How to . . . plant a hanging basket

by Rhiannon James

If there’s a bracket outside your front door that’s looking a little bit lonely, why not perk it up with a stylish hanging basket display.

Stuff To Get


There’s a huge variety of plants to pick from, and hundreds of possible combinations, but in general, the simplest way to achieve an elegant yet eye-catching effect is to fill the basket with a single variety. Look for plants which have dense, bushy growth, and preferably a trailing or semi-trailing habit, so they will fill out the top of the container and spill down over the sides. We’ve used Isotoma ‘Blue’ which has fragrant, star-shaped, blue flowers, but Bacopa, Lobelia, ivy-leaved Pelargoniums, trailing Pansies, some Heathers or even Euphorbia ‘Breathless’ can also work well, depending on the season. Or for something that tastes, as well as looks good, try cranberries, nasturtiums or tomato varieties such as ‘Tumbling Tom’. If you’d prefer a combination, try an upright plant for the centre of the basket to create structure and impact with a mix of lower-growing plants and trailers around the edge. If you want your basket to look its best pretty quickly, pack your plants in fairly close together. We used four medium-sized plants in a 36cm basket.

Containers and Liners

We’ve used a wire basket, lining it with moss to create a natural, organic-looking effect. You can collect moss from the lawn or buy it in bags from the garden centre – just make sure it’s from a sustainable source. Alternatively, there are liners available made from materials such as reconstituted paper, coir, sisal and jute. Wire baskets have the advantage that you can plant up the sides as well as the top but they can dry out fairly quickly. Baskets made from woven rattan and other natural materials are usually lined with plastic so they’re better at retaining moisture – you’ll just need to make sure there are drainage holes in the plastic before you plant. Whichever option you choose, go for as big a basket as you can, as small ones dry out very quickly.

Other Things You’ll Need

Compost – use multipurpose compost, John Innes Number 2 or a non-peat alternative

Water-retaining granules –these granules, which store and then release moisture when it’s needed, are a handy way to cut down on watering

Controlled-release plant food – if you mix these pellets into the compost, your basket should last a season without any further feeding. Alternatively, you can feed your basket regularly with a liquid fertiliser once the nutrients in the compost have been exhausted.

A watering can


1. Water your plants and allow the excess to drain before you start. It’s also good to remove any dead or damaged foliage.

2. Mix enough compost to fill the basket with the water-retaining granules and controlled-release plant food. Bear in mind that with some water-retaining granules, once you have added them to the compost, you may have to wait an hour or so before you can start planting.

3. Put your moss into a bucket of water to get it wet. Then taking a section at a time, give it a gentle squeeze and start to press or knead it into a layer on the inside of your basket, starting with the base and working upwards. Try to aim for a roughly consistent thickness of about 1.5cm. If you are planting into the sides of your basket, you can build up the moss and compost in layers as you add your plants, or otherwise, keep adding moss until you have fully lined the basket. (If you’re planting up the sides of the basket and you’re working from the outside in, try wrapping your plants’ root balls in newspaper so they’re not damaged as you push them through the holes).

4. A pot saucer or a circle of plastic in the bottom of the basket will create a small reservoir and help to retain moisture.

5. Then, you can start to fill your basket with compost. Start by pushing compost into the sides and base and then build up in layers. It’s best to press fairly firmly so your compost doesn’t sink later, but not too hard or your moss lining will start to lose its shape. Continue to fill the basket until the compost is at a point where the plants will be sitting at the right level (just below the top edge of the basket to leave a bit of room for watering). You can sit the plants into the basket to check.


6. Take your plants out of their pots. Carefully tease out some of the roots so they are encouraged to grow outwards into the new compost.

7. Arrange your plants in the basket, check the depth, and then fill around them with more compost.

8. Finish off by watering the basket thoroughly and allowing it to drain.


9. Once your basket is in place, keep it well-watered and deadhead regularly if required.


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