If you’re keen to make your garden look good in winter, one of the simplest ways to do it is to plant up some winter hanging baskets and pots. This guide to the best plants for winter hanging baskets has a great range of plants to help you create a lovely winter display.
What plants are best for hanging baskets in winter?
In this post you’ll find lots of plants for winter hanging baskets that will provide you with flowers or beautiful foliage throughout winter. I’ve also included planting and care tips to help you get the best show from your winter hanging basket plants, plus some suggestions for great plant combinations.
Why you should grow winter hanging baskets
We might be using our gardens less at this time of year, but that doesn’t mean we have to ignore them completely. Growing plants in containers and outdoor hanging baskets is a simple way to keep your winter garden looking good, without having to spend lots of time out there.
As well as being low maintenance and ideal for beginner gardeners, winter hanging baskets are perfect if your outdoor space is limited. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can use hanging baskets to green up your doorway, patio or balcony. In a small garden, hanging baskets can significantly increase the amount of planting space you can access, allowing you to create a bigger display of plants without taking up any room at ground level.
Container gardening is relatively low cost too. You can even create your own hanging baskets by upcycling household objects. Old colanders work brilliantly, or you could add some drainage holes to the bottom of an old watering can.
A winter hanging basket is also great way to garden for wildlife. Adding winter hanging baskets to your garden will help you to carry on supporting your local species, providing a source of food and shelter for all manner of creatures at this tough time of year.
And of course, gardening on a small scale is perfect when it comes to gardening for kids. Their little hands can cope really well with hanging baskets – in fact in my experience, they’re actually better at planting them than the grown-ups!
Can hanging baskets survive winter?
Don’t assume that outdoor hanging baskets are only for the warmer months of the year.
While lots of hanging basket plants will struggle in cold weather, there are plenty of fantastic winter plants for hanging baskets to choose from.
Just make sure you go for varieties that can cope with cold weather – these are usually referred to as ‘hardy’ plants. If you choose winter hardy container plants, you’re well on the way towards creating a winter hanging basket that looks great and is easy to take care of.
When should I plant a winter hanging basket?
The ideal time to plant a winter hanging basket is late autumn. Doing it at this point in the year will allow the plants to get established before winter arrives, and it will also mean they are ready to take over from your autumn plants at just the right time.
Having said that, don’t worry if it’s already winter and you haven’t done any planting. It’s fine to plant up winter hanging baskets at any point in winter, and also in early spring. Do bear in mind that the later you plant, the later your basket will be putting on a show.
A clever trick for hanging basket plants
When you choose your plants, remember this clever rule: Thriller, Filler, Spiller. This is a great way to create wow factor in hanging pots.
The Thriller plant is the star of the show, and is usually taller or bigger than the other plants. It works well to position it in the middle of the basket.
Filler plants fill up your container, providing colour and interest at a lower height than the Thriller plant.
Spiller plants are the trailing plants for hanging baskets. They spill over the sides, and soften the edges. Spiller plants are also brilliant for creating a bigger display and balancing out the height of the other plants in the basket.
How many plants should go in a hanging basket?
The number of plants you use in your hanging basket will be determined by the size of the basket itself. Bear in mind that each plant will place a demand on the compost, and if you really cram them in your plants won’t do as well. Also, each plant will grow – so make sure you leave a bit of space around each one.
The best plants for winter hanging baskets
Are you ready to get cracking with your plants for winter hanging baskets? Read on for my top picks for winter plants that will create a show stopping display in hanging baskets.
What can I put in my hanging baskets now?
This list includes winter flowers for hanging baskets, bulbs that are perfect for hanging baskets, foliage plants for winter baskets, and evergreen plants that will work brilliantly too. You’ll be spoilt for choice!
Flowering hanging basket plants for winter
There are lots of lovely winter flowering plants for hanging baskets. Here’s my selection of the best flowers for hanging baskets in winter.
