The bad news: There is a fairly limited range of flowering plants for the winter months. Especially plants that are suitable for hanging baskets and tubs.
The good news: I have compiled the following list of plants that will look great, even during the coldest and darkest of days of winter.
Prepare your winter hanging basket
Basket lining: As with Summer displays, line your basket with a fibrous fleece. A coir-based liner is ideal. This will not only insulate your plant’s roots, but also stop the gritty growing medium from being washed away. In addition, add an extra inner lining of wet newspaper to protect roots from frost damage.
Reservoir: Place a saucer in the base of the hanging basket to act as a reservoir. Add broken pottery around the saucer to further aid drainage before pouring in the growing medium.
The growing medium: The key to success with a winter hanging basket really comes down to one thing: Good drainage. You will need to ensure that your growing media is loose and free draining. This can be achieved by using a high-quality multi-purpose compost with plenty of grit. I like to use a John Innes, soil-based compost for my winter baskets. This growing medium will drain well and water will absorb quickly, rather than run off. Add a little slow release feed to your mix.
Plants for winter hanging basket
1. Winter Pansies
A very reliable favourite for winter displays such as tubs, borders and hanging baskets. Winter Pansies will flower non-stop for months on end. You will need to remove spent flowers (deadhead) on a regular basis to encourage a succession of flowers. You can even rejuvenate your Pansies by cutting them back once they become straggly and limp. Most varieties should flower from October, right the way through into the spring.
Tip: Plants don’t grow very fast during winter.To get the best effect, you will need to pack each plant closely together.
2. Trailing Ivy – Hedera
Ivy is great for bulking out foliage and adding the ‘hang’ to your winter hanging baskets. This can be especially effective when planted in the sides of a hanging basket. This will provide a fresh Summer feel to any winter display. You should be able to buy pots or plugs of ivy from your local garden centre. Ivy is also very easy to establish from cuttings. When planting, select larger plants as Ivy is slow growing. I’d recommend growing your ivy on pots during summer to get as much of a head start as possible. Ivy is a hardy shrub, so don’t forget to keep your plants for next winter’s display.
3. Hardy Primroses
Primroses are winter-hardy. They will yield a brilliant splash of colour in the coldest months. Try Primrose Huskey Mixed for extra hardiness. Primroses are non-trailing, nor do they grow very tall. To make an interesting display, try planting them in the sides of your hanging basket. You could even create a ‘ball of colour’ by filling every spare gap with Primroses. A very effective approach.
There is something almost fairytale-like about this flowering perennial. A personal favourite of mine. Cyclamen produce pink, red and white flame-like flowers. These are accompanied by highly patterned, ivy-shaped leaves. Cyclamen do prefer shade and can be planted out in the borders after the hanging baskets are finished. Ensure that you choose a good hardy variety.
5. Winter Bulbs
Snowdrops can be used in baskets and tubs for early colour. For later winter blooms, try Tulips, Daffodils, Crocuses and Irises. Once your basket has finished, you can plant out the bulbs in your borders. You may have some success from side planting, but most winter bulbs prefer to grow upwards!
Winter Gardening advice – highlights
- Don’t over feed your winter plants. They will yeild only a modest amount of growth through this season.
- Ensure that your soil or compost is free draining. You don’t want it to become too wet and freeze, leading to root damage. This can be achieved by adding plenty of grit into the mix.
- Heavily line your winter hanging baskets to protect roots and retain growing medium.
- Pack your plants much closer together than your would with summer display. Your plants will grow modestly, so avoid gaps.
I have also written several related articles on the subject of winter gardening which you might find helpful: