Hanging Baskets

Every year I try to grow hanging baskets without much success. What is the secret to growing gorgeous hanging baskets like I see around town?

To successfully garden in hanging baskets there are three things to keep in mind – plant selection, drainage and fertilizer. When it comes to plants you can create a design that involves a combination of materials or you can choose to plant only one variety. Whichever route you take it is important to keep in mind the growing conditions of the area where you plan to hang the basket. Is it in full sun, partial shade or deep shade? What is the weather like in your area? Are you faced with hot and humid setting or cool and dry? By selecting plants that are tailor made for your growing conditions you can almost guarantee success.

Almost all plants suitable for hanging baskets will have a tag that includes cultural information and if it doesn’t, take a moment to ask a garden center staff member. It will save you time and money on down the line. For the best effect choose plants that have a trailing or cascading habit such as petunias, calibrachoa, trailing coleus, ivy geraniums, bacopa, verbena and fan flower.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to use a hanging basket with good drainage. Plants that sit in standing water will melt away rather than produce the abundance of blooms that you are hoping for. The easiest way to ensure good drainage is to use a wire frame basket. You can find them at any garden center. You can either line it with a pre-made coconut liner, sphagnum moss or my favorite, sheet moss. If you plan on using sphagnum or sheet moss, soak the lining material first to make it easier to work with. It is also a good idea to wear gloves when working with these materials.

Starting at the bottom, stuff the moss between the basket’s wires until you have covered the interior. At this point I like to add a piece of dark green, plastic garbage bag with holes poked through it for drainage. This helps hold in the potting soil. Now fill the basket with potting soil to within one inch of the top. If it hasn’t already been added to your packaged soil, mix in some slow release fertilizer as you add the soil. Follow package directions for the proper amount. With the basket lined and filled with soil you are ready to plant.

The neat thing about these wire frame baskets is that you can place the plants on the top to cascade down the sides or you can do it “Disney Style” and also insert plants between the rungs on the sides. This will create that ball-shaped, full look that you see in many public gardens. Just work an opening in the moss and plastic liner and place the plants in the hole.

The final secret to growing knock-out hanging baskets is proper feeding. The slow release fertilizer mixed in with the soil will provide nutrients over the course of the growing season, but for prolific blooms feed your baskets with a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength once a week. This will give the plants the extra oomph they need to really put on a show!