Falling snow, crackling fires, and hot cocoas – winters are typically a favorite time of year for many; however, it can be a time of doom and gloom for your garden as many flowering plants fail to do well or simply die, leaving the garden colorless. Adding winter hanging plants is a surefire way to add color and flamboyance to your space. You can use a hanging basket stand to add height and extra deep baskets to allow for better growth.
Of course, the first plants that come to mind are evergreens. Little conifers and Box look quite nice as an architectural addition to winter hanging baskets and last all year round. But just because we’re moving into winter, that doesn’t mean we have to compromise on the color in our baskets, although of course, our choices will be a little more limited.
There are plenty of flowering winter hanging plants that keep our houses looking beautiful. Here are a few ideas for flowering winter plants to keep your hanging baskets looking as lovely as they do in the summer.
Planting ideas for winter hanging baskets
Outdoor winter hanging baskets are an excellent way to express your creativity and add a splash of color to your outside space. There are several ways in which you can arrange your winter hanging baskets plants. You can choose a color theme and use various plants to create an eye-catching mix of delicate flowers, big blooms, and lush foliage.
One of the best ways to plant your outdoor winter hanging baskets is by combining three different types of plants – trailing plants that add dimension and structure, showy centerpiece plants, and filler plants to fill in the gaps. For instance, evergreens that are bushy like Pernettya, Gaultheria Procumbens’ and Skimmia Rubella make great centerpiece plants. Mix them together with hellebores, dark trailing leaves of Meuhlenbeckia, and a few snowdrops to create a perfect winter hanging basket.
You can also use beautiful foliage plants in your outdoor winter hanging baskets. Hebes, silvery Calocephalus brownii, and hardy sedums give your winter hanging baskets an elegant look. Try combining them with heather and lining the basket with moss to get an eye-catching result.
Another combination that looks especially fabulous is Cyclamen and Variegated Ivy. The trailing pale-hued leaves perfectly complement the vivid pink petals and deep green foliage, giving your winter hanging basket a structural yet romantic look.
What can I put in a winter hanging basket?
You can put a number of plants in a winter hanging basket; however, they must be frost hardy to keep looking their best. Consider a mix of evergreen shrubs like box, ornamental grasses, winter-flowering heathers, trailing evergreens, and flowers like violas, pansies, cyclamen, and hellebore.
While these plants are often not flowering (although some varieties of ivy will and heathers do of course) they make a great addition to any basket, and add architectural interest and variety.
Ivy really has to be the mainstay of trailers for hanging baskets at any time of year, but they can also add some welcome architectural interest to your winter baskets. Variegated types like Hedera add a little interest. Either in the top around the sides, surrounding pansies and polyanthus, or peeking out of holes around the sides of the basket, ivy couldn’t be easier to grow. Don’t forget that some varieties will flower, too.
Increasingly popular in garden center hanging baskets, Box can be an architectural centerpiece and can be trimmed into all sorts of interesting shapes – if you have the time, the patience, and the inclination.
Herbs are also an excellent addition to winter hanging baskets. They not only add color, but you can have fresh herbs close at hand at all times. You can opt for ornamental varieties of sage, whose leaves come in beautiful patterns and colors from dark purple to tricolor. Thyme is another herb that grows well in a hanging basket. You can choose from a wide range of thyme varieties, each with a different taste profile and scent.
Best Plants for Winter Hanging Baskets
There are plenty of plants, many of them flowering, that will go right through the winter and keep your house looking beautiful. Here are a few flowering winter plants that’ll keep your hanging baskets looking as lovely as they do in the summer.
Winter Pansies and Violas
Pansies are a great choice for baskets—they’re hardy enough to survive most of what winter can throw at them. They also come in various colors, which is hard to find with other winter flowering plants. Choose the brighter colored varieties – whites, primroses, yellows, and reds – to brighten dark winter days.
Darker varieties, the deep blues, and purples, won’t show so well without as much light to make them sing. Pansies will be happy in most soils, and follow the sun (much like sunflowers) so place them in a sunny position if you can.
Violas, with alpine genes in their history, are hardier than pansies with smaller flowers but more of them – quantity can make up for quality here. Although perhaps a little less showy, they are less likely to flop over and will also be less affected by windy weather. Dead-head both varieties often through the winter to encourage new blooms.
Primroses (Primula Vulgaris) are native to the UK and Europe, and some more temperate Asian countries. Since they grow in tight-knit clumps, they make a great centerpiece for a winter basket or pot. Try a few different colors with some trailing ivy around the edge for a simple but effective winter basket.
The great thing about cyclamens is that you don’t have to tend to them every minute of the day to keep them in fine fettle. They’ll do pretty well left to their own devices, and let’s face it, who wants to be outside all day looking after baskets in grim winter weather?
Their other great advantage is their colors – deep, bright reds, pinks and purples will bring a welcome splash of color to help you through the driest months of the year. They’ll flower all year round, even through January and February, so they make a great choice for a winter basket.
The polyanthus is, like the primrose, a member of the Primula family. They are resistant to frost, and while they might not flower right through the winter, they’ll be the first flowers in early spring, sometimes before the daffodils. Long-stemmed, they make a great centerpiece for a winter basket with lower-growing violas or winter pansies around them.
Sometimes known as Cape Heath, E. Gracilis is very like heather with magenta and sometimes white flowers. It will flower from early autumn right through to spring, so they can make a great addition to a winter basket. Watch the position and the temperature, though. E. Gracilis isn’t as resistant to frost as some winter flowering plants and may actually have to be brought in on really cold nights.
