How to plant a summer hanging basket that will bloom brightly in even the smallest garden

The gardening experts reveal their top tips for planting a summer hanging basket

A summer hanging basket with pink flowers hung against a black painted wooden building to support a guide on how to plant a hanging basket
(Image credit: Getty Images | Alan Lagadu)

It doesn't matter how big or small your garden is, a summer hanging basket is the perfect way to brighten up your outdoor space this season – but you need to learn how to plant one like a professional if you want yours to be the envy of all your neighbours. 

Traditionally associated with cottage gardens, you'd be forgiven for thinking that a summer hanging basket isn't for you. Here's the thing, though; they can work just as well in a modern garden, so long as you stay true to your personal style.

From edimentals to ornamentals, the trick is to pack your planting scheme full of alluring plants that provide a kaleidoscope of colour at eye level.

Just as you need to learn how to prune roses, though, there are more than a few technical things to bear in mind when you set to work prepping your summer basket – from prepping your compost and liner to selecting the container itself. 

How to plant a hanging basket for summer: an expert guide

"Hanging baskets are a great way to add more colourful plants to your garden, and are especially good for small spaces," says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries. 

When selecting your summer hanging basket, Morris points out that "there are many styles available, whether they're made from wood, wicker or metal".

Remember that The basket is only meant to be a receptacle to hold the compost and the roots; it should usually be camouflaged by all of the beautiful flowers and foliage spilling over the sides, so you don't have to buy anything too ornate. 

"Whichever you have, though, make sure the hanging basket can drain water easily before adding any compost," says Morris.

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex. 

While some hanging baskets come pre-lined, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) advises that "if you are using a standard wire basket, it will need to be lined". 

"You can buy ready-made cardboard liners and fibrous materials sold for the purpose," they continue, "but a thrifty option is to collect moss from your lawn."

What you will need

Just as the same is true of mowing your lawn or any other gardening job, the successful planting of a summer hanging basket is all down to securing the right tools ahead of the job.

To that end, then, you will need:

  • Suitable basket
  • A liner
  • A peat-free compost
  • A selection of plants (more on that later)

Step-by-step guide

If you want to know how to plant a summer hanging  basket, we have good news for you: it's actually one of those easy gardening tasks that won't take up too much of your time (or require all that much skill), so long as you follow a few simple steps...

1. Prep your basket

person preparing a hanging basket with a trowel adding compost to a liner as the first step of how to plant a summer hanging basket

(Image credit: Getty Images | Revel Pix)

Once you've selected your hanging basket (and made sure it has plenty of drainage), Morris suggests that you stand the basket on a bin or pot to keep it steady. Add a liner if it doesn't feature one already.

"If you would like plants to grow not just from the top, but out of the sides as well and you have a coir, jute or moss lining, make some holes in the sides before adding some peat free multipurpose compost," says Morris. 

2. Choose your plants

There are so many options when it comes to planting up your summer hanging basket, although seasonal annuals (aka summer bedding plants) are considered traditional.

Morris is particularly fond of:

  • Trailing petunias
  • Lobelia
  • Surfinias
  • Calibrachoa
  • Begonias
  • Fuchsia
  • Nemesia
  • Bacopa

"If you want an edible display, try planting up salad leaves, radishes, spring onions, nasturtiums, and tumbling tomatoes," adds Morris. "Strawberries can be grown alongside herbs such as basil, parsley, chives and many more, too!"

Whatever you choose, opt for a mix of complimentary colours – and don't forget that trailing vines, such as ivy or creeping jenny, can add a nice dimension to the basket, too.

3. Get planting

Now comes the fun bit: planting up your summer hanging basket!

"Place your plants in the top and around the sides, pressing the compost down firmly around the plants," says Morris, who notes that, while most compost will be full of nutrients, you can also add some slow release fertiliser if needed. 

"When all of the plants are in position, fill in around them with compost so the final compost level is just slightly below the rim of the basket."

4. Give it a drink

yellow watering can watering a hanging basket with yellow flowers

(Image credit: Getty Images | Jason Doiy)

Water your summer hanging basket slowly but thoroughly, using a watering can with a fine rose to prevent the soil being disturbed.

Then, you can hang it up wherever you'd like to display it – so long as all risk of frosts have passed.

5. And don't forget the TLC

While your summer hanging basket should require very little maintenance to keep it thriving, Morris says it's still important to show it some TLC.

"Hanging baskets will likely dry out quickly, especially in hot weather, so make sure they are watered frequently and apply a feed if needed to prolong flowering such as a seaweed liquid feed diluted in water."

You will also need to deadhead flowers as and when needed. 


What month do you plant hanging baskets?

If you're not sure when to plant your summer hanging basket, experts at the RHS advise getting to work from late April onwards – although they will likely need to be kept in a greenhouse until late May/early June, when all risk of frost has passed.

As such, it's probably easier to plant yours up in June, so you don't have to worry about any sneaky cold snaps.

How many plants should you put in a hanging basket?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your summer hanging basket is cramming it with too many plants. 

To avoid this, it's best to plant one plug per every 1-2 inches of your basket to fill it out well (or one larger plants every 3-4 inches).

How do you plant up a summer hanging basket?

If you want your summer hanging basket to look fuller, it's a good idea to create planting holes in the sides of your basket. You'll want them at varying heights, at least 10cm up from the base, so that you can wrap newspaper around the rootballs of your plants and pop them into the holes.

Add a little extra compost to cover the roots, gently firm it down, and voila! All that's left to do is fill the top of your basket with plugs and larger plants, taking care not to overcrowd the container.

Now that you know how to plant a summer hanging basket, the world is your oyster – just be sure to empty yours out when the season ends so that you can transform it into a stunning winter display between September and November.

Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is an experienced writer and editor within the world of digital journalism. She kicked off her career in magazines with Cosmopolitan as a news writer. Kayleigh then went on to become part of the digital editorial team at Closer, before a successful seven-year stint at Stylist, where she took command as the site’s editor and editor-at-large.

Nowadays, Kayleigh can be found freelancing for a myriad of titles including Woman & Home, along with a role at Ideal Home where she waxes lyrical about her true love: gardening. She is currently giving her own backyard a woodland-inspired makeover – and there have been whispers of a vegetable plot, too.