When the cold wind blows and freezing temperatures occur, you might not think about adding a hanging basket to your outdoor space, in fact, will the plants even survive?
Hanging baskets are often thought of as bright summer accessories. Once the summer annuals have finished, however, you can swap your once bright flowers for some tougher plants that will withstand the winter frosts and look fantastic over the festive season.
Let’s take a look at 14 of the best plants for a beautiful winter hanging basket:
1. Trailing ivy
Ivy is an attractive, leafy evergreen plant and it provides a decorative addition to a hanging basket. Its trailing leaves add year-round interest and it will withstand the harsh winter temperatures. There are many different varieties to choose from including those with variegated cream and green leaves. Some ivy plants can grow up to 8m in length so choose a dwarf variety for your container. H. helix ‘Little Diamond’ is a great choice.
Box shrubs (Buxus sempervirens) are incredibly tough and will grow just about anywhere. Dwarf varieties are perfect for baskets and pots and can be trimmed to any shape you like. Spheres and cones are popular shapes and they will look good all year round. There’s a growing trend for artificial box hanging baskets but the real thing is so easy to care for and good for the environment too. Choose a dwarf variety and prune in May and September to keep it in shape.
We love pansies so much that there’s a whole article dedicated to growing them! These super happy plants are available in just about any colour you like (including black if that’s your thing) and they’ll shine bright throughout the winter months. They prefer a sunny spot but will grow well in shade too. Plant them in early autumn if you can as it gives the roots chance to toughen up, helping them survive the cold winter weather.
4. Christmas roses
The Christmas rose (Hellebores niger) will look incredible planted in a winter hanging basket with trailing ivy and contrasting flowers or foliage. You can plant hellebores at any time of the year but they don’t like to be moved once established. Add a good layer of mulch each year to provide nutrients for the plants. Christmas roses will flower from December through to Easter and come in a range of colours from icy white to deep red.
5. Ornamental cabbage
These hardy plants belong to the same brassica family as cabbages and kale. They are edible but very bitter and best grown for their unusual looks. You can grow these plants from seed over the summer or buy ready to plant versions in the autumn. They will need to grow in rich, organic soil.
These plants actually need a frost to develop their spectacular colour but might perish if it’s particularly cold (below -15 degrees C). If the plant has smooth leaves it’s classed as an ornamental cabbage whereas crinkled leaves denote an ornamental kale.
These little plants will flower happily throughout winter and shrug off any snow or frosts. You can plant the bulbs in October or plant green plants in February. Snowdrops will do well in baskets but like moist soil so they’ll need to be well watered throughout summer. You can divide the bulbs and plant some in the ground when they spread.
Don’t be fooled by their sweet appearance, these flowers are hardy and can flower for up to 5 months. Available in a range of sugary colours, primroses look fantastic grouped together in a basket or accompanying other plants like box, ivy and hebes. It’s best to plant primroses in the autumn so that they can gradually acclimatise to the cooler weather and they’ll be more likely to survive frosty conditions.
One of the brightest winter flowers, cyclamen come in a fantastic range of colours. I’ve got some hot pink cyclamen brightening up my winter garden. They will flower for months over winter and in the summer, let the plants rest and they’ll reward you by flowering again next year. They’re a great addition to hanging baskets, contrasting beautifully with deep green foliage.
No festive hanging basket would be complete without red berries! The teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens)or boxberry is a dwarf evergreen plant that grows up to 15cm in height. The leaves can be used to make tea and the large scarlet berries are edible. It likes moist, well-drained acidic soil in partial shade. These are hardy plants and will be quite happy in temperatures down to -10 degrees Celcius.
Evergreen hebes come in a range of beautiful colours from vibrant green to deep purple and young, dwarf varieties look spectacular as the focal plant in a large hanging basket. Hebes are easy to care for and can be kept in shape with a light prune. You will most likely need to plant your hebe into a larger pot or in the ground after a year or so but it’ll be happy to live in a hanging basket while it’s a young plant.
Winter flowering heathers (Erica carnea) are a perfect choice for winter hanging baskets. Their foliage ranges from green to bronze and you can choose flowers in colours from white to red and purple. They’re easy to care for, extremely hardy and flower from autumn right through to late spring.
This understated little evergreen herb will add a fragrant touch to a winter hanging basket. You can choose upright or trailing varieties to go with other plants and enjoy the taste of freshly picked thyme with your Sunday roast throughout winter.
Skimmia are attractive evergreen shrubs with year-round interest, producing pretty flowers in spring and berries in the winter. You’ll need a female and male plant or a hermaphrodite variety to produce berries. Skimmia need acidic or neutral compost and prefer a shady spot so combine with ivy and other evergreen plants.
14. Dwarf conifers
Evergreen mini trees are perfect for year-round colour in hanging baskets and you can choose from several varieties. We like Picea pungens glauca which looks like a tiny Christmas tree and Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Wilma’ for its bright foliage.
Dwarf conifers will last for years and you can underplant them with winter and summer flowering plants. The combination of cypress, hellebores, heather and sedum makes for a beautiful winter basket.
Winter hanging basket tips
- Take care not to overwater! During the summer months hanging baskets need daily watering but in winter, you’ll be able to water once or twice a week. Try not to water plants when frosts are forecast.
- Choose a taller plant like a hebe, box, or mini conifer as a central plant and surround it with smaller primroses, trailing ivy and pansies.
- For a winter hanging basket with a festive feel, plant a teaberry at the back of your basket and place white heather, snowdrops and Christmas roses in front.
- For more festive feels, add some colourful baubles and twinkly fairy lights to your basket.
- For a burst of spring colour, add some narcissus and crocus bulbs to your hanging basket. You can add these under the other plants.
- Deadheading pansies and snowdrops will encourage new flowers to bloom.