This is a very early flowering variety, and usually puts out its first flowers in early February. Plant some bulbs in your basket in early autumn at about twice their depth and be surprised by their appearance in the darkest days of winter when it seems as if spring will never come! Colors range from light blue to violet, so will go particularly well with some yellow pansies or primulas.
Heucheras or coral bells are perfect for winter hanging baskets as they come in a multitude of colors. Their evergreen leaves can be either yellow, purple, gold, rose, or traditional green. These plants are low maintenance and can tolerate most climates. You can mix Heucheras with other flowering hanging plants or plant them on their own for a basket with a beautiful leafy look.
Hellebores are a gorgeous winter bloom. They come in striking shades of blush, soft greens, and bright whites, while their attractive, green foliage looks aesthetically appealing. Once established, these plants require minimal care. Be sure to wear gloves when handling these plants, as they are poisonous.
Ornamental cabbages are very easy to grow in winter hanging baskets. They come in beautiful purple, white, and deep green colors with frilly leaves, giving your space a vibrant look. These plants are hardy and can survive very low temperatures.
Snowdrops are an amazing winter plant. They are highly resilient with hard tips that are able to push through frozen soil. Interestingly, their plant cells can remain intact regardless of how cold it gets. Pair them with ivy or plant many snowdrops in one basket to create a striking winter hanging basket.
Ferns have become quite popular in recent years. They’re able to thrive indoors even during winter, keeping your space green and bright in the dead of winter. They need to be kept in a place that gets a little bit of morning sunlight. Ferns also love environments that are high in humidity. They do not have flowers or seeds, and they reproduce by producing spores.
Heather is quite popular among gardeners because of its fabulous blooms. These hardy plants come in beautiful pinks, whites, and purples, making them a great pick for winter hanging baskets. They also quite bee-friendly. Be sure to add some ericaceous compost and see them thrive.
Sedges are a type of ornamental grass that add color and form to your winter hanging basket. They have solid, triangular stems and grasslike leaves arranged in rows of three. The most common type of sedge is the orange New Zealand sedge also called the Carex testacea. However, the best species for hanging basket displays are the Fiwhite which belongs to the Japanese sedge selections.
Crocuses are perennial flowering plants that can survive the harshest winter conditions. Blooming in many colors including white, purple, pink, and yellow, these plants add a splash of color to your baskets. Their unique cup-like shape resembles a tulip, making them truly eye-catching. These easy-to-care-for plants need at least six hours of sunlight and very little water.
Winter irises provide your winter hanging baskets with a flamboyant touch. This plant flowers throughout winter in eye-catching shades of white, purple, and blue to paint your garden with the perfect winter pallet. It is also relatively drought-tolerant and requires very little care.
How many plants should go in a hanging basket?
The number of plants that can go in a hanging basket depends on its size. The bigger your basket, the more plants you can add to it. However, make sure you don’t cram too many plants in the basket and overcrowd it. Also, make sure there aren’t any empty pockets with soil showing in your basket.
Ideally, your wicker basket should have 4 or 5 plants at the top with 5 to 10 bulbs underneath. Adding more plants can adversely affect their growth. However, if you have a bigger basket, then you can add more plants.
When should you plant a winter hanging basket?
The best time to plant your winter hanging basket is in September or October. This allows your plants plenty of time to get ready for winter months. It also means they’re ready to take over from the autumn plants at the perfect time.
However, there’s no need to worry if it’s already winter, and you still haven’t chosen your inter-outdoor hanging basket plants. You can plant your winter hanging basket at any point in winter and even in early spring. Keep in mind that the later you arrange your plants for hanging baskets in winter, the later they’ll be putting on a show.
Be sure to regularly check your baskets. Winter hanging baskets thrive in places that are sheltered. If the position is exposed, give your basket some protection from the harshest elements.
Regular care of winter hanging baskets
Don’t forget to water! Even in winter, your hanging baskets will dry out, especially when the winter winds hit them. Water regularly to keep them fresh and blooming, keeping the compost moist without letting it get soggy. Avoid getting the leaves and flowers wet when watering in winter, since retained moisture might freeze and damage your beautiful spray of color.
Although winter hanging basket plants are easy to maintain, it’s vital to deadhead them regularly to keep them looking their best. Take extra care when watering outdoor winter hanging baskets and make sure that the basket has good drainage holes. Baskets without proper drainage will not have anywhere for the water to go. As a result, the water will become an ice block, causing the plant roots to rot.
Artificial Winter Hanging Baskets
If you don’t want to tend to live plants, but still want the beauty and color of a hanging basket, you can try an artificial floral hanging basket.
We might not use our gardens much during winter, but that doesn’t mean that we should neglect them completely. Winter hanging baskets are a great way to keep your garden looking inviting without having to spend much time outdoors.
Ideal for both beginners and seasoned gardeners, winter hanging plants are low maintenance and don’t require much space. Even if you don’t own a garden, you can use winter hanging baskets to brighten up your balcony, patio, or doorway. They’re ideal for apartments or homes with smaller gardens, as they significantly increase the planting space.
Planting in winter hanging baskets is also relatively low cost. You can upcycle household objects, like old colanders and watering cans, to create your hanging baskets. But be sure to add some drainage holes to your old watering cans before planting. In addition, winter hanging plants are an excellent source of food and shelter for various insects during the harsh winter months.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been completely updated.