Winter Hanging Baskets That Will Look Incredible all Season
At DIY Gardening, we independently research, combine and thoroughly enjoy growing plants. If you buy something via links, we may earn a commission. Learn how we select and test plants and products here.
Winter doesn’t have to be dull and lifeless; there are plenty of plants that will put on a good show all the way through to spring and beyond.
I’ve previously published a guide to creating winter colour but that focused on larger plants and shrubs.
What about hanging baskets and containers?
Below you’ll find my guide to creating colourful and vibrant winter hanging baskets that will:
- Resist frost.
- Look incredible.
- Produce bright flowers and colourful foliage.
- Grow long swaying trails.
I put out winter hanging baskets every year and in my opinion, a good quality hanging basket should contain three elements:
- Tall plants for height.
- Colourful plants and foliage to pack out the centre of the basket and create density.
- Plants that trail under the basket.
Below you’ll find the best plants for each category:
Vertical Plants For Baskets
I’ve had success using the following plants to add vertical interest:
1) Winter-flowering Heather
Heather has been used in pots and containers to add a much-needed dash of winter colour for as long as I can remember.
Red, white or purple blooms grow around small woody stems that reach a height of between 15-20cm, making them perfect for the tops of hanging baskets.
Try Erica carnea “Corinna” or similar, I’ve had success with both.
2) Dwarf Conifer
Although they were only good for one season and I had to pot them on in the spring, I really liked the look of dwarf conifers in my baskets.
I suggest one plant per large pot or hanging basket as a usual rule.
Most of the garden centres in my area have a selection of dwarf conifers on display from late autumn winter and into the winter.
Not sure which conifer is best? Try Pyracantha’s guide to dwarf conifers.
Sedges are another perennial that I’ve found performing well in mixed winter hanging baskets where their arching blades add vertical interest and colour contrast.
As winter turns into spring, you can transplant sedges into borders or large pots.
Another option is to swap the sedge for ornamental grass, as this will create the same effect in the hanging basket.
Plants For Packing Out The Hanging Baskets
These are the plants I use for packing out the centre and top of the hanging basket. They usually retain their colour throughout most of the winter:
4) Primula (Primroses)
Primroses are often the first sign of spring, but I’ve seen them come into bloom as early as January in my garden during mild winters.
Known for frost resistance and a long flowering time, Primrose is perfect for winter hanging baskets where my goal is to bridge the gap between the end of autumn and the start of spring.
Primrose is also one of the most colourful and vibrant plants you can add to a hanging basket at this time of year, and I’ve had neighbours and visitors commenting on how vibrant my garden looks for the the time of year.
5) Winter Pansies
No winter hanging basket plant list would be complete without mentioning winter pansies.
I’ve noticed that in my garden, the pansies don’t put on much growth during cold spells, but they often maintain their blooms, even during periods of snow.
My tip is to cram them into the basket, as they won’t grow much in the winter.
Never grown this winter annual before? This blog post contains everything you need to know about growing winter pansies.
Violas are similar to pansies, but there are a couple of differences; most notably, violas usually have smaller but more numerous blooms, while pansies have fewer but larger flowers.
The leaves on pansies are also slightly larger and there’s a slight difference in the position of the petals.
If you’re torn between the two, do what I do, mix them up a bit. I usually put pansies in larger hanging baskets and violas in smaller ones, but sometimes, I just mix them up.
Winter-flowering hellebores are an easy to grow, full hardy perennial that produces upward-facing flowers and contrasting green foliage.
The Hellebores in my garden usually flower from late December and early January into February and late March.
I use them help to bridge the gap between autumn and spring, so add them to your list of the plants for winter hanging baskets.
The distinct fragrance complements the exquisite and delicate flowers.
Typically grown in drifts where they can naturalise, they are adaptable enough to thrive in hanging baskets and containers and thus make perfect winter flowering plants. I’ve been using these in winter baskets for the last three years, and they look lovely.
If I had to choose one plant for its foliage, it would be Heuchera, I have several in pots and they maintain their colour all winter.
There are many varieties to choose from, with red, orange, purple and lime green being the most popular.
Heuchera is hardy in the south of the UK and even some sheltered locations further north. I’ve never had issues growing it in my Surrey garden.