Winter Pansies & Violas
If you’re looking for a cheery winter hanging basket plant, you can’t go wrong with pansies and violas. Garden centres and supermarkets are full of them, and there’s a good range of colours to choose from. Pansies and violas are usually very reasonably priced too, which makes them a great option for bulking out your hanging baskets.
With their delicate and distinctive flowers, *cyclamen plants are a popular choice when it come to easy outdoor potted plants for winter.
Are cyclamen good for hanging baskets?
If you’re growing Cyclamen as outdoor plants in winter, it’s important to choose a hardy variety like Cyclamen coum or Cyclamen hederifolium. Some varieties can only be grown indoors at this time of year. If the plants are on display outside the shop, you’re probably on the right track.
I love growing heathers in winter hanging pots. Their upright shape is brilliant for adding height and structure to the arrangement, and the flower spikes bring lots of texture. Heather plants also provide a good source of pollen and nectar, so they’re great for local wildlife too.
Bear in mind that heathers thrive in acidic soil, so you should ideally grow them in *ericaceous compost.
Another candidate for low maintenance outdoor hanging plants for winter, primroses really deliver on colour and will make a bold statement in a winter hanging basket. The bright colours always go down a treat if you’re gardening with kids too.
If you’d prefer a more subtle effect, go for multiple primrose plants in the same colour to complement your other winter flowers.
We tend to think of hellebores as garden border plants, but they can also be planted in containers and larger hanging baskets. The flowers on hellebores naturally face downwards, so growing them in a basket at eye level is a lovely way to make the most of the blooms.
When it’s time to refresh your hanging basket, you can move your hellebore to a garden border. They like partial shade, and look fantastic alongside woodland plants and bulbs.
Winter flowering bulbs for hanging baskets
Including some flower bulbs is a great way to boost your display of hanging basket flowers. You can plant on top of them, which means you get a bigger impact without increasing the size of your basket. Bulbs are a pretty low-cost way to grow flowers too, so they’re ideal if you’re gardening on a budget.
These bulbs are all well-suited to growing as winter basket plants.
A classic for a winter display, snowdrops will flower towards the end of winter and give your hanging basket a new lease of life. If you’re planting your basket in autumn you can use *snowdrop bulbs, but if you’re planting in winter it’s better to use snowdrop plants that have already started to grow.
Another great candidate for even the smallest of hanging baskets. *Crocus bulbs are compact, so you can pack lots of them in, and the flowers are dainty too. Do spend some time checking out the range of varieties available; there are lots of different colours and heights to choose from, so it’s easy to find one that works well with your other plants.
Pop a couple of *hyacinth bulbs in the bottom of your hanging basket, and in late winter you’ll have a gorgeous show of upright flowers. Hyacinths are heavily scented too, so every time you walk past your hanging basket you’ll be able to enjoy their fragrance – it’s definitely worth including them if your basket is next to the front door.
Always wear gloves when handling hyacinth bulbs, as they can irritate the skin.
These miniature daffodils are perfect for hanging baskets. Their cheery, bright yellow blooms give a little taste of the spring to come when the rest of the garden hasn’t really got going.
You can ‘force’ dwarf narcissus bulbs to flower early indoors, so if you’ve got a few bulbs left over it’s worth potting them up for some indoor colour. My post on forcing bulbs shows you how to do it.
Another favourite of mine. Miniature iris bulbs are fantastic plants for winter pots and hanging baskets; I like to combine them with white flowers for a cool, modern look. Like dwarf narcissus, you can also force these bulbs for indoor blooms in winter.
Foliage plants: winter hanging basket ideas
A winter hanging basket definitely isn’t just about the flowers. Foliage plants play a key role in providing interest, texture and structure for your display.
Here are some suggestions for winter foliage plants that are perfect in hanging baskets.
Also known as ornamental sedge, Carex plants are ideal grasses for winter planters. They’re available in a range of colours, and work well in modern baskets. Use one as the centrepiece in your basket, and surround it with flowering and trailing plants for maximum impact.
If you’re looking for a foliage plant that makes an impact, go for a heuchera.
