Window boxes and hanging baskets FAQs

How should I prepare and fill decorative stone containers into which I want to place bedding plants?

All containers, whether of wood or stone, should have ‘crocks’ (pieces of broken pots or irregular shaped stones) placed over the drainage holes to ensure free drainage. A layer of coarse peat mixed with charcoal should follow, if you really want to do the job properly; or you can go straight ahead and fill to the half-way mark with John Innes Potting compost No 2. Continue to fill up with the potting compost as you plant. If you are going to stand pots of plants in a large container, fill up the container around the pots with peat/charcoal mix instead of the potting compost.

How does one prepare and plant a hanging basket?

Stand the basket on a bucket or a large plant pot, and line it with moss (sphagnum moss if you can get it); suitable alternatives to moss include carpet underlay, black polythene, or special compressed peat liners. Make holes in the liner where necessary, and push the roots of the plants through from outside the basket. Then plant the centre of the basket, surrounding the roots with John Innes Potting compost No 2 as you go along. Water the basket thoroughly after planting and keep it in a warm, bright place for a few days. This procedure should be followed each time you replant the basket.

Can you suggest some suitable plants for hanging baskets, and tell me how to care for them once they are planted?

As hanging baskets are usually sited at or above eye level, try to include trailing plants as well as some central upright ones. Useful plants for this purpose are hardy and half-hardy bedding plants such as busy-lizzie (Impatiens sultanii varieties), pendulous begonias, ivy-leaved pelargoniums (Pelargonium peltatum varieties), wandering jew (Zebrina pendula), lobelia, catmint (Nepeta), bellflower (Campanula isophylla), petunias, tagetes, and verbena. The plants will need watering regularly—even twice a day when it is very hot—and a fortnightly liquid feed will be helpful. Dead head as necessary to keep a successional display of blooms. Unfortunately, hanging baskets are not good containers in which to plant winter displays outdoors, as they tend to be buffeted by wind, snow, or driving rain.

What plants can I grow for an all-year-round effect in window boxes and other containers?

Dwarf conifers and ivies will grow well in window boxes and containers and will give permanent green or variegated foliage effects. To make the most of containers, however, you should plant them twice a year with spring and summer bedding plants (bulbs are also useful for spring colour). Any bedding plants that are not too tall can be used, as well as the trailing ones recommended for hanging baskets. When you change the plants, refresh the top 50 mm (2 in) of compost. Feed, water, and dead head regularly, as described above for hanging baskets.

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