Hanging baskets are great for brightening up your outdoor space. You can use all kinds of plants, so it's easy to create interesting and colourful displays.
Choosing your basket and liner
Hanging baskets come in a whole range of styles. Traditionally you can use plastic-coated wire or wicker baskets, but increasingly popular are solid-sided baskets in terracotta, ceramic and even polished steel that have built-in water reservoirs and are ideal for hot, exposed conditions.
Lining your basket will help keep moisture in and stop compost from falling out. The traditional lining material is sphagnum moss, which is farmed specially for this purpose (so don't collect it from the wild). However, a lot of gardeners prefer to use other materials such as coco fibre. Alternatively there are purpose-made options such as thick, felt-like liners made from recycled fibres and solid liners which, with care, should last for several seasons. If you use a solid liner, make sure it's deep enough for your chosen basket.
Choosing your plants
You can use almost any small plant for a hanging basket, as long as it doesn't outgrow its container.
Young small shrubs
You can plant evergreen Hebes in hanging baskets to give a splash of colour throughout the winter, and then replant them in pots for the garden in Spring.
Keep herbs such as basil and thyme handy for cooking, by hanging them near your kitchen door.
The trailing varieties are perfect for hanging baskets.
Like tomatoes, these are an interesting (and edible) addition to your hanging garden.
Spring and summer bedding plants
These are the most popular plants for hanging baskets. You can also plant them along with bulbs.
When to plant
Late spring is the best time to plant summer bedding plants in baskets and planters. This gives them a few weeks to establish themselves and will give an instant impact when you hang them up outdoors.
It's a good idea to keep your plants somewhere frost-free until it's safe to move them outdoors. If this isn't possible wait until there's no risk of frost before planting them. If your plants aren't tender it should be fine to plant them mid-spring, when they'll start to grow properly.
If you are looking for a winter display the time to plant these is early autumn - around the same time as spring-flowering bulbs.
How to plant and put up your hanging basket
Place a liner in your basket and half-fill it with compost - a specialist moisture-retaining compost is best. Then add moisture control gel and slow-release fertiliser to help keep your plants moist and nourished throughout the season.
For the sides of your basket, gently push the roots of trailing plants through the liner, and firm them into the compost. Do this all the way round the outside of the basket, and add a little more compost.
Arrange the remaining plants in the top of the basket: one in the middle and the rest around the edge. Firm more compost around the root balls, keeping the final level a few centimetres below the top of the basket, to allow room for watering. Then water your plants well.
Mark the fixing holes in pencil and check they're vertical with a spirit level. Make sure you drill into the brick, not the mortar.
Insert the right-sized plug for the hole and screws. Then fix the bracket to the wall and check it's firmly attached.
Hang your basket from the bracket by its chains, then water it thoroughly.
Caring for your hanging basket
If you want successful hanging baskets, you'll need to water and feed them regularly.
Even with the help of water-retaining granules in the compost, hanging baskets dry out very quickly. Try to water them at least daily, if not twice a day during the height of summer.
Feeding is equally important. As the average planter or basket contains only a small amount of compost compared with the amount of plant growth it supports, the nutrients will quickly become depleted.
Slow-release fertiliser comes in granules, sticks and nuggets that you can easily push into the compost. It's wise to supplement this with regular liquid feeds, which will give your plants an instant boost. And as with all annuals and perennials, regular deadheading will make your plants flower for longer - so aim to do this every week.