Their stunning leaves are gorgeous in their own right, but they also provide a fantastic backdrop for your flowering plants. You can buy *heucheras in a range of colours, including greens, golds, oranges and deep reds, so there’s bound to be one that’s perfect for your display.
Not to be confused with their edible relatives, ornamental cabbages are all about the looks. I think they work particularly well in a contemporary hanging basket, where they will add a quirky edge to the overall effect.
Hebes are flowering plants, but in winter it’s the foliage we’re interested in. You need to choose a compact, hardy variety for a winter hanging basket; ‘Red Edge’ and ‘Sutherlandii’ are both good options.
When it comes to container gardening, I think of cineraria as the foliage equivalent of pansies and violas. It’s super-tough, widely available, and ideal for bulking out your hanging planters. The beautiful silver-white foliage gives a lovely depth and texture, and works well with darker-leaved plants such as cyclamen.
If you love your silvery tones, calocephalus is another good choice. The stems are more delicate than cineraria, but it’s still pretty tough. I like to contrast it with deep purple winter flowers and foliage for stylish wow factor.
Evergreen winter plants for hanging baskets
You can use evergreen winter hanging basket plants as an easy way to keep things looking good for months. An evergreen will give you a starting point upon which to build your planting, and can work well as a backdrop to other plants or as a showstopper in it’s own right.
Check out these great evergreen plants for hanging baskets.
Evergreen varieties of fern are a brilliant choice for winter hanging plants. Their lacy leaves can spill over the sides of the basket, but will also grow upwards to add height and structure, and the strong green will provide a solid backdrop for flowering plants.
Good varieties of fern for a winter hanging basket include Hart’s Tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium), Soft Shield fern (Polystichum setiferum), and the beautiful frosted variety of Painted Lady fern (Athyrium niponicum f. metallicum).
If you love growing succulents, a hardy sedum is well-suited to a winter container. Hardy sedums are low-growing, so they will provide interest and foliage low down in your arrangement. Good hanging basket sedum varieties include ‘Redhead’, ‘Moss sedum’ and ‘Bluebubbles’.
Ajuga plants are used for ground cover in the garden, as they like to creep over the soil. This makes them useful for adding greenery to the surface of hanging baskets. They’re tough little plants, they cope well with being restricted in a container, and there’s a good range of foliage colours to choose from.
Japanese Skimmia is a glossy evergreen with bright berries, so it will definitely pack a punch in a winter hanging basket. Go for a compact variety such as ‘Rubella’.
This is a good alternative to skimmia if you’re planting a smaller hanging basket. *Wintergreen (which is also known as Gaultheria procumbens or checkerberry) is a dwarf, low-growing evergreen with scarlet berries. As such it’s a good choice for Christmas hanging baskets.
The best evergreen trailing plants for winter hanging baskets
Trailing plants are an important part of a hanging basket display. Use them to hide a less-than-lovely container, provide foliage interest, and increase the impact of your plants. Here are my top trailing plants for hanging baskets in winter.
You can’t have a winter container plants display without considering ivy. The fact that it trails makes it perfect for hanging baskets in winter.
Variegated varieties of ivy look lovely with cyclamen plants, and varieties with all-green leaves work well with bright flowers. Ivy is also a really good source of food and shelter for a wide range of garden wildlife.
Vinca is a vigorous scrambler, but if you plant it in a hanging basket you can keep it under control. It will cover the surface of the compost with glossy green leaves, and eventually trail over the sides too.
We’ve already talked about using hardy sedums in your winter containers, and there are some great trailing varieties too. ‘Greenhead’ and ‘Blue Spruce’ will happily ramble over the sides of a hanging basket.
Basic tools for planting hanging baskets
You don’t need much in the way of tools to grow plants in containers and hanging baskets for winter, but it’s worth getting hold of a few basics. Having these to hand will make it easier and quicker to plant and take care of your container.
A good *hand trowel is essential for adding compost to your hanging basket, and filling in around your plants. Make sure it’s a size that works well with your container; if your hanging baskets are small you might want to consider child-sized tools.
