Growing Summer Hanging Baskets

We’re sharing our experience from start to finish including which plants, compost and fertiliser we have included.

Our local pub was looking for big, bright and beautiful displays to spread around their outdoor dining areas and we love to partake in new projects so we made up a bunch of hanging baskets using a mix of trailing, spreading and upright plants that would give good variation and interest. We chose colours that would compliment each other and create good contrast.  

Starting seeds indoors

If your short for space you may have to sacrifice a sofa or desk from your front room to fit in your seed set up!

If you can afford it, investing in a good quality heated propagator with a lid is ideal. I used a table with a heat mat positioned next to a sunny window. Underneath the table I had a low voltage grow light hanging from the centre and another heat mat on the floor, giving us double the grow space.

Seed Set up

We started early in February with trailing, upright and bush varieties of Petunia so we would hopefully have a huge selection when the time came to pot up the baskets later in Spring. Included were bright purple variety ‘Purple Velvet’, Soft yellow ‘Prism Sunshine’ and mixed colours of the ‘Merlin’ series. These are relatively easy to grow but the seeds are very tiny and need to be sown with care! We only cover them lightly with coco coir dust and keep moist, using a fine mist sprayer until they’re a bit bigger.

Waiting for signs of life under the table

Below is a terrible example of seed sowing! Less effort in the beginning results in more effort later! But that’s a lesson learnt.

Petunia seedlings after a couple weeks

As soon as the seedling grew their true leaves, they were pricked out, potted on and moved into simple propagators with lids into the Polytunnel. At this point we were getting minus 0c temperatures so the mini environment created by the propagators was essential to keep the seedling surviving through to Spring.

The lids are removed here and there to allow the plants to breath fresh air and as the weather warmed in late March, the lids are no longer needed.
Healthy young plants at 10 weeks old
Trailing Petunia ‘Purple Velvet’ at 12 weeks old

The plants have now made strong roots and are ready to be planted into the baskets!

Compost

The Master Gardener Sharon showing me how its done

We went for a mix of good quality multi purpose that has a light sandy soil which we mixed with some slow release Fertiliser in the form of chicken pellets and some perlite for aeration.

Drainage holes were put in the lower sides of our container as apposed to at the bottom and this means that it will hold some moisture at the very bottom making it harder for the baskets to completely dry out in hot weather.

If your lucky enough to have an experienced gardener there to give you advice and guidance then you will know that planting in odd numbers is essential if you want an even looking basket!

After one week the baskets have settled in nicely and ready to go outside first week of May
After being hardened off, the baskets are ready to go down the pub where they will continue to grow and provide colour until the Autumn.

Plants we used

Petunia prism ‘Sunshine’

We grew many different petunias for their qualities such as ‘Prism Sunshine’ for their upright habit, great for the centre of the display although it was the first time growing this colour and it much much paler than expected. Being called ‘Sunshine i hoped for a bolder shade. Petunia ‘Purple Velvet’ for its bright colour and proven ability to trail 2-3 feet over the edge of containers!

Petunia ‘Purple Velvet’

Geraniums

Geraniums in pink and Red for their height and bright colours, fairly easy to grow from seed and not as fiddley as Petunias, better grown under heat earlier the better and can be planted directly into small cell trays making it easier when it comes to potting up.

We decided to include some double flowering annual Fuchsia from another local nursery for their huge, beautiful blooms that will droop over the edges and peep out between the floating petunias! They are expensive to buy so we bought them as small plug plants as soon they became available in February and stored them in the polytunnel making them much more affordable.

For filling in the gaps we used Bacopa which can be sown from seed in early spring and Creeping Jenny which we cut and grow on from a mother plant growing around a dead tree trunk base where it thrives naturally. It is best used in clumps and will trail very nicely.

Creeping Jenny spreads across the ground and re roots itself. clumps can be dug up and potted on in February giving them a change to grow a bit before going in the baskets.

How did they perform?

Now we’re well into autumn, I’m keen to show you just how well our first hanging basket project went.

Ten baskets went down to our local pub where they were hooked up to a watering system to ensure they would not go thirsty.

29th June 2019

As you can see the plants really took off once in their final positions and by mid summer they were in full bloom! The Petunias had more or less taken over the display with other bits just poking out here and there.

More or less hidden from June to October, but as soon as the Petunias started dying back in late September they were cut back and the Geraniums, Creeping Jenny and the Bacopa reappeared making a nice display, filling in the gaps and providing colour in early Autumn, soon to be replaced by winter flowering baskets!

We also filled in lots of planters to go alongside our hanging blooms. Using the same petunias but also mixed up with bold Dahlias and bushy Impatients.

Some Lessons Learnt

I kept a few of the baskets myself and did NOT prune or deadhead the Petunias at all throughout summer as I wanted to see how they would compare and in all honestly I think letting them go, gave a better overall result! Overall, they looked much more even and full, though less flowers, they had a much greener, wilder look.

One basket we kept for ourselves, brightening up a very grey, mid summer day

Too many plants or not enough plants. If you have big spaces, it’s never to late to fill it in gaps, but putting too many plants (or too many of the same plant) can overcrowd the contaiener, plants will suffer and can look messy all fighting for space, and some plants might get stuck in the undergrowth!

Fertilise. Even though I added slow release on planting day, I gave the baskets some feed maybe once a month through summer to give them a boost! I used a general tomato feed on those at the pub and a special brew of Comfrey tea for my own! Which overall did perform better. (and that’s with no pruning and weather dependant watering!)

Rotate. You can help your baskets grow evenly and maintain a balanced look about them by rotating them round to give the other side a bit of sun! We did not do this at the pub as they were secured in place (due to previous theft!) for the whole season. They were quite uneven by the end! We though this added to the natural cottage garden theme anyway.. Although next year I think I will rotate!

No Sun on the side, leaves it looking a little bare
June 15

Petunias can rot easily if they are over watered which can really attract slugs and snails! If you have the time its worth removing these hungry pests from the container before they eat the lot!

Purple Velvet Petunia trails well into October.

Since we’re well into Autumn we are now planting up winter baskets to replace those sad looking summer ones!

We hope this inspires others to have a go at growing their own Summer Hanging Basket displays!

For more photos of our projects visit our Pinterest Page

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