How to Plant a Hanging Flower Basket
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 professionally designed hanging basket at home for significantly less money, even while using high-quality materials and dense planting techniques.
When to Plant a Hanging Flower Basket
Outdoor hanging baskets are planted at roughly the same time as in-ground garden plants. In cold-winter regions, this means mid-spring after all danger of frost has passed. Hanging baskets can sometimes be planted a bit earlier than in-ground plants because the soil in the basket will warm up faster in the sun than ground soil does. In most regions, April or May are the best months to plant hanging baskets, but tropical climates may allow for earlier planting in March.
If a frost is threatened, simply bring your basket indoors to shelter it from cold nighttime temperatures. You can also grow flowers in a hanging basket indoors by placing them in a location that receives plenty of sunlight (be sure to check the light requirements for the specific plants you choose).
Caring for Hanging Baskets
Caring for plants in a hanging basket is largely the same as tending the same plants in the ground or in a patio pot. But rather than being filled with garden soil, hanging baskets (and patio containers) are filled with a commercial potting mix. Garden soil is too heavy and dense. Potting mixes include materials that hold water and improve aeration and drainage. Potting mix is also usually sterile, without the soil pathogens that can be found in garden soil.
There are a variety of hanging basket ideas to choose from including standard pots and containers, but one of the most versatile is a wire basket (sometimes called a "hayrack" basket) lined with a coco coir or moss liner. This setup holds quite a lot of potting soil, is fairly lightweight, and makes it easy to saturate the plants with water without waterlogging the roots.
Plants in hanging baskets can be affected by the same pests and diseases that affect in-ground plants, so you'll need to keep a vigilant eye out for those.
Hanging baskets require more frequent watering because exposure to the wind and sun from all directions will cause the potting soil to dry out quite quickly. Some plants might even require twice-daily watering during hot spells.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Garden trowel
- Utility knife
- Wire "hayrack" basket
- Coco coir or moss basket liner
- General-purpose potting soil
- Flowering plants
How to Plant a Hanging Flower Basket
Line the Wire Basket
You have several choices for lining a wire planting basket. Coco coir or moss liners are the most common materials, offering excellent drainage and aesthetics.
Some retailers offer premium basket liners that increase water retention, such as the MagniMoist liner. These liners are more expensive than standard coco coir liners but might improve the performance of drought-sensitive plants like fuchsias.
For a less expensive liner, you can create one yourself from layers of burlap that you've cut to fit.
Increase Water Retention
Most garden centers line the bottom of the coco coir liner to prevent excess water from rushing out of the bottom of the basket during irrigation. You can place a plastic dish or a piece of a plastic garbage bag 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.
Add Potting Soil
The most essential step in creating a healthy hanging basket is selecting high-quality potting soil to fill it with. Garden soil is too heavy and can carry pathogens that can infect your plants.
Choose a lightweight bagged potting soil. 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 enhance aeration, like perlite. Moisten the soil before you start planting and add more soil to the basket if settling occurs.
Choose a Focal Plant
The first plant to install in the hanging basket is 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 will grab attention at the center of the basket. These plants have upright growth habits with spiky blooms and won’t get lost as the other plants mature.
Add Mounding and Trailing Plants
Surround your focal plant with additional plants with mounding and trailing growth habits that have similar requirements for sunlight, moisture, and fertilizer. These plants fill in quickly, providing fullness with fewer plants. Some of the easiest plants to grow in hanging baskets include petunias, verbenas, portulaca, and million bells—all high-performing flowering varieties to tuck around the edges of your basket. If your basket will be hanging above your reach, reduce maintenance by choosing varieties that don’t require deadheading.
Plant the Side and Underside of the Basket (Optional)
This is an optional step but one that will quickly reward you with the “blooming ball” look. For small baskets, the trailing flowers planted at the basket’s edge will drape over and cover the basket within a few weeks, but larger baskets might need a few trailing plants inserted directly into the bottom and sides of the liner for extra fullness. You can use the same trailing plants you used at the edges of the basket.
Use a utility knife to cut several slits into the sides and underside of your liner. 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.
Keep flowers and other plants alive in your hanging basket by providing them with a proper watering and fertilization schedule. Water new plants until you see runoff. Expect to water your hanging baskets daily—perhaps even twice a day when hot, dry conditions persist. Improper watering is the most common reason that plants in hanging baskets die.
Fertilize your baskets twice a month to keep them looking healthy throughout the season.
How many plants do you put in a hanging basket?
Hanging baskets can accommodate multiple small plants, one large plant, or a combination of both. If you're planting several young specimens, you can follow a general rule based on basket size: three to four plants in a 12-inch basket, four to six plants in a 14-inch basket, and six to eight plants in baskets between 16 -20 inches.
Should you put drainage holes in hanging baskets?
Like plants in pots and in the ground, flowers and other species can benefit from drainage holes in hanging baskets. Ensure each basket has multiple small holes or one large hole on the bottom.
How do you make a hanging basket look fuller?
To make a hanging basket look fuller, pinch off the ends of stems to encourage extra growth. This technique works especially well for flowering plants, but it can also be applied to vines and other trailing species.