Plant A Heavenly Hanging Basket

Plant A Heavenly Hanging Basket

Spring 2014

A beautiful hanging basket is an essential element in creating a warm and welcoming porch or patio. You could buy one ready made or indulge your creative impulse and plant your own. In this article we provide helpful tips to help you create a heavenly hanging basket.

CHOOSE A CONTAINER. The traditional wire basket with a sphagnum moss or coconut fiber lining is one option. Moss offers great visual appeal when using mounding or upright plants that do not trail to obscure the lining. Preformed coconut fiber liners are easier to use. If moss is used be sure to moisten the moss well before pressing it into the wire from the inside. Both of these materials offer excellent soil aeration which is beneficial to plant health and vigor but they do dry out quickly. You may want to line the bottom 1/3 of the basket with a piece of plastic sheeting inside the liner to help retain moisture but be sure to punch a few small holes in the plastic to allow for drainage.

Another option is a container made from recycled paper such as our Rustic Round baskets. These also offer good soil aeration but do not dry out as quickly as moss or coconut fiber baskets.

The least expensive option is a basket made of plastic. While these don’t breathe, they do hold moisture better than the other options.

DON'T SKIMP ON POTTING SOIL. Spend a little more and get the best quality. Keep in mind that the most expensive isn’t always the best. Nationally advertised brands must include the cost of national advertising in their selling price.

The primary component of a good potting soil is peat moss with an aggregate such as pearlite. Some may include other organic ingredients such as compost or forest by-products up to 30%. Avoid those with higher percentages of other components.

Lightly moisten the soil before filling your container 1/3 full, and then add controlled release fertilizer according to label directions. We recommend using the low rate and supplement with water soluble fertilizer once every week or so. Lightly mix the fertilizer into the top inch of soil then fill the container about 4 inches from the top.

Do not pack the soil in. Roots need air. Packing the soil eliminates the air. Just tap the container lightly on your work bench a couple of times to settle the soil.

Choose your plants. The most important thing is to choose plants that require similar growing conditions. Don’t combine sun lovers with those requiring shade or those that love moisture with those that thrive in dry soil.

Choose colors that you like. Don’t worry too much about rules. That being said, there are some combinations that just don’t work.

Plant habit: I believe it was P. Allen Smith that coined the term “thrillers, fillers and spillers”. The theory being that every combination planting should include a thriller (upright plant), some fillers (mounding plants) and some spillers (trailing plants). With all due respect to the incredibly talented Mr. Smith, I urge the reader to forget that rule. You can create a gorgeous hanging basket of all fillers or all spillers, or any combination, including or not including a thriller. You decide. It’s your creation. Some basic rules however, are in order. The thriller (if used) should go in the center or slightly off center of the basket. The fillers should occupy the middle ground between the center and the edge while the spillers go near the edge. An exception to this last point are extremely vigorous spillers such as Wave Petunias which should go near the center.

Prune your plants. The key to growing a full, lush hanging basket is pruning. Plants that branch from a central stem are pinched (the growing tip of each branch is removed). Those that grow multiple branches from the crown are sheared (gather up the branches and give them a light haircut using scissors). At The Flower Farm most every plant in every basket is pruned at least three times. If you buy the plants for your basket from us, they have likely been pruned twice already so all that remains for you is to prune once more as you plant.

Remove all flowers and buds at this time as well. Allow the plants to put all of their energy into growing and you’ll be rewarded with more flowers in just a few weeks.

Plant your basket. Pack your basket full. We suggest 5 to 7 plants for a 12 inch basket, 12 to 16 for a 16 inch basket. You may need to massage the root balls a bit to get them to fit. Fill in around them with more potting soil to the level of the tops of the root balls. Remember not to pack the soil. Rather, just shake the container gently. Water them in gently but thoroughly and add more soil if needed. When you are done there should be about 1 inch of space between the top of the soil and the edge of the basket.  Refer to our container garden care handout (also available at for some tips one how to care for your creation.

We are happy to help you create your perfect hanging basket. You’ll find a few recipes at the recipe page of our web site or just come in and ask one of our expert staff to help you pick plants and design your basket. Helping you succeed is one of our favorite jobs!

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