Hanging baskets can be a great way to bring beauty and interest to new heights in your garden. They are also perfect for people living in condos, apartments, or any place with limited to no gardening space.
The following guide to gardening with hanging baskets comes to us courtesy of Pam Brown, a retired urban horticulture agent with UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County.
Creating a Hanging Basket
Hanging baskets are wonderful additions to your home garden. They can easily be moved around and create wonderful eye-level color and texture opportunities.
Select the size of wire basket you want to use. The larger the basket, the more plants you will be able to put in—and the more colorful it will be.
Choose a suitable liner. Most commercially available liners are either coco-fiber or sphagnum moss. Line the basket, leaving about one inch above the top of your basket. If using moss, you may cut out a circular disc from a potting soil bag (or other strong plastic bag) and place in the bottom to help with water retention. Depending on basket size this disc should be big enough to come up the sides slightly.
Fill with potting soil to about the halfway mark and add slow-release fertilizer. Mix together and water well.
Now you can add the side plants if you wish. Make a small hole in the liner or moss and insert plant root first through the hole you have made, remember that the roots must be sitting in the potting soil. A lot of side plants fail due to not being inserted fully through the liner and into the soil.
Add more potting soil to about one inch from the top, but leaving a fairly large area in the center unfilled (bring potting soil up the sides but leave a depression in the center).
You can now start adding your main plants. Begin at the center and work your way out to the rim, firming the plants in as you go. Add more potting soil to fill, but do not overfill your basket. Water in the plants and add more potting soil, if needed. Now any spaces along the edge that appear bare can be planted with small trailing plants if needed.
Once your basket has settled the liner or moss will have shrunk to fit your basket. Any excess on a liner can be trimmed. Any excess moss can be teased down the sides.
Hang in a greenhouse or shady place to acclimate for a few days.
Suggested Plants for Hanging Baskets
Flowering annuals and perennials can bring a splash of bright color and do quite well in hanging baskets. This includes warm-season flowering plants like lobelia, osteospermum, portulaca, fox tail (Acalypha hispida), periwinkle, begonias, lantana, impatiens, salvia, and angelonia.
When the warm season passes you can switch to cool-season flowering selections like alyssum, dusty miller, pansies, petunias, snap dragons, calibrachoa, nemesia, and dianthus.
Plants with interesting foliage pair nicely with flowering annuals, but they can also shine on their own. Coleus, Persian shield, and many ferns can be used to add texture and color to hanging baskets beyond blooming flowers.
Vining plants are often added to hanging baskets. The gently cascading leaves and vines add exciting movement, and some like bougainvillea even add color. Spider plant, ivy, creeping fig (Ficus pumila), and sweet potato vine do very well in hanging baskets.
Many herbs work wonderfully grown in a hanging basket, including thyme, chives, oregano, and marjoram. Herbs can be grown all together in one basket, or added to flowers to provide lovely aromas and green texture. The added bonus of growing herbs in your hanging baskets is that you can enjoy not only the look and smell of your plants, but the tastes as well. Strawberries are another edible that grows well in a hanging basket.
Succulents can be used to make a more drought-tolerant hanging basket—perfect for the busy or forgetful plant enthusiast.
Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Basket Through the Season
Most important of all is to keep your basket watered well. Remember, as the plants grow they will require more water. Monitor the moisture content of your basket by checking the weight—the lighter the basket, the more water it needs.
During very hot summer months you will probably need to water 2–3 times a day; the hotter it is, the quicker the basket will dry out. When watering ensure you give enough water to wet the soil all the way through and not just the surface.
The moss or coco-fiber should be slightly damp at all times. Do not be fooled into thinking, "It's raining, so I don't have to water today." You do! As the plants grow, their leaves form a canopy over the soil and this keeps the rain off where it is needed the most—inside the basket. So even if it's raining, you still have to water your baskets. Baskets in shady places dry out also. Don't forget to water them.
Ensure that the bracket for your basket is adequate and securely fastened to the wall and that the bracket is the correct size for your basket. Check your bracket yearly, since it will weather and age with time.
If you're not using a slow-release fertilizer, regular doses of fertilizer will keep the baskets alive and blooming.
Placing the basket in a sheltered position away from exposed situations will prevent the wind from drying out your basket and damaging plants.
Trimming is a special part of basket maintenance. By trimming old flowers every two or three weeks, your basket can stay at its peak for a long time. Certain plants, such as lantana, bougainvillea, and verbena, require little trimming. Others, such as begonias and impatiens, are usually shaped into balls of color and require a "hair cut" more often.
When your basket starts to deteriorate, you can choose to dispose of the plants and replant or you can severely prune the basket back. If the plants are salvageable perennials, they will grow back. If you have annuals in combination with perennials, replace them and start production again.
Common pest problems include mealy bugs and spider mites. Fungus can also become a serious issue, especially during the warmer months and if the baskets are being watered too much. Mealy bugs and spider mites can be controlled with insecticidal soaps. To avoid fungus problems, do not water late in the day and try to keep the foliage dry.