Top 3 Annuals for Hanging Baskets

By Chris Edmunds

 
Annuals are a staple of summer gardens and patios – full of explosive color that can't be matched.
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Annuals are a classic staple of summer gardens and patios – they bring explosive color and style to our yards that simply can’t be matched. While perennials, edibles, and larger elements like trees and shrubs do their duty each year to bring reliable structure and function to our gardens, it’s the annuals that get us truly excited in the spring. With the release of lots of new varieties each year, it’s easy to see why we get wrapped up in the action.

Annuals in Hanging Baskets

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The must-have styles of the gardening world, hanging basket annuals are known for their delightful shades of color and the way they spring into action the moment growing season begins. The relatively short-lived nature of these plants and their fleeting but spectacular one year of life is part of why we love them. Annuals are only with our garden for that one year, meaning every spring to follow is a clean slate to start from. These are the ideal plants to play around with and try out current trends or dabble in new and old garden techniques, because you can always try something different every season.

Now, hanging baskets aren’t exactly a new trend (the hanging gardens in Ancient Babylon are one of The Wonders of the Ancient World for a reason), but we always look forward to trying the latest annual varieties in them. Hanging baskets are tailor-made for annuals and instantly give your garden and landscape a professionally-styled look. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone how easy this polished look is if you don’t!

Hanging baskets take your annuals to a higher level— about 4-7 feet higher, actually! The idea is simple, but the outcome is spectacular. Annuals are so turbo-charged for an intense growing season that they often end up spilling over the edge of your container. With a hanging basket, you can add another layer of dimension to your garden with lush greenery and vibrant blooms cascading out of a container. If you thought your porch containers commanded attention and admiration at ground-level, imagine how stunning those annuals will look suspended from above, creating a beautiful canopy of flowers and foliage!

Designing for Hanging Baskets

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Putting together a great hanging basket is very similar to filling up a normal annual planter— it just takes up more vertical space. You can create exciting designs by focusing on using different shapes, textures, and colors to create contrast and harmony. Think about using complementary color schemes to create a look that pops. If your hanging planter is anywhere near an entrance to your home, consider mixing in some aromatic flowers to make your planter attractive in more ways than one! If possible, try to hang your basket where it can be sheltered from some of our blustery Midwest winds, as strong gusts on your exposed trailing beauties might result in some broken stems or minor flower damage, and dries them out faster. Check for moisture often as they can drink fast in warm, breezy conditions and may need watered more than once a day. The bigger the hanging basket, the better performance you’ll see, because it has more capacity to hold moisture and provide more space for the roots of today’s vigorous options.

The traditional design for a planter is a three-pronged approach: a thriller, spiller, and filler. In other words, a dramatic, taller plant, a trailing plant that spills from the planter, and a more subdued mid-sized plant to fill in the spaces between. This classic model makes a good template for hanging planters, but keep in mind that you’ll have lots more space to show off your spillers with a suspended pot and might want to make it more of a feature in your design than you normally would. Making the most of all that trailing space can take on lots of different looks depending on what you want. Maybe you want to focus on flowers to spill over the sides of your container in a fountain of blooms, or perhaps you want to choose foliage vines and greenery to really stretch and emphasize all of that hanging space in contrasting shades of foliage. There aren’t many wrong choices, but there are endless creative ways to put together a head-turning custom design.

Our Top 3 Annuals for Hanging Baskets

The best plants to achieve this fabulous leafy canopy look are annuals that develop rapidly, cascading over the sides of their container. Some of our favorite annuals this year are the latest updated versions of annuals that we’re familiar with, formulated to be the perfect fit for your hanging basket, creating a wall of color and lush greenery in your garden. This season we’ve picked 3 annuals that have taken center stage and are the perfect style to feature in hanging planters. Here’s how to bring these plants home in your own gorgeous hanging display.

Petunias and Supertunia

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Petunias have been a staple of our annual garden beds for decades, and we don’t see any reason we shouldn’t put them in our hanging planters, too! These flowers have been perfected with every growing season, so there are now nearly endless color combinations available with flowers that defy all expectations. These gorgeous blooms are an explosion of color, with hundreds of mid-sized to large flowers blanketing your plant through the summer season. They’re beautiful, they’re exciting to grow, and they’re an iconic staple of our summer gardens - but they’re also perfect fits for a hanging garden.

