Hanging baskets and patio pots are a quick and easy way of brightening up your patio, balcony or front door.
Water regularly, especially during summer, and feed with tomato food to get plenty of flowers. Plant summer displays during late spring, keeping them in a light, frost-free place until the risk of frost has passed. Winter displays can be planted in autumn.
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One of the best plants for baskets and pots, petunias will quickly cover them with flowers. There's a huge number of varieties on offer with all sorts of markings and colour combinations. In the past, they needed the old flowers removed regularly but modern varieties are self-cleaning and will look after themselves. You can raise them from seed in early spring, but the best varieties are available as plug plants from online suppliers or as plants from the garden centre in spring. They love a sunny spot.
There are both trailing and bushy, upright varieties available - hanging baskets work best with the trailing ones. There's been a huge amount of breeding in recent years, and modern varieties are covered in flowers all summer. They naturally shed their old flowers, so there's no maintenance needed apart from watering and feeding. Most are planted as plug plants or small plants in spring, but some can be planted as tubers. They prefer partial shade, so begonias are a good choice if your patio isn't sunny.
Another good choice for hanging baskets in partial shade, although they will do well in sun as well. Like begonias, there are both trailing and bushy, upright varieties. And as with most patio plants, fuchsias are tender and don't like frost, but you can save plants for the following year by either taking cuttings in summer or cutting back the plant and potting it up, ready to spend the winter in a light, frost-free place.
You don't have to grow just flowers in hanging baskets and patio pots, as there are special varieties of tomato, such as 'Tumbling Bella', that are perfect for the job and produce masses of fruit. You can raise them from seed or buy plants in spring. One plant is all you need for a 35 or 40cm-diameter hanging basket or pot.
Strawberries also do well in hanging baskets and patio pots. Three plants is enough for a 35 or 40cm-diameter basket or pot. You'll need to cover the basket with netting at cropping time otherwise squirrels and birds will eat the ripe fruit. Watch out for weeds if you keep your plants in a basket or pot for a number of years.
These cheery plants flower best in full sun but aren’t fussy otherwise. The colour range includes pink, red and white, as well as the traditional orange and yellow. They’re drought and rain-tolerant and don’t need deadheading, as spent flowers shrivel and are quickly covered by new growth. They flower non-stop for many months, are virtually pest and disease-free, can be grown in both pots and hanging baskets, and they attract plenty of bees and hoverflies.
Diascia are trailing plants that can be grown in hanging baskets and pots. Their wide colour range means they’re easy to combine with other plants in mixed containers, although they also have enough impact to be grown on their own. They’re drought tolerant, long-flowering, don’t seem to suffer from any pests or diseases, don’t need to be deadheaded and can even survive winter in milder areas.
Great in shade, they need virtually no maintenance, are very long-flowering and can tolerate the worst of the British summer weather, whether that turns out to be heatwaves and drought or constant rain. Look out for the Imara and Beacon series as they're disease resistant.
Plant hanging baskets and patio pots ready for winter and spring after you empty out your summer displays in the autumn. They'll produce some flowers during winter but put on their best show when the days get longer and temperatures rise in spring. You need hardy plants that don't mind the winter cold. Plant them closer together than you would for summer containers, as they won't grow as much.
Evergreens will span the winter and live on indefinitely, whether planted in the garden or repotted. There are many to choose from, including those with brightly variegated foliage and others with handsome, architectural leaves. Low-growing euonymus represent great value as they will cover a large area, as will trailing ivies. Conifers are invaluable in winter. Many grasses, sedges and ferns are also evergreen and contribute softness and texture in contrast to the stiffer-growing shrubs. Then there are evergreen perennials, such as heucheras, with their colourful sculpted leaves, and architectural euphorbias.
When it comes to berries, some will last far longer than others. Those of skimmias, such as S. japonica subsp reevesiana, often survive until spring. So do those of the checkerberry, Gaultheria procumbens. There are numerous shrubs that offer up brightly coloured stems, such as dogwoods and willows.
The second group of winter container plants includes showy mini cyclamen, ornamental cabbages and kales, chillies and winter cherry (solanum). All bring much-needed cheer, but, except in the most sheltered conditions, they will end up looking the worse for wear before spring arrives. Just be prepared to replace them if necessary. Violas and pansies are the most reliable winter and spring flowers.
You can buy a bracket for a hanging basket at garden centres or DIY stores. Check the height, including the chains of the basket, before you decide how high to put the bracket. Firmly attach it to the wall using a drill, wall plugs and screws.
It’s best to water containers as regularly as you can, especially in very hot weather. Even if it rains, the leaves usually prevent the moisture reaching the compost, so you should still check the compost isn’t drying out too much and water as needed. Push your fingers into the compost and water if it feels dry. This can be more than once a day during very hot, dry weather.
If you've added controlled-release feed to the compost, you don't need to start feeding with tomato feed until late summer when the controlled-release runs out of steam. Tomato feeds are good as they're high in potassium, which encourages flowering.