Have you ever admired a lush hanging basket bursting with blooms at your favorite nursery? A well-designed hanging basket can run between $50 and $75 (or higher), putting a major dent in your gardening budget.
However, you can duplicate the look of a professional flowering hanging basket at home for significantly less money, even while using high-quality materials and dense planting techniques.
Place the Basket Liner
You have several choices for lining your hayrack baskets. Coco coir or moss liners are the most common materials, offering excellent drainage and aesthetics. Some retailers offer premium basket liners that increase the water retention of flower baskets, such as the MagniMoist liner. These liners are more expensive than standard coco coir liners but may improve the performance of drought-sensitive plants like fuchsias. For a less-expensive liner, create one yourself from layers of burlap that you've cut to fit your planter.
Insert an Irrigation Helper
Most garden centers line the bottom of the coco liner to prevent excess water from rushing out of the bottom of the basket during irrigation. You can place a plastic tray, a piece of a plastic garbage bag, or even a new disposable diaper in the bottom of the liner to increase water retention. If you decide to line the entire piece of coco coir for maximum water retention, cut several holes in the liner to allow for drainage and air circulation, unless you’re growing bog flowers.
Add Potting Soil
The most essential step in creating a healthy hanging basket is selecting a high-quality potting soil to fill it with. Garden soil is too heavy and may carry pathogens that can infect your flowers.
Choose a lightweight bagged soil mix created especially for hanging baskets. It should contain a mix of organic ingredients that will feed your plants, such as compost, humus, earthworm castings, leaf mold, and inorganic ingredients that lighten the soil, like perlite or vermiculite. Moisten the soil and add more as settling occurs before you start planting.
Choose a Focal Plant
The first plant to install in the hanging basket will be a focal point in the design, so choose a specimen with a long blooming time and vigorous performance. Smart choices include angelonia, salvia, or celosia, all of which would be an attention-grabber at the center of your basket. These plants have upright growth habits with spiky blooms, and won’t get lost in the jungle as your plants mature.
Arrange Trailing Flowers
Surround your focal plant with flowers that have spreading and trailing habits. These plants will fill in blank spots quickly, giving you a full look with fewer plants. Petunias, verbenas, portulaca, and million bells are a few high-performing plants to tuck around the edges of your basket. If your basket will be hanging above your reach, choose varieties that don’t require deadheading to ease maintenance tasks.
Plant Basket Sides
This is an optional step but one that will reward you with a “blooming ball” look the fastest. Plant trailing flowers in the sides of the basket. For small baskets, the trailing flowers planted at the basket’s edge will cover the sides within a few weeks, but larger baskets need some trailers planted directly into the liner for extra oomph. You can plant the same trailing plants you used at the edge of the basket for the sides.
Use a utility knife to cut several slits into the sides of your basket. Grasping small transplants by the root ball, insert the root ball into the slit. Don’t worry about damaging the plant, as the root ball can take quite a bit of manhandling. Just be sure not to grasp the transplant by the stem, which can break easily.
Water the newly planted basket until you see runoff. Expect to water your hanging baskets daily—perhaps even twice a day when hot, dry conditions persist.
If you water in the morning, wet the foliage as well, to discourage spider mites. Fertilize your baskets twice a month to keep them looking healthy throughout the season.