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Winter Hanging Baskets That Will Look Incredible all Season

Maintain a colourful, vibrant garden all through winter

By Daniel Woodley at DIY Gardening

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.

We’ve previously ublushed a guide to creating winter colour but that focused on arger plants and shrubs.

What abut hanging baskets and containers?

Below you’ll find our 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.

A good quality hanging basket should contain three elements:

  1. Tall plants for height.
  2. Colourful plants and foliage to pack out the centre of the basket and create density.
  3. Plants that trail under the basket.

Below you’ll find the best plants for each category:

Vertical Plants

The following plants are ideal for adding 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.

Purple winter flowering heather for baskets
Winter heather

2) Dwarf Conifer

Slow-growing dwarf conifers sit perfectly in large winter hanging baskets, troughs, and containers to add vertical interest.

One plant per large pot or hanging basket is the usual rule.

Most garden centres will 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.

3) Sedge

Sedges are another perennial that performs 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. Gardenia has photos and descriptions of popular sedges here.
Sedge on a pink background

Plants For Packing Out

The following plants are ideal for packing out the centre and top of the hanging basket:

4) Primula (Primroses)

Primroses are often the first sign of spring, but they can come into bloom as early as January during mild winters or in southern areas.

Known for frost resistance and a long flowering time, Primrose is perfect for winter hanging baskets where your goal is to bridge the gap between the end of autumn and the start of spring.

Primrose is also one of the most colourful plants you can add to a hanging basket at this time of year, so include these in your list.

White and yellow primrose
Red and yellow primrose for winter hanging baskets

5) Winter Pansies

No winter hanging basket plant list would be complete without mentioning winter pansies.

While pansies don’t put on much growth during cold spells, they often maintain their blooms, even during periods of snow.

The secret to using pansies is to cram them into the basket as they won’t grow much.

Never grown this winter annual before? This blog post contains everything you need to know about growing winter pansies.

Pansies in winter hanging basket
Purple and yellow winter pansies

6) Violas

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 if the petals.

If you’re torn between the two, put pansies in larger hanging baskets and violas in smaller ones or mix them up.

Read: The difference between violas and pansies.

Blue and white violas
Viola flower

7) Hellebores

Winter-flowering hellebores are an easy to grow, full hardy perennial that produces upward-facing flowers and contrasting green foliage.

Most Hellebores flower in December and January, with a few putting on a show well into February.

They help to bridge the gap between autumn and spring, so add them to your list of the plants for winter hanging baskets.

Hellebores in border
Purple Hellebore

8) Cyclamen

Cyclamen are perfect companion plants for hellebores, snowdrops and crocuses.

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.

Pink Cyclamen
White Cyclamen

9) Heuchera

The ultimate winter foliage award has to go to Heuchera.

There are many varieties to choose from, with red, orange, purple and lime green the most popular.

Heuchera is hardy in the south of the UK and even some sheltered locations further north.

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.

Heuchera for foliage colour in winter
Heuchera for purple foliage colour in winter

10) Crocus

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.

Sprinkle the small bulbs around the edge of the basket, where they may even grow through the liner if it’s soft enough.

Crocus for winter hanging baskets
Winter crocus

Overhanging Trailing Plants

The following plants grow long overhanging trails so 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, there’s little to be worried about, but this popular perennial will require occasional pruning and attention to keep it from smothering other plants.

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.

Creeping Jenny cascading over a pot

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.

Ivy is also easy to divide, and as you only need small plants for hanging baskets, you can easily get two or three plants for each purchased one.

Trailing ivy with a black background
Ivy closeup

Follow These 5 Steps, and You’ll Get Better Winter Hanging Baskets

Here are five simple steps to help you get the most from your winter hanging baskets:

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. 

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) Keep watering the baskets, this is often overlooked by gardeners during the winter, but hanging baskets can dry out quickly.

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, we trawled the internet to find the most beautiful hanging basket brackets, go check them out:

Hanging basket brackets

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.

More From Daniel Woodley:

This guide to creating unique and stunning winter hanging basket plants was created by Daniel Woodley and was last updated in October 2021.

Daniel is a keen gardener who enjoys landscapes and the great outdoors as much as his garden in Surrey.

When not tending to his plants, you’ll find Daniel camping out in Snowdonia, climbing the mountains, and traversing the rivers and streams.

Daniel is also a keen photographer and many of the photos you see on DIY Gardening are taken by him.

Find out more about Daniel Woodley.

Daniel Woodley

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