To protect your hands while gardening, you will need some *gardening gloves. The type you go for is very much a matter of personal preference, but do make sure that you can move your hands freely while wearing them.
And of course, getting hold of a *watering can is definitely a good idea! I like to use a *mini watering can on hanging baskets; it’s easier to lift up high, and doesn’t flood them with water too quickly.
Choosing hanging baskets for winter flowering plants
When it comes to the actual hanging basket, you’ve got lots of options. Whatever you go for, make sure you consider these key features.
- You hanging basket must have drainage holes, so that your plants don’t end up sitting in a puddle of water. If it has a plastic liner of some sort, you will need to make some holes in this to allow water to drain away.
- If you go for a wire-style *metal hanging basket, you will also need to buy a liner. These are usually made of coir or card, check the size carefully so you can create a neat finish.
- Make sure your hanging basket has a good, sturdy hanging hook, and is strong enough to hold everything. You might be surprised how heavy a basket can get once it’s full of compost and plants.
- Choose a basket that is the right size for the number of plants you’d like to grow. Think about how big the plants will end up, not just how big they are when you first plant them!
What is the best compost for hanging baskets?
When you grow plants in container and hanging baskets, it’s really important to use good compost.
A plant grown in a pot or basket will eventually use up all the nutrients in the compost. And because we tend to pack plants into hanging baskets, that can happen pretty quickly.
To give your plants the best chance of thriving, go for a good quality *peat-free compost. General purpose compost is fine for most plants that are grown in pots and baskets, but some plants do better in a more specific type of compost. The plant label will have this information, so give it a quick read before finalising your selection.
You can also buy compost that is specifically designed for winter plants in pots and hanging baskets. This usually contains slow-release fertiliser and water-retaining crystals to help container plants stay healthy. It’s perfect if you’re a bit unsure when it comes to plant care, or just don’t have lots of time for gardening.
How do I make a winter hanging basket?
So you’ve bought your plants, found the perfect hanging container, and are tooled up and ready to go. Here’s how to make a winter hanging basket.
- If you’re planting a wire hanging basket, put your liner in first. Trim it to size if necessary.
- If your hanging basket has a plastic liner, use a pair of scissors or a knife to poke some drainage holes in the plastic.
- Lots of hanging baskets have curved bases, and this can make it tricky to keep them steady while adding your plants. To make things easier and stop it rolling around, you can put your hanging basket on an empty plant pot.
- If you’re adding water-retaining granules or slow-release fertiliser to your compost, mix it in before filling your basket.
- If you’re planting bulbs in your hanging basket, put a shallow layer of compost in the base, then place your bulbs on the surface.
- Add compost to your container, until it’s almost full.
- Take each plant out of its pot by sliding your fingers around the plant’s base, tipping the whole thing over, and removing the pot with your other hand.
- Arrange your plants in the basket. Start with a central plant that will give the display structure, then add more plants around it. You can move them around until you’ve got a good combination – just remember to put any trailing plants close to the edge so they can cascade over.
- Once your layout is looking good, add in some more compost to fill in any gaps around your plants.
- Water your winter hanging basket thoroughly, then it’s ready to hang up!
How do you make a hanging basket look fuller?
One of the key elements to making a hanging basket look fuller is patience. You need to give those plants some time to grow and fill out!
You can also make sure you feed and water your plants regularly. This will help them to grow well and produce lots of flowers.
Another clever trick for making wire hanging baskets look fuller is to add plants around the sides as well as on the top of the compost. To do this, you simply make a small hole in the liner, then pop your plant in.
And of course, tucking a few spring bulbs into the pot before adding your plants will also help to create a gorgeous, long-lasting show of winter flowers.
Care tips for winter hanging baskets
Once you’ve planted your winter hanging basket, the vast majority of the hard work is done. However, there are a few things you need to stay on top of if you want your plants to do well.
Right plant, right place
Putting your hanging baskets in the right position for the plants inside them is probably the most important thing you can do to keep them happy. In the gardening world this is usually referred to as ‘right plant, right place’.
