Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Hope for Hanging Baskets

How to care for your hanging basket and keep it looking good all summer.

Contributors: Kerry Meyer

I've been thinking a lot about hanging baskets lately.  Hanging baskets are a Mother's Day gift staple and for good reason.  They're beautiful, they last longer than cut flowers, and for much of the country the timing is perfect to start gardening.  The thing I've been thinking about is that hanging baskets are one of the hardest things to keep looking good all summer.  The reason is simple, there's a whole lot of plant material to a relatively small amount of soil.  This is true of almost any hanging basket, but is especially true of the huge baskets you buy at garden centers.  The small soil volume means the basket will dry out quickly and keeping up with watering can become challenging.  It is possible to keep a hanging basket looking good all summer, but it will take constant attention from the gardener.

I love hanging baskets!  I have seven of them around my wrap-around porch and each year I try something new in them.  What's going in the hanging baskets is often the first decision I make for my garden.  In fact, I'm usually thinking about them the summer before I'll be planting them.  So what goes into having a great hanging basket all season?  It starts with choosing your basket and your plants.

Getting Started

Basket Selection

Your first decision will be to decide if you are going to buy an already planted hanging basket or if you are going to plant it yourself.  The next step is to consider the size of the hanging basket.  I am a big believer that the bigger the planter, the better off you are.  Small pots will dry-out faster than larger pots because they have less soil.  Watering will be your biggest challenge in maintaining your hanging baskets.  Choosing a larger pot now, can make maintaining your basket much easier.  I use 14-inch diameter, deep hanging baskets, so I have a reasonably good soil volume to plant material (photo, right.)

Once you decide on pot size, pay attention to the material from which your pot is made.  Most hanging baskets are either plastic or coco-fiber/moss.  There are a few wood, ceramic, and terra cotta hanging baskets, but they are few and far between.  The pros of plastic are they retain moisture well, are inexpensive and are easy to find.  The con is they are plastic and you may or may not like the way plastic looks.  The pro of coco-fiber/moss baskets is they are decorative.  The negatives are they dry-out faster, can be harder to find, and the coco-fiber/moss liner will need to be replaced periodically.  You can get around the dry-out factor by lining the basket with plastic prior to planting (this is what I do).  Ceramic pots are similar to plastic as far as the pros go and they are decorative.  Wood and terra cotta will both dry-out faster than plastic, but not as fast as a coco-fiber/moss basket.

Plant Selection

You can make life a lot easier if you choose plants for your baskets that suit your environment.  This is true, whether you are buying a pre-planted basket or planting your own.  First, decide if your basket will be hanging in sun or shade conditions.  Choosing plants that are adapted to the amount of sun your area will get is key to having happy plants.  Once you know sun/shade conditions, it is time to start choosing plants for your basket.  What traits are most important will vary for each gardener.  Some questions to consider are does a plant needs deadheading, is it drought tolerant, does it wilt quickly, is it heat tolerant, does it need a lot of fertilizer, and what color do I want (that's the fun part!)?

I personally tend to be a bit time-starved, I travel a fair amount for work and my husband has limited patience for watering.  However, I don't mind fertilizing and my color preferences seem to change every year.  It also tends to be very hot in the summer here.  Keeping these things in mind, I try to choose plants that can tolerate dry soil, don't need deadheading and are heat tolerant.  I don't mind fertilizing, so either light or heavy feeders work for me.  Your tendencies might be different than mine and could include things other than those listed here.

Soil

If you are buying a pre-planted basket, skip ahead to the maintenance section, below.  If you are planting your own basket, there is one more decision to make and that is the soil for your basket.  It is best to use a good, light potting soil and to fully replace the soil in your baskets every year.  There are good commercial mixes available, for more on choosing potting soil, click here.  Now that you have planted your basket, it is time to think about maintenance. 

Maintaining Your Hanging Basket

The keys to maintaining your hanging basket really fall into three categories: water, fertilizer, and other maintenance.

Water

Watering is the hardest part of maintaining a hanging basket, or any container plant.  You can't keep the soil too wet because it will result in root rot problems, you can't keep it too dry or the plant wilts and dies.  You want to hit the happy medium.  Here are the rules of thumb for watering hanging baskets:

1. Be sure your pot has drainage holes
2. Water only when the top of the soil is dry to the touch
3. Water until water comes out of the drainage holes
4. Don’t allow your pot to sit in standing water

Here are a few more tips on watering hanging baskets. Early in spring when your plants are smaller and the temperatures are lower, you may only have to water every 3 or 4 days. As the plants get larger and the mercury creeps higher be prepared to water every day.  With small pots or water “pigs” you might even have to water twice a day. You will also need to water more quickly if it is a windy day. Wind will cause pots to dry out more quickly, especially hanging baskets.  As I said above, larger pots will dry-out less quickly than small pots.  For more in-depth watering information, click here.  If you have had problems with your hanging basket in the past, I really encourage you to read the watering article.

