange, pink and white. Removing spent flowers by pinching stems off at the base prevents displays from running out of steam.
Coleus (Solenostemon scuttellarioides) – the comeback kid of the bedding plant world!
A mainstay of Victorian exotic planting schemes, these showy half-hardy annuals are grown for their strikingly patterned coloured leaves. Often called flame nettles, spikes of blue-and-white flowers are insignificant and should be pinched off to prolong displays of brilliantly coloured foliage. Sow Unwins’ coleus ‘Warpaint’ under cover into a quality peat-free seed compost between February and April. Fast-growing plants will display an array of red, yellow and green leaf hues from early summer until the frosts. Coleus inject a kaleidoscope of colours to pots and borders that enjoy part-shade and can be grown indoors as houseplants, too.
Geraniums (correctly Pelargonium) – the hardest-working bedding plants gardeners can grow
Geraniums fill hanging baskets, pots and containers with clusters of large flowers held on sturdy stems. They’re remarkably resistant to drought, while slugs and snails give their unpalatable, fleshy leaves a wide berth. With masses of flowers throughout summer, geraniums make ideal gap-fillers, too. For a brilliant colour contrast, sow Unwins’ geranium ‘Horizon Red’ and ‘Horizon White’ in early spring, sowing into peat-free seed compost and later potting up into a multipurpose compost. From June until October, gardeners will enjoy an abundance of showy blooms, held above clumps of uniform foliage with distinctive zonal leaf marking. Dead-head regularly.
Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) – quintessential cottage garden favourites
Sweet peas can be sown under cover in autumn or early spring. But if you’ve missed the chance, seed can be direct-sown outdoors between April and May. Direct-sowing around Easter time will see displays reach the peak of perfection a little later in the season, but it’s worth the wait. Unwins’ sweet pea ‘Platinum Jubilee’ is a fantastic new variety. Launched in 2022 to honour the late Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne. Blooms of this gorgeous Spencer-type (famed for large flowers held on long stems) are white infused with pale-blue and they’re fragrant, too, emitting a hint of citrus.
Another must, especially for cutting, is sweet pea ‘Unwins 120 Years’. This seed produces a charming mix of large, frilly Spencer-type flowers selected for their vibrant shades and delicious perfume. Once plants are under way, they’ll benefit from fine netting attached to an obelisk or trellis, as they begin to climb skywards. Cutting flower stems to take indoors encourages future flowering.
Petunias – the definition of summer flower power!
An all-time favourite for hanging baskets, pots and containers. They’re fast-growing and you’ll be rewarded with displays that are worthy of an RHS Britain in Bloom medal. These half-hardy annuals should be sown under cover into peat-free seed compost between February and April. However only plant out after all risk of frost is over. Make sure to plant them into a quality peat-free container compost that includes water-retaining gel. This is so plants have an ample supply of moisture to thrive in hot weather. For a traditional sun-loving mix of blooms on strong, sturdy plants, sow Unwins’ Petunia ‘Celebrity Mixed’. Or dare to be different with Petunia ‘Sophistica Lime Bicolour’ which is smothered with unusual, eye-catching lime-and-pink flowers that vary in colour intensity depending on age, heat and light.
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) – throwback to classic gardens of yesteryear
These are just as popular in modern day bedding displays, providing an abundance of striking flower spikes that make superb, long-lasting cut flowers. Sow seed of this half-hardy annual into peat-free seed compost indoors between February and April. You’ll be rewarded with an abundance of blooms from June until the frosts.
Unwins’ Nature’s Haven Antirrhinum ‘Potomac Cherry Rose’ – a winner for wildlife-friendly gardens
Its tall, sturdy spikes of candy-pink flowers lure a host of bees and pollinating insects. Vivid blooms are held high above contrasting dark foliage, putting on a superb display in pots, containers and summer borders.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – the ticket for turning up the heat in sun-soaked borders and patio containers
Calendulas put on a magnificent display when cut for the vase. Between April and May, direct sow this popular hardy annual (commonly known as pot marigold) into a prepared seed bed. Make sure you thin seedlings so they’re spaced around 30cm apart. For a riot of summer colour, choose Unwins’ Calendula ‘Princess Mix’. This is an easy-to-grow blend of flamboyant, ruffled, orange-and-yellow double flowers that’ll set gardens ablaze with intense colour from June until September.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – a favourite for pots, containers and hanging baskets
These cheerful blooms take pride of place benefit from full sun in wildlife-friendly gardens, acting as a magnet for pollinators. Between March and June, sow into pots of peat-free seed compost and you’ll enjoy a profusion of colour throughout summer until September. Try Unwins’ nasturtium ‘Whirlybird Mixed’. A fiery blend of red, orange as well as peach shades that’s been bred to remain compact, making it ideal for pots, containers and the front of sunny borders. Plants put on a brilliant show of upward-facing flowers, ensuring that these cheerful blooms really stand out from the foliage.