Make Hanging Baskets That Last

June 28, 2021

4 Steps To Keep The Flowers Alive All Season

Eye-catching hanging baskets! We spot them at the garden center. Can’t wait to take them home. They herald the new season, the hope of a good year. So this makes the disappointment greater when they fail!

Take These 4 Steps For Hanging Baskets That Last!

It is hard to resist these balls of floral color hanging at eye level. They attract us as any flowers do but they are not where we expect them. Is that why people love them so much? The hanging flowers are a surprise! They brighten our streets, perk up the entryway and make the porch a porch

There is no more ubiquitous Mother’s day gift than a hanging ball of floral color and I write this to help you make the gift last.

Keeping Them Blooming And Beautiful Everywhere

Hanging floral baskets, say welcome in tiny towns and big cities everywhere. The presence of these flowers in containers tells us that somebody loves this place, they are welcoming, and they say we care. I think that some marketing genius somewhere knows that I’ll pay more for nice shoes in a shop with flower baskets than in a big mall.

“Ride A Cock Horse To Banbury Cross”

The first image of this article was taken in Banbury in Oxfordshire in the UK. It’s a famous nursery rhyme, someone probably read it to you when you were a baby. This ancient medieval market town is still welcoming people the same way it always did and it does love its flower baskets. Not only did we see the hanging baskets in the photos, and all over town, they even make tree-shaped frames of flower baskets in the medians of the city streets. I guess that’s civic pride.

How To Make The Planters

This is a simple project, pretty flowers in a container hanging where you want it. The key fact to remember is that this is not a normal garden. These flowers are leading an artificial life for our pleasure. The available amount of soil is small, they require regular water as they are dried by the breeze and we feed them more because the regular watering will leach the nutrition from the soil.

There are no esoteric skills required and the workload is light. Persistence is the virtue that will bring you success with hanging baskets. These are tiny but significant mini gardens and well worth the attention.

4 Steps To Follow

There are 4 steps to making and keeping these planters at their most enjoyable. They are:

  1. The Right Planter-size, shape, material
  2. The Right Plants-sun/shade, habit
  3. Best Method-soil, fertilizer, planting
  4. Best Maintenance-water, nutrition

I just finished a set of four baskets which frame the view from the kitchen, dining patio and the pool.

They hang on hooks slightly shaded by three Queen Palm trees. They frame the pond view beyond the lawn. The plantings below we have always enjoyed, but it’s the baskets that raise your eye up to the view beyond. The border planting beds can’t do that.

This will give us months of pleasure and we can get another season with just a few changes.

The Planters:

There are two basic choices in the planters, followed by a few features you will want to know about. Plants in hanging baskets live in tight quarters, nutrition and water are important.

Basket Materials

Coir Baskets: Reasonably light in weight (we will be lifting these up), natural, porous and biodegradable. You keep the metal frames and chain and replace the coir (made from the outer husk of coconuts) linings as needed. The appearance is very natural in a garden.

Plastic: Also, light in weight they have the advantage of holding water for a little longer; you might appreciate this in a dry summer. They do have drainage holes, drainage is imperative. Their appearance is artificial – but if you include full trailing plants, such as petunias the pot will be covered.

Basket Sizes

Size: Hanging baskets are like Texas – bigger is better! The small sizes dry out quickly, and in a dry, windy summer, this is an issue; you could be watering two or more times in a day.

At our house, we would consider 12”-14” in diameter to be the minimum size range to start with. Choose based on what appearance you are looking for and what your hanger (and you) can hold up.  In the smaller sizes, deeper pots are offered and the extra depth can be helpful in maintaining nutrition and moisture.


Maintaining moisture is important enough that we are constantly working on it. Sometimes a layer of plastic (with drainage holes) in the lower half of the pot can help, some folks like to use a small clean sponge. A high-quality potting soil will include inert materials to hold water.

The manufacturers of the pots themselves have some inventive solutions:

For the Coir lined baskets, there is a product. Aqua Sav, which includes a recycled plastic insert, sandwiched between two layers of coir. Reviews I have read say that in spring and fall they can go 7 days between watering with this product and in summer 2-3 days, rather than daily.

Within the plastic category there are ‘Self Watering’ planters. These combine a capillary mat with an evaporation grill and a reservoir. You fill the reservoir from the lower level of the pot making it easier with a high hanging pot. If your desired placement requires a small pot this can be even more helpful. An 18” pot, of this type, holds 1.5 quarts of water.

The Right Plants:

In the limited space that hanging baskets give us to work with, the “Right Plant, Right Place” rule has enhanced importance. Season, zone, sun and shade are important. A lot of the plants we are considering will be annuals, but sometimes a perennial can go into the ground beds at the end of the basket’s season.

We garden in Florida; our winter annuals are often the same ones our northern neighbors use in summer. In summer our pots have more tropical and native varieties.

