It is always good to try to get ‘height’ in a hanging basket, but also think of the fact that your hanging basket will normally be seen from below, so trailing and low plants are also important for a successful hanging basket.
Good plants for centrepiece height include geraniums and bush fuchsias.
I like to plant one of each. Both geraniums and fuchsias will grow up through the chains of the basket, which in turn will help to support them.
Down a level from this and you can plant a wide range of bedding plants around the centre of the hanging basket. They will grow upwards and outward and can include plants such as petunias, marigolds, tuberous begonias, busy lizzies. In fact anything that you would normally plant for mid height bedding.
Then the outer of the basket will need the trailing plants, such as trailing varieties of lobelia, trailing fuchsia, surfina trailing petunia, ivy-leaf geraniums, catmint (Nepeta) and trailing verbena.
Those are the main varieties, but you are sure to find many other plants in the hanging basket section of your garden centre. Don’t ignore the silver foliage plants. They may not flower as much, but they are a great addition to the mainly ‘hot’ colours that will be in your basket.
If you have a few baskets, then don’t be afraid to try using just one variety of plant – or even go for a single colour scheme! Petunias and Busy Lizzies are good for this. One of the best hanging baskets I have seen, was simply planted up with trailing Lobelia. Don't forget the New Guinea Busy Lizzies - they are superb, with a great range of colours to brighten up a basket. Not too many for a basket or window box though! Hopefully you will have read our section on preparation of the compost. It is important to get this right.
Regular watering is necessary – especially if you are using a moss-lined basket. They tend to dry out quicker than plastic baskets for instance. You can also get plastic hanging baskets that hold a reservoir of water in the bottom. They might not look as nice when they are empty, but the mass of plants you are going to use for your hanging basket will soon turn it into a bowl of colour.
A useful addition to the hanging basket or window box, are Water Retentive Crystals. These will reduce your watering requirement considerably, and are particularly useful when you want a day away - when the sun is hot, and drying!