Growing Dazzling Hanging Baskets
You’ve seen them . . . coveted them . . . hanging baskets that are spilling over with brilliant color and abundant texture, swaying gently in the breeze. You can create a custom basket that rivals these. Really. Here are some tips to guide your success.
Choosing Plants for a Hanging Basket
Successful hanging baskets start with selecting plants that will be happy living together in the site you’ve chosen. To select plants for an envy producing hanging basket:
- The plants selected benefit from having similar light, water and soil requirements. If all the plants have similar needs the shade lovers won’t fry in the sun and the sun lovers waste away in the shade.
- In addition to varied colors, introduce a range of texture to your basket to add interest. Plants with wide, lacey, strappy and/or round leave forms.
- Cascading plants soften the edges of hanging baskets and visually obscure containers that are sometimes not gorgeous.
- When it comes to color, whatever you love - go for it. Our two cents - chartreuse and purple foliage are fun additions to keep the contrast popping.
Selecting the Basket or Other Container
Here are some considerations when choosing your basket or container.
- The smaller the basket, the quicker it dries out. This is because the surface area, from which moisture can easily escape, is proportionately greater in an 8” diameter container than in one that’s 12-14”.
- The larger the basket, the heavier it will be when plants are mature and the soil is wet.
- Hanging basket material influences weight. Think about overall weight for a full basket with moist soil. Basket material also impacts how quickly the soil dries and needs to be rewatered.
- Plastic baskets are not porous so moisture doesn't escape through the basket walls. Non-porous materials retain moisture better and require less frequent watering.
- Wicker and moss lined baskets and hanging terra cotta bowls allow evaporation through the soil surface and through the sides. These dry out faster.
- Get creative - use metal, wood, bamboo or heavy fabric containers. As long as they'll hold up through the season and allow for good drainage, they should work fine.
Planting a Hanging Basket
Hanging baskets are most appealing when the plants are full and lush. That look is typically produced by planting closer than garden spacing directions recommend.
Start by considering the mature size of the plants you’ve selected. Then go ahead and plant a bit closer than recommended after allowing for seasonal growth.
Air circulation is a consideration that influences spacing recommendations for gardens. Good air circulation reduces the incidence of disease. Because hanging baskets enjoy excellent air circulation, with no neighbors to crowd them, snug planting is generally safe.
Where to Hang Your Basket
You want to be happy with your hanging basket placement decision all season. It may help to consider the following.
- Does the site have the appropriate light for the plants you’ve selected?
- Can you easily access the basket for watering and periodic turning?
- Have you selected a structure able to manage basket weight as the plants grow larger and heavier?
- Is the site windy enough that the plants may be damaged or might the basket be knocked off?
Feeding Plants in a Hanging Basket
Snuggly situated, actively growing plants in containers quickly absorb the soil’s available nutrients. The plants need food to stay healthy and to bloom profusely. There are several recommendations for feeding
- Start by planting in rich soil.
- Consider adding slow-release fertilizer to the soil at planting time.
- If you aren’t using slow release fertilizer, or it’s late in the season and that fertilizer’s active window is exhausted, add liquid fertilizer to plant water. Half strength fertilizer added every week or two (consult package directions) significantly improves plant performance.
- Does your household include high energy kids or rambunctious dogs? Hanging baskets are an outstanding way to enjoy summer flowering plants that can be sited beyond the danger zone.
- The over-the-top flowering baskets you see at nurseries are fertilized regularly, sometimes with every watering. While more fertilizer isn’t always better (over fertilizing is possible), container plants that grow a full season without any supplemental nutrients won’t look their best.
- The above recommendations work well for window boxes, railing planters, fence baskets and other off-the-ground options.