Another option to consider with watering is a drip irrigation system. Proven Winners® is marketing a very adaptable low volume irrigational system that works as well for flower bed as it does for hanging baskets and upright patio containers.  This system called WaterWise is designed with the gardener and the environment in mind; it uses very low volumes of water with a system of ‘drip irrigators’ which deliver the water directly to the plants. The drip emitters limit wasted water from splashing on sidewalks and driveways.   They also deliver the water directly to the soil by the plant eliminating water evaporation and lots of water on the leaves. Resulting in less disease and less water waste.  The kit has everything you need to set up the system except the timer.  The only tool you will need is a pair of scissors.

There are other drip irrigation systems out there also. They all work on similar principles. These systems generally apply ½ to 1 gallon of water per hour. Drip irrigation systems can be turned into automatic systems by adding a timer to your hose. This timer can be set to turn on your water at specified times and on specified days. Many variations of timers are available. Be sure to select a timer that allows you to set both time and day, you don’t want to be locked into watering every day.

Fertilizer

Your container plants are only getting nutrition if you provide it to them.  After watering, fertilizer is the most important thing to keep your plants thriving.  I usually recommend adding a slow or controlled-release fertilizer to your hanging basket right after you buy or plant it.  This will provide your basket with a good constant dose of fertilizer.  Be sure to follow the directions on your fertilizer package to make sure you don't damage your plants. 

By midsummer, I usually start using a water-soluble fertilizer once every one to two weeks.  Again, follow the directions on your fertilizer package.  I do this for two reasons -- by this time the plants are very large and to keep them going takes more fertilizer plus some of the controlled-release fertilizer has already been used by the plant.  I sometimes also use a dose of water-soluble fertilizer after a heavy rain.  A lot of water going through your basket, like you get with a big rain storm, can wash out fertilizer.  A dose of water-soluble fertilizer the next time you water is a good, quick way to give your plant some food.  For more in-depth information on fertilizing, click here.

Other Maintenance

There are two other things you may want to do to help maintain your basket for the long-haul.  First, some plants may need deadheading.  Most Proven Winners® plants have been selected to not need deadheading for continuous bloom, but some plants may benefit from it.  On our website "Deadheading Not Necessary" is listed under features for those plants which do not need deadheading.

The second thing you may want to do is a midsummer trim.  Hanging baskets can become a bit stretched or open looking over time, even when you are doing everything right.  If this happens, I give my baskets a "haircut" in mid to late summer.  This simply means I take a sharp pair of scissors or shears and trim a few inches off the entire basket, like when you get your hair trimmed.  How much you cut off is up to you, a light trim of an inch or two is usually plenty, but there are times when a bigger trim might be good.  If you have long trailing pieces that you don't like, feel free to cut them off.

Giving the basket a haircut will rob you of some flowers, but it will increase branching, tighten the habit, and help keep the basket looking good long-term.  Your flowers should come back with in a few days to a week or so and your plant, given enough fertilizer, is likely to start growing more strongly again.

Be The First To Rate This: 12345
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 04/18/2014 - 8:34pm

Every morning I empty my spent coffee grounds into one lucky plant. Rotating feedings from plant too plant.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 04/13/2014 - 7:13pm

I bought a iron planner that hangs on the wall. It is really pretty but I didn't have much luck with the hanging plant I put in last summer. It gets sun in the morning then It's shady but is warm. I have picked upa few ideas for watering but does anybody have any ideas for specific plants that may work?

Kelly Geoghegan's picture
Kelly Geoghegan Tue, 04/15/2014 - 4:55pm

I would recommend Diamond Frost® or Catalina® Grape-O-Licious! Both of these plants will do great with little sun. You could also try both of those plants together if there's enough room! That combination is called Moonlight Serenade.

Hope this helps! Kelly Geoghegan PW

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 04/07/2014 - 3:02pm

I am having trouble finding good plastic hanging planters. I want big ones (perhaps 18 or 20 inches) because the hanging plants I buy never look like they have enough space to grow bigger. Also, I live in Phoenix. A beautiful, colorful, perfect, $25 hanging flower basket looks good for 1-2 weeks after I buy it, then quickly turns to a $25 memory of wasted effort. Do you know of a good place to buy LARGE plastic hanging flower pots?