Given enough fertilizer and water, petunias (especially the impressive Supertunia varieties) will explode with color. Gardeners growing them in containers on their porches and decks often find that these flowers grow right over the sides of their containers, spilling down and onto the ground. In a hanging basket, these flowers have all the room they need to shine. If you’re looking for an impressive hanging basket with a wall of color, petunias and Supertunias are your easiest way of achieving this look.

Creating the look: Petunias and Supertunias have been worked on and modified over the years to be aggressive growers with a flower display that just doesn’t quit. To keep this look fueled over the summer, you’ll need to give them plenty of sun, water, and regular doses of fertilizer. A high-octane performer, they won’t disappoint, as long as you give them the energy they need to grow! These flowers are very aggressive growers, which is why we can consistently expect them to produce a curtain of blooms to spill from our hanging containers. You can either plant petunias on their own, where they can take over their entire basket for an impressive solid-color display, or pair them with other aggressive growers so they don’t swallow up their container mates.

 

Sweet Potato Vine

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Given the name, you might not expect these plants to make their way onto this list, but we’ve fallen in love with them as a spiller in our hanging containers. These vines might not have dazzling flowers, but the intensity and variety of colors in their foliage is impressive enough for us.

As a vine, sweet potatoes make the most of a container that’s elevated, where their long vines and leaves can cascade and take up lots of space they might not have in their garden or on the ground. Strong and gorgeous, this plant has everything you need for a stress-free container that dazzles all season. With so many foliage color varieties like brilliant lime green, dark purple, bronze, copper, black or tricolored, everyone is sure to find a color that appeals to them.

Creating the Look: This is a plant to choose for its visual appeal paired with some more container mates. With all those color choices, it can either take a supporting role as a foliage plant when planted with other vigorous annuals or shine as the star performer. This plant is super versatile when it comes to growing, too, and it’s ready to adapt to your conditions, whether in sun or shade. Take advantage of your hanging basket and make sure you have good drainage. With water flowing out the bottom, you’ll have a healthy, thriving vine that is ready to steal the show with no fear of root rot. As the summer warms up, the vines can overtake your other componants, but you can easily cure this by giving them a haircut.

 

Scaevola (Fairy Fan Flower)

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These beautiful plants are great for growing in containers, and their unique shape offers a little bit of something intriguing that makes your container stand out. As enthusiastic bloomers, these plants are sure to impress as they spill over the side of your hanging basket, and the fan-shaped blooms make for a pretty display in the vertical space they occupy. Known as the “Fairy Fan Flower,” scaevola lives up to its whimsical name.

Our favorite variety of scaevola is the new ‘Surdiva Blue Violet’, a hybrid that keeps all of the charming aesthetic of Fairy Fan Flower, but with the deepest blue color yet, and still as heat tolerant as any other scaevola! Native to Australia, these beautiful plants have made their way to North America where they have been finessed for the perfect container look in American gardens.

Creating the Look: We love how this plant combines the best of both worlds as a “filler” and “spiller.” Scaevola is known as having a semi-trailing habit— they’ll take up both some vertical space in your container, while having a modest to fairly robust trailing ability. Plant scaevola in your container, and you’ll get your fill of their cute and distinctive flowers in lovely cool-toned shades, growing in all directions and complemented beautifully against their darker foliage. While they offer less color options than some other annuals (choices mostly restricted to white, pink, light blue, and indigo blue), their mounding and trailing habits make them a perfect option for containers with other plants, placed together for a lovely blended floral container design. Scaevola’s unique flower shape, with their pointed petals, and their jagged-edged foliage, are perfect for providing contrasting texture. They work so well with so many other flowering or non-flowering trailing plants, you just can’t go wrong by putting these in the mix!  Drought and super-heat tolerant, scaevola is sure to be a low-maintenance addition to your summer annual hanging baskets.

 

Hanging baskets are an old trend that we love experimenting with every year. With annual releases of perfect container plants that are tougher, bloom better, and are simply gorgeous, there are always some great new choices to bring home and try. Up your gardening game with suspended planters from our greenhouse in Woodlawn, and enjoy the atmosphere of being surrounded by colorful trailing blooms and lush foliage.

 

 
 

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