Creating a beautiful hanging basket packed fill with healthy foliage and bloom used to be something we left to the experts. But today's huge choice of fast growing, incredibly free flowering plants make it easy to create an impressive display that continues right through summer till the first frost. Thanks to developments in modern breeding even a novice gardener can create something spectacular. Here are seven of the best long summer bloomers for hanging basket.
Petunias and Calibrachoas
There is hardly a more failsafe choice for summer pots and baskets than petunias, and these world-famous performers keep on getting better. Modern hybrids are more weather resistant, longer and more prolific flowering than ever before.
Apart from their beauty and endurance, petunias are a first choice for summer baskets because of their ability to perform in hot dry weather. But modern strains are also tolerant of wet weather and their flowers won’t turn to mush after heavy rain, as their predecessors were famous for.
There are new and improved petunia genes at both ends of the cost spectrum. As the lower cost option, seeds and seedling petunias sold in punnets (or as ‘potted colour’) comprise varieties that perform better than ever.
For a little more we can buy one large, multi-branching plant that will quickly fill a large pot or basket, one plant often doing the job of up to ten bedding plants.
These include the original ‘Colourwave’ petunias, the hugely popular Petunia ‘Raspberry Blast’ and its new cousin, ‘Blue Star’, and proven Winners’ ‘Bubble Gum’ petunias.
Calibrachoas are mini petunias with small leaves and small flowers on vigorous basket-perfect plants. The small flowers, just a few centimetres wide are produced in teaming hundreds completely smothering their strong spreading plant.
Pelargonium (aka Ivy geranium)
Classic cascading ivy geraniums come in a range of beautiful colours from snowy white through many shades of pick, purple and red with bright green fleshy leaves. Pelargoniums are famously tolerant of heat and drought, while modern strains provide superior disease resistance. Cascading ivy-leafed varieties are ideal for hanging baskets and window boxes.
Because they are frost tender, pelargoniums are best treated as annuals in cold climates. In any climate, buying new plants each year guarantees best flowering.
Today's impatiens have left behind their straggly habits of yesteryear and while they are still an ideal choice for shadier locations, some of them can be grown in full sun. Fantastic for all kinds of containers, the modern impatiens strains are compact, free flowering plants in a wide choice of bright colours.
With some wonderful trailing forms and mass displays of pretty flowers, today's verbenas make better pot subjects than their forebears. This is due largely to vastly improved disease resistance, as ongoing breeding programmes continually improve garden performance. Look out for the colourful ‘Superbena’ series and the ‘Voodoo’ verbenas. These heat tolerant and mildew resistant plants come in a range of beautiful colours and respond well to trimming, while their ability to ‘self clean’ means they stay looking tidy between trims.
With dainty leaves and flowers in shades of lavender, blue, pink and white, the lobelias are classic basket fillers, at their best in the company of larger flowered petunias, verbenas, fuchsias and ivy pelargoniums. Modern strains like this summers new ‘Lavender Blush’ cascade beautifully and handle hot conditions well.
Prolific flowering is rare among shade loving plants, but fuchsias produce masses of dainty flowers all summer long. They look great from below, so are ideal for hanging baskets. Choose varieties with a spreading habit, such as the ‘Shadow Dancer’ range for baskets. Fuchsias are best in part shade and need regular watering. The more sun they get, the more water they will need. Liquid feed once a week to boost flowering.
These naturally trailing perennials, also known as ‘fan flowers’ smother themselves in bloom. The hot Rox Scaevola series includes ‘Topaz Pink’, ’Amethyst’, and new ‘Suntastic’ in pretty lemon yellow.
Checklist for healthy baskets
Start with strong, healthy young plants.
Use a top quality hanging basket or container mix, ideal one that contains a wetting agent and slow release fertiliser.
Choose a larger sized basket which will hold the moisture for longer. Small baskets dry out too quickly.
Hang baskets where they have shelter from drying winds.
Regular watering is essential – maybe up to three times daily in hot weather.
A trickle watering system is helpful where you have lots of baskets in one area.
If plants wilt, soak the entire basket in tub of water until bubbles stop rising.
Liquid feed fortnightly with a balanced plant food.
Deadhead spent flowers or fruit and remove diseased or overcrowded plants.
Lightly trim vigorous plants to keep them in check.