If you want to add colourful and eye-catching foliage to your winter hanging basket, consider Heuchera, which can be packed into the top of the basket.
See: Heuchera photo gallery.
Crocus is an early flowering bulbous plant that blooms from early spring and, during mild winters, will shoot up even earlier.
The delicate but colourful flowers sit atop short stems, and this plant is typically grown in clusters or drifts, where it adds colour and early spring interest to winter hanging baskets.
I’ve sprinkled the bulbs randomly into the basket compost and they looked delightful when they popped up.
Overhanging Trailing Plants For Winter Hanging Baskets
The following plants grow long overhanging trails so I use them to add depth to the hanging basket:
11) Creeping Jenny
Creeping Jenny is best known for its wandering stems that, if left unchecked, can create an overwhelming carpet of glossy green foliage.
Thankfully, when grown in a basket or pot for winter interest, they don’t wander and just trail, as I can attest to as I’ve grown them in the past.
The long trails of Creeping Jenny can drop several feet, so if it’s depth you’re looking for, this is the plant for you.
12) Trailing Ivy
Ivy can either replace or complement Creeping Jenny as the trails reach roughly the same distance from the hanging basket.
Consider variegated ivy as it grows slowly, and the two-tone leaves add interest and colour.
I’ve found that ivy is easy to divide, so I get two or three plants from just one purchased in the garden centre.
I’ve found that ivy is good for one season in a basket, after which it chokes out delicate plants and should be divided or moved elsewhere.
Follow These 5 Steps, and You’ll Get Better Winter Hanging Baskets
I’ve been growing winter hanging baskets for years, and here’s a few tips, based on my experience:
1) Choose a large basket as bigger really is better. The more plants you can fit in there, the better it will look. Smaller baskets aren’t big enough to squeeze in the three types of plants needed to create height, depth and density.
2) Cram the plants in the basket as much as you can as, unlike summer plants for hanging baskets, they won’t put on much growth in the winter and certainly not enough to fill large voids. When I pulled out my plants in the spring, the roots had hardly grown at all so feel free to cram them in.
3) If possible, choose a sunny spot away from the wind, but if that’s not possible, put perennials in the shade/wind and annuals in the sun/shelter as much as is realistically possible.
4) My hanging baskets were sheltered under the roof overhang, and the compost dried out in the winter. As I wasn’t in the garden so much, I simply forgot to water them. Don’t forget to keep the soil moist.
5) Drainage is vital. If your basket doesn’t have anywhere for the water to go, it will become a colossal ice bloc in the winter, and the plants’ roots will die. Ideally, plastic baskets should have holes in the base, but a coir or moss liner inside a metal-framed basket would be a better option.
Make a Statement With These Hanging Basket Brackets
While winter hanging basket plants can make a statement, the basket and bracket can add style.
In 2021, I trawled the internet to find the most beautiful hanging basket brackets, go check them out:
The Best Compost and Soil Mixes for Winter Hanging Baskets
While putting compost into a basket or pot isn’t rocket science, there are ways you can improve drainage, moisture retention, airflow and rooting, so the winter plants grow to their full potential.
If you’re new to growing hanging baskets, start with this quick guide from our blog.
As a general guide, moss is the perfect liner for winter hanging baskets as it insulates from frost, helps drainage and airflow, and the roots of the plants can grow in it; it also looks more natural than plastic or coir.
Multi-purpose compost works well in all hanging baskets, but you can add some grit to further help with drainage.
Meet The Author: Hannah Miller
Hannah is a former NHS administrator, mother of two and keen qualified gardener who loves growing new plants and experimenting in the garden.
She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.
This year is all about pollinators, and Hannah has set herself the goal of only buying new plants that attract pollinators; she aims to make the garden as bee and butterfly friendly as possible.
Explore More of Our Content Below:
15 Eye-Catching Trailing Plants
Make a statement in your hanging baskets, containers and troughs by growing one of these delightful trailing plants handpicked by Hannah at DIY Gardening. Start Here
Garden Plants For North-Facing Gardens
A shaded north-facing garden doesn’t mean you have to miss out on beautiful plants, explore our guide to plants for shaded gardens. Start Here
How to Grow Winter Pansies
Everything you need to know about growing winter pansies is in this complete guide. Maintain a colourful garden all the way through winter with this versatile annual that thrives in cooler weather.