The classic early-hanging basket relies heavily on spring bulbs and early-blooming annual and perennial flowers. Use bulbs you've established in the hanging basket the previous fall or buy potted plants. For a simple, early-hanging basket, line wire baskets with sphagnum moss, poke trailing ivy through the sides, fill the basket with soil and plant the top with six to eight bulb surrounded by 12 to 18 smaller annual or perennial flowers.
Daffodils make ideal center stage plants for hanging baskets. Miniature daffodils, such as "Tete-a-Tete," add striking yellow accents when planted in the middle of the arrangements, perhaps with purple and yellow pansies nestled around their stems. Six to eight miniature daffodils, or three to five common daffodils, make a good start for a hanging basket, if accompanied by other, smaller plants. Daffodils prefer full sun but tolerate light shade. Water regularly, but let the soil dry between watering sessions.
Pansies and Violas
The terms pansies and violas are used interchangeably, probably because of the flower's botanical name, Viola tricolor hortensis. Pansies are tender perennials, meaning they tend to need replanting each year in all but the most temperate zones. Available in several hues, with an average height of 6 inches, pansies make the perfect edge-of-container flower for springtime hanging baskets. Use deep blues to set off crocuses or tulips, yellows for an all-yellow basket of daffodils, wallflowers and pansies, or reds to blend cheerfully with trailing nasturtiums. Many pansies possess the cheerful markings known as faces, which bring to mind "Alice in Wonderland." Hanging baskets featuring pansies are worth keeping around from spring to fall, although their blooms tend to wilt in the summer. Pansies prefer full sun to partial shade and consistently moist soil.
About the same height of a pansy or violet, the Japanese primrose often comes in yellow, although specialty nurseries may offer other colors. Candelabra primroses come in several hues. They bloom in the spring and work better in the center of a hanging pot rather than at the edge. Keeping primroses moist and in partial shade results in the heaviest blooms.
A classic woodland plant, the delicate violet (Viola odorata) contrasts well with showy, large-bloomed bulbs such as white tulips or pale-hued daffodils. Their bloom time is short, but the leaves remain to add scented foliage to any hanging arrangement. Violets like full to partial shade and consistently moist soil.
Lilies of the Valley
Light up a shady porch in the spring with lilies of the valley. These fragrant beauties bear delicate, white, bell-shaped flowers and showy large leaves. Hang the pots low enough so that the upright growth of the lilies is at eye level. Don't overwhelm the delicacy of lily of the valley by adding other flowers. Press moss over the soil to accent the lilies' woodland character. Let some English ivy or small ferns trail from the sides, if desired. These flowers prefer partial to full shade and moist soil.
Graceful, pastel-shaded Greek anemones (A. blanda) add delicacy to the sides of a hanging pot. The spring-flowering bulb family also features taller anemones (A. coronaria) with bigger, brighter flowers. Either type gives you spring blooms that work well in full-sun and part-shade situations. English garden writer Elspeth Thompson suggests creating an all-blue hanging basket with Anemone blanda, grape hyacinth, scillas and a blue variety of dwarf iris. Allow the soil to dry between watering sessions.