Choose the best trailing plants for hanging baskets to create a cascading, romantic effect.
Trailing plants are some of the best plants for hanging baskets, and should always be included when deciding how to plant a hanging basket – otherwise your focus will be on the side of the container rather than on the plants.
They are also wonderful cottage garden ideas, offering a charming feel as they tumble over the side of the baskets, adding interest to the vertical space.
Trailing plants make up one of the three core elements of hanging basket design – thriller, spiller and filler. In order for a hanging basket to be successful, it should have plants 'spilling' out over the sides, along with statement 'thriller' plants and more subtle 'filler varieties.
Although, trailing plants can be used on their own to create a stunningly simple hanging basket.
Best trailing plants for hanging baskets
The best trailing plants for hanging baskets will always be those that are suited to their position and your local climate.
To avoid a common hanging basket mistake, make sure you check your area's USDA plant hardiness zone, and choose trailing plants that will grow well in your location. However, some perennial plants may be grown as annuals in colder climates, or brought indoors over winter.
Ensure you provide the right conditions for your chosen trailing plants for hanging baskets by observing whether the plants require full sun or partial shade. Only combine them with other plants that thrive in the same conditions.
Remember that hanging baskets are not just for the summer. As well as evergreen varieties, there are some wonderful winter hanging basket ideas to brighten up your garden in the coldest months of year.
1. Black-eyed Susan vine
‘The black-eyed Susan vine is a great quick-growing option when looking to fill a hanging basket in the yard, on a porch or even a sunny balcony,’ says Rebecca Sears, chief gardening guru for heritage seed and plant brand Ferry Morse.
The vine is known for its impressive climbing and lively orange, yellow, buff or white blossoms with dark centers.
‘An added bonus is that it will attract butterflies to your space throughout its bloom from summer well into fall.’
This tender perennial is usually grown as an annual, though you could overwinter it in a greenhouse. It needs full sun in order to thrive.
‘English ivy is a simple, solid choice for hanging baskets, offering lush green and shiny foliage whether indoors or outdoors,’ says Marjory Wildcraft, founder of The Grow Network.
‘It’s nice looking but also doesn’t demand attention – perfect for complementing an existing garden or room aesthetic.’
Happily, ivy is easy to care for: ‘Just don’t overwater it or give it too much sunlight – it doesn’t need much of either.'
However, don't let it spread beyond your baskets to walls and trees, as ivy can be invasive and damage other plants.
Though there are more upright varieties of lobelia available, it is the trailing species that make stunning additions to hanging baskets.
‘Lobelia is a nice blooming trailing option that is commonly available in both purple or white,’ says Lisa Whittlesey, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
The plants are native to South Africa, and are half-hardy annuals, but are easy to grow from seed if you get a head start on planning your hanging basket.
If you like the idea of an edible trailing hanging basket, then strawberries are ideal. ‘Strawberries make a decent bid for the perfect hanging basket crop,’ says Alex Mitchell, author of Crops in Tight Spots.
One of the main issues when deciding how to grow strawberries in the ground, is protecting them from slugs and snails. So growing them in hanging baskets solves the problem.
‘To have strawberries to pick for as long as possible, why not grow three hanging baskets each planted with varieties that ripen at different times throughout the summer?’ adds Mitchell.
Feed hanging basket strawberries with tomato feed fortnightly once fruits start to form. Make sure you know how to winterize strawberry plants to keep them coming back.
5. Creeping Jenny
‘Creeping jenny is a great trailing plant that will spill out of the basket with an abundance of lovely lime green foliage,’ says Whittlesey.
It’s also a perennial evergreen plant, adding a splash of color to the garden year round. Though grown for its luscious foliage, the plant also produces small yellow flowers.
Grow creeping Jenny in full sun or partial shade. It is quick growing, and when planted in the garden can take over, so keep it in shape with a yearly prune.
If you want to add to your vegetable container garden ideas, then tomatoes are one of the best trailing plants for hanging baskets.
You need to choose a suitable trailing cherry variety, such as Tumbling Tom, Tumbler, Cherry Falls or Gartenperle.
When growing tomatoes in a hanging basket, plant them up in the same fashion as non-edible plants, but feed weekly with liquid tomato food.
'They will soon be laden with fruit, quickly filling the container and trailing prettily over the sides,' says Mitchell. 'They are also much easier to grow than cordon or vine types since you don’t have to take out the sideshoots, simply keep them watered and fed.'