This table will highlight proven plant choices and categories in which they can be used. These are samples, for brevity’s sake. Check with your local garden center. Read the Labels – the information you need will be on each plant’s tag.

There are three plant habits which you will want in your baskets. A central plant for height. Some plants to fill and spread to the sides of the planter and third plants which will trail and cascade. This way, no matter where you are looking from there is something good to see.

Sample Plants for Your Summer Hanging Baskets

Full SunPart SunFull Shade
Central Plants
for Height
Spreading, Filling
(Coral Bell)
Black Eyed
Susan Vine
English Ivy, Algerian Ivy,
Scandent Begonia

What About Planting Vegetable Hanging Baskets?

If sunny spaces to plant vegetables is in short supply this might be a very helpful idea. Think of a basket filled with some of these delicious and beautiful ideas. Hang the baskets at easy to reach heights, Combine tall vegetables with those that trail.

In edible baskets plant for style and dinner. These mixed lettuce are handsome. Harvest leaf lettuce from the outside and they will last longest. When they are done you can add other vegetables or some of the marigolds you see in the photos.

  • Multicolored leaf lettuce.
  • Strawberries.
  • Small peppers.
  • Any of the low-growing herbs.
  • Include any flowers that require the same conditions. Try geraniums, marigolds, bacopa, which will trail gracefully from the pots.

Use Your Hanging Baskets For Pollinator Plants

Many smaller annuals and even perennials will work in hanging baskets that will attract pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. Use this article on container butterfly gardens for some help. Use several baskets, or larger baskets to keep nectar flowers blooming all season.

Add a mix of pollinator attractors.

Best Planting Methods

Soil: A high quality potting soil is needed. It should feel light and soft in the bag. The soil mix should contain 20%-40% volcanic rock products.  All the planting instructions I read specify both new and high-quality soil. If you recycle soil, ensure that your source did not contain a diseased plant and has no wildlife in it. You can improve reused soil by thorough mixing and an addition of fresh potting soil. New soil is sterile in the bag, maintain it in as clean conditions as possible.

How much soil? Leave a good inch between the top of the soil and the top of the pot. This will prevent splashing during watering. How much to buy? As a reference, a 13″ pot will take about 8 quarts of soil.

Mix a slow release fertilizer into the soil.  For quantity follow the instructions on the container.  It should last about 6 weeks before you need to add more.

Hanging baskets are often rounded on the bottom and the chains can be hard to remove. Try putting the planter in a pot or pail and it will be easy to drape the chain along the outside of the pot. Arrange the plants in a convenient spot, dampen the soil, test them in the pot first and add most of the soil. Start with the center plant – the tallest and star of the show. Add the major trailers, then fill in. Putting the trailers on a little angle gets them started doing their jobs.

How many plants? We fill tightly; we don’t want to wait too long for gratification and the plants are not permanent residents. How many to use?  It depends on size and the picture you are trying to make.  Here is a rule of thumb:

12-14” diameter basket-3-5 plants

16”-18” diameter basket-5-7 plants

18” diameter basket- at least 7 including 6 trailing plants.

Water the planted pot well, letting water flow out freely. Acclimate your new planted pots out of direct sun for 4-7 days if their destination is in the sun.

What kind of plants? The plants should include a centerpiece, plants to fill and spread along the surface and some which will cascade down. The way in which you hang the planter will influence how you plant.

Will you look up at the planter or straight at it, or down from an upper story? Our 4 new planters are at eye level from our dining table. The whole picture is important.

Good Maintenance

You should be able to expect months of pleasure from this arrangement.

Water:  do this as soon as the pot begins to dry. Use your finger to test, don’t rely on a schedule. In a hot summer, particularly with wind you will expect to water daily unless you have a supplemental watering plan or a drip system in place. These plants are living in close quarters avoid placing desert plants with water lovers.

If it is not inconvenient, try taking the planters down for a periodic, preferably weekly, deep soaking.

Do not allow the planter to dry out completely. When this happens, you will notice that the soil has pulled away from the sides of the pot and the roots will be damaged. Should this happen you can mitigate the problem with three thorough watering’s, 30 minutes apart. During the last one water will finally get to the roots.

Over watering is not usually a problem. If it is a concern test this way. Put your finger in the soil, take up a small piece of soil, try to make a ball of it. If it won’t form a ball and water runs out. It’s too wet. Let it dry.  

Nutrition: These plants are now in production mode; they need to grow and produce blooms in profusion. Replace the time release fertilizer in about 6 weeks (following the directions on the package). Add your favorite blooming fertilizer on a weekly basis.

Weeds should not be a problem, there is little space for them. You will want to deadhead, and trim back any plant material which stretches too far. This will lengthen you months of enjoyment.

Some Cool Season Ideas

When fall and winter come, in our climate we plant our cool season baskets, which to any northerner would be summer flowers. Here is an article with photos of pretty basket ideas for fall.