Kelly Geoghegan's picture
Kelly Geoghegan Mon, 04/07/2014 - 5:21pm

Try local retailers, Home Depot and Lowe's! Most should have hanging pots out around Mother's Day!

Hope this helps! Kelly Geoghegan PW

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 02/15/2014 - 10:05am

Hello, can anyone tell me what flowers are pictured in the photo at the top of the page please? The small white flowers. It is my aim this year to have the same beautiful ball shaped baskets :) thanks x

Kelly Geoghegan's picture
Kelly Geoghegan Fri, 02/21/2014 - 5:16pm

The top photo features Snow Princess® Lobularia!

Kelly Geoghegan PW

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 10/13/2013 - 9:21am

I set this irrigation system up throughout out entire deck and it worked great. Now that winter is approaching I need to know if this system needs to be winterized - and if so, the recommended procedure.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 09/11/2013 - 2:50pm

My hanging baskets hang over a carpeted area, so I can't let it run though. Is there something I can do within the basket?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 06/11/2013 - 7:00am

This is a great article; "Thank you." I was especially interested in the fertilizing section. I am as organic a gardener as I can be and hesitate using too many chemical fertilizers. It is difficult to do this in the many hanging baskets and pots I plant each year with Proven Winners. I worry about over-fertilizing. I do add the slow release when I plant. As you suggested, I shall try the liquid fertilizer routine . I have just purchased some Proven Winners water soluble granules, which has iron in it and I shall use that. I truly enjoy your Newsletter. By the way, I have been enjoying the sun coleus for several years; they perform awesomely!! Susan from Schaumburg

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Thu, 06/20/2013 - 10:01pm

Susan,

I'm glad you found the article helpful.  If you prefer to stick to more organic methods, there are organic fertilizers that you can use.  If you do use an organic fertilizer, Supertunia and Superbells might end up having an issue with limited Iron (the rest of our plants don't have as high of a need for Iron).  You could then resort only to the non-organic fertilizer if, despite regular fertilization, the foliage is light green.  We also just introduced a Proven Winners organic fertilizer from Jobes.  I know it is available in Home Depot and should also be available at other venues soon, so that might be an option too.

Good luck with your garden this summer.

Kerry

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/10/2013 - 7:39pm

I hang my baskets on double swivels so Mother Nature turns them in the summer breezes. I have a drip system that runs along the top of the porch with a "T" drip line with a small spray emmiter into each basket, hooked up to a fertilizer siphon at the faucet. Proven Winners are my favorite plants! I try to get them fresh off the truck before they are at the mercy of the nursery workers who don't always maintain them properly. I wish there was an exclusive "Proven Winners" nursery!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Thu, 06/20/2013 - 10:03pm

I love the swivel idea!  Why didn't I think of that.  I'll have to look them up for my baskets.  Thank you for the suggestion!

Kerry

Kerry Meyer
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/10/2013 - 7:38pm

I hang my baskets on double swivels so Mother Nature turns them in the summer breezes. I have a drip system that runs along the top of the porch with a "T" drip line with a small spray emmiter into each basket, hooked up to a fertilizer siphon at the faucet. Proven Winners are my favorite plants! I try to get them fresh off the truck before they are at the mercy of the nursery workers who don't always maintain them properly. I wish there was an exclusive "Proven Winners" nursery!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/10/2013 - 12:06pm

Kerry,I have used packing peanuts in my flower pots and hanging baskets. I just put several inches of peanuts on the bottom (depending on how big the pot or basket is) and then fill the rest of it with potting soil and the grow fantastic and I always get compliments my flowers every year. Not only does this make for good drainage but it also makes it easier if you have to move them or if you are like me who always rotate them every week so they grow more evenly.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 06/17/2013 - 7:34am

I know a lot of people like to use fillers in the bottom of containers to decrease the amount of soil necessary to fill a container.  It sounds like you are having great success, so just keep doing what you are doing.  I go the other way and use all soil, I like the extra water holding capacity, which cuts down on how much watering I need to do.  Drainage is also often mentioned as a plus for putting something, like gravel, in the bottom of a container.  If you are using good quality potting soil and your container had drainage hole, you shouldn't need to use anything to improve drainage.  But, again, what you are doing is obviously working so just keep on doing it!

Kerry

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 06/08/2013 - 7:52am

I love your articles They are a great guidance and have so much very helpful information. Thank you for all you write.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Thu, 06/20/2013 - 10:03pm

Thank you, I appreciate you taking the time to tell me that.

