Creating and Growing Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are a great way to decorate porches, decks, and other outdoor areas of the home. They make great gifts and are readily available in garden centers every spring.  Whether your hanging basket has just one or many blooming plants, care is required for the best blooms throughout the growing season. Below are some tips for growing and maintaining hanging baskets.

impatiens flowers in a hanging basket
Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) in a hanging basket

Care of Hanging Baskets

Watering

Hanging baskets often contain several closely spaced small plants, and their roots grow quickly in the potting mix. Typical potting mixes are light and well-drained. With a well-drained soil mix and an abundance of crowded and thirsty roots, frequent watering is necessary, especially during the summer. When the small plants have grown and established roots, check baskets daily for water needs. It may be necessary to water more than once a day on hot sunny days. When watering hanging baskets, be sure to water them until water runs out the bottom of the container. This ensures that all the roots have access to plenty of moisture.

Try not to let the soil dry out completely. Not only will this cause the plants to wilt, it makes it more difficult to water. If the soil becomes too dry, it will separate from the side of the container. In this instance, remove the basket from its location so that you can place the basket in a tub of water for a couple of hours. This forces water to be absorbed slowly from the bottom of the container. Do not keep the basket in the tub of water for long periods as this may cause root rot.

Fertilization

Plants in hanging baskets typically require regular fertilization. Water-soluble fertilizers or slow-release granular fertilizers may be used. Apply soluble fertilizers every 1 to 3 weeks throughout the summer.  Slow-release fertilizers can be added to soil in early spring and may need a second application mid-season.  Look for complete fertilizers with a 1:2:1 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to keep plants healthy and blooming well. Fertilizers that are high in nitrogen should be avoided as they cause excessive vegetative growth at the expense of flowers. Always remember to read and follow the label directions carefully to apply appropriate amounts of fertilizer.

Deadheading & Trimming

Some annual species require regular deadheading to keep plants in bloom throughout the season. Deadheading is the removal of dead or dying flowers. This prevents seeds from forming and can ultimately lead to more flowers. Many new varieties of annuals are “self-cleaning” and don’t require deadheading.  A few species or older cultivars, especially the larger blooming plants like geranium, require deadheading for continual blooms. Smaller blooming plants like lobelia and sweet alyssum are generally "self-cleaning," meaning deadheading is not necessary. Regardless, inspect plants as you water and remove spent flowers, if possible. This will keep plants fresh looking and blooming throughout summer.

Many hanging baskets will get quite large by mid-summer.  Pruning back trailing plants by one-third to one-half can help promote fresh new growth that will be more attractive and produce more flowers for the remainder of the growing season.

Tips for Creating Your Own Hanging Baskets

Often you will find pre-planted hanging baskets in the garden centers, but you can also create your own basket with a unique mix of plants perfect for your garden.

Container

Hanging baskets can be made from a variety of materials.  The classic hanging basket is a metal basket or frame lined with coconut fiber, moss, burlap, or compressed fiber, sometimes referred to as “peat pots.”  These lining materials provide good drainage, are attractive, and often absorb and hold water, helping keep the hanging basket well hydrated.   

Plastic containers are also commonly sold in garden centers.  All hanging baskets need good drainage, and these hanging containers have drainage holes in the bottom.  Plastic containers are non-porous, so they don’t dry out as quickly.  Plastic containers must have drainage holes to allow excess water to drain, but many also contain small reservoirs that can help keep baskets well hydrated.  

Watering is one of the most important and frequent tasks for hanging baskets.  Larger and deeper containers will not dry out as quickly but will be heavier, an important consideration of hanging baskets.  To help keep metal-frame hanging baskets well-hydrated, you can partially line the inside of the coconut fiber or moss liner with landscape fabric or plastic.  This can help slow water movement through the basket allowing the soil to be more fully wetted when watered.  When using plastic, line only a small portion at the bottom and poke holes in it to allow for drainage of excess water.

Hanging basket on porch
Hanging baskets are a great gift in spring.  Photo by Cindy Haynes

Soil

Always use a good, well-drained potting mix. The best mixes for hanging baskets do not contain garden soil. Instead, these soilless mixes are made up of sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. Slow-release fertilizers may be included in a purchased mix or can be added to the mix before planting. Water-absorbing crystals, sometimes referred to as polymer crystals or hydrogels, are another additive that may be present in a purchased mix or that can be purchased and added separately. These crystals, while expensive, will absorb large quantities of water and help keep the soil moist between watering.

When filling the basket with soil, fill to within ½ to 1 inch from the top to create a lip that will make watering easier.

Plants for Hanging Baskets

Any annual plant that does well in a container can potentially be used in a hanging basket. Plants with full or trailing habits tend to be preferred for hanging baskets. Yet, don't let that stop you from trying something else - you might be surprised at how well it will perform! Like any plant, matching the right plant with the site is essential. Shade-loving plants will suffer in full sun, and sun-loving plants bloom poorly in shade.

Be careful not to overplant a hanging basket, or they may become overgrown and require frequent watering later in the season.  Smaller hanging baskets with a diameter of 12 to 14 inches can accommodate 3 to 5 plants.  Larger baskets with a diameter of 16 to 18 inches can have 5 to 7 plants. In moss or coir-lined wire baskets, small openings can be poked into the liner to plant additional plants on the side of the basket.  The total number of plants should not exceed the recommended numbers listed previously.

Plants Well-Suited for Hanging Baskets

Below is a listing of commonly available plant species suitable for hanging baskets in sunny or shady sites.