Other suitable crops for hanging baskets include raspberries, herbs and baby salad leaves.
7. Tradescantia zebrina
'Tradescantia zebrina plants add a fun pop of color to your hanging basket, with a vibrant purple color striped with shimmery silver,' says Erinn Witz, co-founder of Seeds & Spades.
Not only are these striking plants evergreen, but they are also capable of flowering at any time of the year.
Tradescantia zebrina prefer a sheltered spot, which makes them one of the best trailing plants for hanging baskets, and they are also very easy to care for.
'Put your plant in bright, indirect sunlight, and water when the top 2-3 inches of soil feel dry when you insert your finger into the soil,' adds Witz.
'Fertilize twice monthly during the spring and summer months.'
With their exotic-looking flowers, fuchsias are one of the absolute best trailing plants for hanging baskets.
'Alluring flowers bloom through the summer from these fascinating plants,' says says Nikita, founder of Mit City Farm. 'Fuchsias have wonderful trailing varieties like 'Purple Rain' or 'White King' that fill a basket easily with beautiful blooms.
'If you are uncertain of which particular variety to choose then pre-selected mixes are also available like the Fuchsia 'Gian Flowered Collection' with some really splendid flowers.'
Fuchsias are semi-hardy, tough hanging basket plants that can be placed in a frost free area during winters and will grow again the next year. In cold climates you will need to know how to overwinter fuchsias.
9. Trailing geraniums
Trailing geraniums, such as ivy leaf varieties, are perfect for hanging baskets as they will cascade over the edge of the container, offering a beautiful display of color.
Hardy perennials, geraniums are easy to look after. They are closely related to pelargoniums, which are more tender, so usually grown as annuals. However, they are easy to propagate if you know how to take plant cuttings.
As well as classic red, geraniums are available in a wide range of colors, including white, pink and purple.
Position trailing geraniums in a sunny spot, and keep on top of watering in hot weather.
10. Spider plant
'With a mass of thin leaves, spider plants create a lovely, rounded shape to your hanging basket, and they also produces miniature plantlets that look just like spiders – hence the name!' says Witz
Spider plants are low-maintenance tropical plants that can be grown either outdoors in USDA zones 9-11 or indoors as houseplants to offer a range of spider plant benefits.
'This is a plant that thrives on neglect,' adds Witz. 'Water once the top 2-3 inches of soil is dried out, and place your plant in bright, indirect light. If all you have is partial shade, your spider plant will grow more slowly but still look great.'
Fertilize 1-2 times per month during the spring and summer.
'Petunias are beautiful annuals that are widely available in white, yellow, pink, purple, and red selections,' says Whittlesey. 'They are also available as both single and double petal types.'
Petunias are tender plants, so they are not at all frost tolerant. You can grow your own from seed, or invest in plug plants – but make sure you choose a trailing, rather than upright, variety.
While these joyful flowers are not difficult to care for, you do need to know how to deadhead petunias to maximize blooms.
They require full sun and fertile potting mix in order to thrive.
12. Burro's tail
For something a bit different, try a succulent such as burro's tail, which has distinctive trailing stems that are best displayed in a hanging basket.
'Burros tail is a vining succulent that requires very little maintenance,' says Nikita.
'It has a sturdy stem that is surrounded by leaves that appear to be braided around it.'
This Mexican native plant thrives in full sun and is drought resistant, so is perfectly happy if you only water them sparingly.
How do you make a trailing hanging basket?
To make a trailing hanging basket, you need to plant the trailing plants around the edge, so that they will grow outwards and spill over the side of the basket.
If you are lining your basket with a liner, made out of natural materials such as coir, then it's a good idea to cut holes in the liner, and insert the plants so that they can grow through them.
Use a sharp knife, and make two tiers of holes in larger baskets. Fill the compost up to the bottom of the holes and then gently insert the plants. Firmly pack in compost around them to ensure they stay safely in place. You can then plant up the top layer of your hanging basket.
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As editor of Period Living, Britain's best-selling period homes magazine, Melanie loves the charm of older properties. I live in a rural village just outside the Cotswolds in England, so am lucky to be surrounded by beautiful homes and countryside, where I enjoy exploring. Having worked in the industry for almost two decades, Melanie is interested in all aspects of homes and gardens. Her previous roles include working on Real Homes and Homebuilding & Renovating, and she has also contributed to Gardening Etc. She has an English degree and has also studied interior design. Melanie frequently writes for Homes & Gardens about property restoration and gardening.
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