Kerry

Kerry Meyer
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 06/08/2013 - 7:49am

I use heavy black trash bags to line my moss baskets to make the plant roots fooled into thinking they are underground. I cut one hole in the bottom of the plastic and have had many years of success in my garden in sunny southern California.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Thu, 06/20/2013 - 10:05pm

This is in response to the person asking about getting the plants through the sides of the basket.  I actually only plant the top of the basket.

Kerry

Kerry Meyer
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 06/13/2013 - 1:20pm

How do you get your stems through the moss with a plastic liner in it. I know other folks do it too but I can't figure out how to do this? Thanks very much.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 06/07/2013 - 5:22pm

What do you mean by lining the plastic prior to planting? Any kind of plastic?

The pro of coco-fiber/moss baskets is they are decorative. The negatives are they dry-out faster, can be harder to find, and the coco-fiber/moss liner will need to be replaced periodically. You can get around the dry-out factor by lining the basket with plastic prior to planting (this is what I do).

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 06/17/2013 - 7:28am

I use the plastic shopping bags from Target (they are a bit bigger than other similar bags and work better for my containers), I cut a big hole in the bottom to ensure good drainage, remove the handles and trim around the top as needed.  This article has more details and pictures http://www.provenwinners.com/learn/success-moss-and-coco-fiber-baskets.

Kerry

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 06/07/2013 - 5:10pm

Great article. It was just what I needed!!! Thanks!!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 06/07/2013 - 4:42pm

I have several large pots I use for annuals. There is a product available commercially to reduce the depth of your pots that comes in various diameters. The cost however, was more than I wanted to spend for my 5 pots ($9.99 each). It basically is a plastic disc with holes. I purchased lids for 5-gallon buckets @ $1.17 each and drilled my own holes. They worked out perfectly. This also reduced the weight of my containers and I can lift them much easier than ever before.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 06/07/2013 - 4:37pm

I line my baskets with landscape fabric. It holds enough moisture between watering, allows soil to breathe and drain, is black and not noticeable, conforms to any shape, does not add weight to the unit, and looks great.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Thu, 06/20/2013 - 10:06pm

Landscape fabric is a great idea too.  It should also be quite durable.  Thank you for the suggestion.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 06/07/2013 - 3:43pm

I used burlap to line my wire planters this year and I love it. Used the coco liners in the past and the birds ate away at them.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 06/11/2013 - 12:27pm

I believe if you used Real Cocoa it is toxic to birds, I know it is to Parrots

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 05/31/2013 - 11:19pm

I saw elsewhere a suggestion to line the coco fiber baskets with a clean disposable diaper which retains water w/ crystals. Of course you could mix into the soil those crystals as well.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 06/13/2013 - 6:11am

My sister lives in the mountains and they have a wraparound porch. She was having to water her baskets
everyday and would worry when she left for vacation. I would put a clean heavey absorbent baby diaper in the bottom
of the basket, cut an x in it and fill it with water before adding the soil. This would keep the plants from popping out when watered. Press soil into the diaper and then add the plants, She now only waters her baskets about once a week and
doesn't have to worry while she away on vacation. Her baskets are beautiful.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 06/03/2012 - 1:01pm

Kerry: Just a little tip that I learned from my son who is a fabulous gardener! -- he says plants only need about a foot of earth to grow in a container, so in my larger containers, I put a plastic pot saucer in that "seals off" the lower part of the pot, and fill the top 12 inches or so -- not only is it easier to move the pot around as it is much lighter, but I don't need as much soil to fill them! My planted containers look fabulous every year and I get compliments on them. Thank God for Proven Winners which I buy at Wannamakers in Downers Grove -- they consistently grow well for me! I just have this "thing" about spending money on dirt!! LOL -- I buy the good stuff and it is getting expensive like everything else!! We have to be thrifty gardeners these days!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 06/01/2012 - 7:13pm

I think all articles are excelent and like the way they alow you to jump to related articles and then come back,,tks

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 04/22/2012 - 5:19am

Excellent, helpful article.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 04/20/2012 - 3:00pm

I tried the plastic bag liner last year and it worked great! Much easier clean-up too.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 03/16/2012 - 5:38pm

Thank you Kerry, I'm new to hanging basket gardening, & you have answered everything that I need to know. In Aussie we have mild to high temps, so will use the drip system. Thanks again

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 02/02/2012 - 6:28pm

This is a great idea for mother's day or women's day as we europeans like to celebrate.

Back to Top