In general, plants well adapted to drier soil conditions perform better in hanging baskets, especially for those in full sun or windy locations.  However, nearly any annual can be grown in a hanging basket if it is provided its ideal amount of light and kept consistently watered. 

Sun Plants

Trailing Sun Plants for Hanging Baskets

Common Name

Scientific Name

Bougainvillea (dwarf varieties)

Bougainvillea

Million Bells or Trailing Petunia

Calibrachoa x hybrida

Coleus (trailing varieties)

Coleus scutellarioides

Silver Falls Dichondra

Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls'

Licorice Vine

Helichrysum petiolare

Sweet Potato Vine

Ipomea batatas

Creeping Jenny

Lysimachia nummularia

Ivy Geranium

Pelargonium peltatum

Petunia

Petunia x hybrida

Moss Rose

Portulaca grandiflora

Wingpod Purslane

Portulaca umbraticola

Stonecrop

Sedum

Black-eyed Susan Vine

Thunbergia alata

Nasturtiums

Tropaeolum majus

Verbena (trailing varieties)

Verbena x hybrida

Periwinkle/Vinca vine

Vinca minor and V. major

 

Upright & Filler Sun Plants for Hanging Baskets

Common Name

Scientific Name

Chenille Plant

Acalypha hispida

Asparagus Fern & Foxtail Fern

Asparagus spp

Periwinkle

Catharanthus roseus

Coleus

Coleus scutellarioides

Diamond Frost® Euphorbia

Euphorbia 'Inneuphdia'

Heliotrope

Heliotrope arborescens

Lantana

Lantana camara

Swan River Daisy

Osteospermum hybrids

Geranium

Pelargonium x hortorum

Fanflower

Scaevola aemula

Signet Marigold

Tagetes tenuifolia

Dahlberg Daisy

Thymophylla tenuiloba

Verbena (upright varieties)

Verbena x hybrida

 

Shade & Part-Shade Plants

Trailing Plants Shade and Part-Shade Plants for Hanging Baskets

Common Name

Scientific Name

Prefers Part-Shade

Prefers Shade

Bacopa

Bacopa sutera

x

 

Coleus (trailing varieties)

Coleus scutellarioides

x

x

Rabbit’s Foot Fern

Davallia fejeensis

 

x

English Ivy

Hedera helix

x

x

Lobelia

Lobelia erinus

x

 

Sweet Alyssum

Lobularia maritima

x

 

Kangaroo Fern

Microsorum pustulatum

 

x

Nasturtiums

Tropaeolum majus

x

 

Periwinkle/Vinca vine

Vinca minor and V. major

x

x

Upright & Filler Plants Shade and Part-Shade Plants for Hanging Baskets

Common Name

Scientific Name

Prefers Part-Shade

Prefers Shade

Maidenhair Fern

Adiantum

 

x

Angel Wing Begonia

Begonia × corallina

x

x

Rex Begonia

Begonia rex

x

x

Wax Begonia

Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum

x

x

Tuberous Begonia

Begonia tuberosa

 

x

Silver Bells

Browallia speciosa

x

 

Caladium

Caladium bicolor

 

x

Coleus

Coleus scutellarioides

x

x

Fuschia

Fuschia hybrids

x

x

Impatiens

Impatiens walleriana

 

x

New Guinea Impatiens

Impatiens hybrids

x

x

Boston Fern

Nephrolepis exaltata

x

x

Cup Flower

Nierembergia linariifolia

x

 

Staghorn Fern

Platycerium

 

x

Wishbone Flower

Torenia fournieri

x

x

Pansy

Viola x wittrockiana

x

 

Edible Plants

Any compact variety of vegetable that grows well in a container can also be grown in hanging baskets.  Edibles in hanging baskets need full sun and consistent moisture to grow their best.  Below are a few edible plants that are particularly well-suited for hanging baskets. 

Common Name

Scientific Name

Notes

Strawberry (day-neutral or everbearing varieties are best)

Fragaria × ananassa

Clip runners to get better fruit production

Tomato (Compact varieties)

Solanum lycopersicum

Look for “tumbling tomatoes” that are compact but trailing

Chili Peppers (Compact varieties)

Capsicum annuum

 

Lettuce

Lactuca sativa

Will tolerate part shade

Thyme

Thymus vulgaris

 

Oregano

Origanum vulgare

 

Mint

Mentha

A good trailing plant

Succulents

Many succulents do well in hanging baskets, especially in hot locations or in smaller containers that are more likely to dry out.  While many of these succulents can do well in full sun, most prefer part sun locations outdoors.  Nearly any succulent could be used in a hanging basket, but below are a few species that are particularly well suited for hanging baskets. 

Common Name

Scientific Name

Habit

String of Buttons

Crassula perforata

Trailing

String of Pearls

Senecio rowleyanus

Trailing

String of Bananas

Senecio radicans

Trailing

Burro’s Tail

Sedum morganinum

Trailing

Stonecrop

Sedum

Rosette/Trailing

Fishbone Cactus, Ric Rac Cactus

Epiphyllum (Disocactus) anguliger

Arching/ Trailing

Orchid Cactus

Epiphyllum (Disocactus)

Arching/ Trailing

Holiday Cactus

Schlumbergera

Arching/Mounding

Panda Plant

Kalanchoe tomentosa

Upright/Mounding

Blue Chalk Sticks

Senecio mandraliscae

Upright/Mounding

Pinwheel Desert Rose

Aeonium

Rosette

Echeveria

Echeveria

Rosette

Ghost Plant

Graptopetalum

Rosette

Moonstones

Pachyphytum

Rosette

Hens and Chicks

Sempervivum

Rosette

Issue: 

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