Put simply, growing a plant in a place that provides the conditions it likes will help it to grow strong, be less vulnerable to pests, and in need of less maintenance.
All plants have a set of conditions that they prefer to grow in. For example, it could be full sun, partial shade, or full shade, somewhere that is really sheltered, a place with good drainage, or soggy soil. Provide your plants with their favourite conditions, and they will be happy. Do the opposite, and they will struggle.
Take a look at the care label on your plants, this usually has information on the best conditions for them. You can also find this information from an online search or a plant identification app.
Once you know what conditions your plants like, you can find the best place to put your hanging basket. The other way to get it right is to work out where you want to put your hanging basket, then buy plants that like the conditions provided in that location.
Feeding winter hanging basket plants
Nutrients are limited in a hanging basket or a container, because there’s a finite amount of compost in there. As a result, plants will eventually use up all the nutrients, and once that happens they will struggle to thrive.
To prevent this becoming an issue, you should feed your winter hanging basket plants regularly with general-purpose plant food.
You’ve got a few options when it comes to the format of your plant food. A *concentrated liquid feed has to be diluted before use, or you could go for a *ready-to-pour liquid feed that you simply add to your container. You can also buy plant food in *granule form, this needs to be added to the compost before planting. Ready-to-pour feed is the easiest and lowest-effort option, but it’s not the cheapest.
If you’re keen to keep costs down, or you want to garden sustainably, you can make your own plant food from comfrey or nettle leaves. There’s a good guide to doing this here:
Watering winter hanging baskets
Generally, plants that are grown in pots or hanging baskets will dry out more quickly than plants that are grown in the ground. The compost can only retain so much water, and evaporation can be quicker because the sides of the container are exposed to warmer temperatures.
Both of these causes of dry containers are less of an issue in winter, but you still need to check your hanging baskets regularly. If the surface of the soil feels dry, you probably need to water your plants.
When watering a hanging basket, try to add the water as gradually as possible. This will reduce the amount of water that simply pours out of the bottom, and help to saturate the soil more effectively.
You could also try putting a plant saucer in the bottom of the basket before planting. This will create a small reservoir and help to stop water leaking out of the bottom.
How to keep winter hanging baskets looking good
Having put all that time and effort into creating your hanging baskets for winter, you no doubt want to keep them flowering for as long as possible. Deadheading is a great way to do this.
To deadhead a plant, you need to remove any dead or drooping flowers, plus seed heads that have formed. This will stop the plant setting seed, and stimulate it to produce more flowers instead.
Deadheading is one of those quick gardening jobs that you can tackle in a couple of minutes. Simply pinch off the flower heads with your fingers, or use *snips to remove them. It’s well worth getting into the habit of doing this on a regular basis; as well as helping to boost the number of flowers, it will also keep your hanging baskets looking smart.
Do I need to protect winter hanging basket plants?
If you choose hardy plants for pots and hanging baskets, you shouldn’t need to protect them from cold weather.
Good drainage is important for container plants in winter, as most plants really hate having their roots in cold or frozen water. This isn’t a major problem for hanging baskets, as being off the ground allows excess water to drain away easily.
Do keep an eye on your hanging baskets if the weather is very windy. You might need to temporarily move them to prevent them from being swung around and generally battered!
If you have any tender plants in hanging baskets, it’s worth moving them to a sheltered spot in winter. Take a look at my post on protecting plants from frost and cold weather for tips on how to look after your tender plants.
And there you have it: a comprehensive guide to the best plants for hanging baskets in winter, and how to look after them. I hope you have fun creating some amazing winter displays!
More container gardening resources
I’ve got lots of other great container gardening ideas and tips here on the blog.
For more winter plant inspiration, check out my post on the best winter plants for pots.
I’ve also got a post on low maintenance outdoor potted plants which is full of ideas for all year round container planting.
If you want to grow an edible container garden, my list of easy vegetables to grow in pots will help you to choose the best veggies.
And if you just need some help getting organised, head over to my series on gardening jobs for each month for some regular inspiration!
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