Best plants for hanging baskets and window boxes 

Spring is here and it’s the ideal time for planting. Bring a burst of colour to your garden with vibrant plants for your hanging baskets and window boxes.

RHS gold medal-winning garden designer Will Williams from Soto Gardens, who provides curated collections of plants, gives Good Homes some handy tips for creating the perfect window box.

Will says, “My top tip is keep things simple when it comes to window boxes. Allow your home to be the standout feature, and you can’t go wrong. Your front garden is an extension of your home, it is the first thing people see and it should reflect the design direction of your property, is it sleek and modern or is it traditional and elegant? The front garden sets the scene for the rest of your home.”

Window boxes are a great way to add personality to even the smallest of outdoor spaces, Will adds.

“Having colourful foliage on windowsills increases the kerb appeal and adds a touch of style from the very first impression of your home,” he says.

Try an outdoor hanging wired netted basket
Image credit: Ivyline

Think about trailing plants

For a burst of continuous seasonal colour, begonias are a good place to start as they’re relatively unfussy and easy to grow. Plant them in early spring, after the first frost, for them to bloom in the summer. The tuberose begonia is a hybrid species (also known as the begonia × tuberhybrida), which grows from a tuber and has an especially long flowering season. Begonias do need to be taken out before the first frosts.

Other ideal plants for hanging baskets are ivy geraniums (pelargonium peltatum), as they tend to have cascading flowers in vibrant reds, pinks, purples and oranges. Keep them regularly watered in a sunny spot. Lobelia erinus are a trailing perennial which have hundreds of tiny flowers from blue to violet and lavender. Plant them in a partially shady spot and moist soil and, again, plant out after the last frost.

Begonias are easy to grow and come in a variety of colours
Image credit: B&Q

How to plant a hanging basket for pollinators

Supporting bee and butterfly pollinators is imperative when you’re thinking about what to plant in your hanging baskets. The Scottish Wildlife Trust suggest lining your hanging basket with conifer clippings (or an old hessian sack), and adding a couple of layers of thin plastic, like an old bread bag with small holes for waterproofing and drainage.

They then recommend filling the hanging basket two-thirds full with a peat-free compost and planting your taller plants in the centre with the smaller plants around the outside. For the tall central plants for pollinators, the Trust suggest knapweed, scabious and lavender. For the smaller plants, they suggest pansies, marigolds and sweet alyssum, and if you want to add trailers, there’s ivy, nasturtium, honeysuckle, sweet pea, lobelia ’pendula’.

Window boxes and hanging baskets are a great way to bring bee pollinators into your garden
Image credit: Urbee

Bring in colour

Will from Soto Gardens suggests catmint for window boxes. He explains, “Catmint has small purple flowers, which contrast with fresh green leaves to offer soft and scented foliage. Loved by pollinators, this plant has a long flowering period from early summer all the way into autumn. Catmint makes a lovely feature on a sunny windowsill.”

Then there’s geranium Rozanne, which has striking violet-blue flowers the shape of saucers, with white centres.

“The blooms appear delicate and provide vibrant colour from spring until autumn,” says Will.

“Perfect for windowsills, it trails beautifully over the side of containers, providing a pretty splash of colour. This small plant is drought-tolerant so great if you aren’t the most diligent at watering. This geranium can sit in any light conditions so would work well in sun or shade.”

To work in sun and shade, the Australian daisy produces lots of daisy-like flowers, which start white and then progress to an enchanting pink for a two-tone pop of colour.

“They’re great for softening edges in sunny window boxes and combining with other plants that like to be in bright light,” adds Will.

Catmint is a brilliant plant for window boxes and hanging baskets
Image credit: Soto Gardens

Bring in movement with grasses

Will also suggests softening your window boxes with grasses.

“Mexican feather grass brings movement and texture to your windowsill throughout the year,” he notes.

“Also known as ‘angel hair’, the grass waves in the wind and are joined by feathery seed heads in the summer. The grass starts green before fading to a soft buff colour.”

Grasses are a low maintenance way of adding greenery to your hanging basket
Image credit: Soto Gardens

Trailing plants in window boxes

The Soto Green Windowsill collection (pictured) contains Ilex domes and ivy.

The Ilex dome is great for adding evergreen structure to your outside space. With its small, dark green glossy leaves and producing small white flowers in the summer, it mixes in a versatile, trailing plant-like ivy that’s recognisable by its distinct teardrop leaf shape.

Keeping it simple is key when it comes to window boxes
Image credit: Soto Gardens

How to plant a window box for salad

Salad leaves are perfect to grow in hanging baskets and window boxes: they’re colourful, don’t take up much space and most importantly are so much more delicious than shop-bought salad. They’re great for balconies or small gardens which don’t have enough room for planting in beds.

When thinking about planting salad seeds in window boxes, choose a window box that’s at least 15 – 20 cm deep to give enough space for root run, and invest in good quality peat-free compost. Matthew Oliver at RHS has a great step-by-step guide to follow on how to plant a window box for winter salad. Tumbling tomatoes and strawberries can also be planted in window boxes.

Fill a window box with fresh salad - perfect for the summer
Image credit: Krisztina Papp

Herb planting

Herbs are a great choice for sunny balconies. Parsley, mint, rosemary, thyme, chives, oregano, lemon thyme, fennel and sage are all popular choices. Soto Gardens have a range of herb pot display stands, or you could opt for Tom Raffield’s ceramic and ash wall planters.

Tom Raffield's ceramic bowls are perfect for herbs
Image credit: Tom Raffield

Balcony plants

Whether you’ve got a small balcony or a wrap around, plants can bring your outside space to life. Add a combination of hanging baskets, window boxes, and pots, planters or troughs that can be attached or hung from railings to create a haven of colour and scent.

Compact dahlias look beautiful in pots and scented leaf pelargoniums are lovely in the summer months. Make sure all your pots have good drainage and are kept well watered and out of the sun in a heatwave. A good tip in the winter months is to add pot feet to your plant pots, so the pots are not left sitting in cold water with the potential to rot the roots.

Fill your balcony with hanging baskets and window boxes
Image credit: Dobbies