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Hope for Hanging Baskets

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

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.


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.


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.


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.

656 Readers Rated This: 12345 (2.9)
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 12/01/2018 - 10:39am

Thank you so much for such a nice information about hanging basket, it really helped me

Cindy Meyers's picture
Cindy Meyers Mon, 12/03/2018 - 1:26pm

Awesome and thank you for letting us know. We love when our articles are just the information you need and are looking for!

Happy gardening!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 08/10/2018 - 11:38am

I have fuschias in my hanging baskets that are lined with the coco-fiber liners. I replace the liners each year and have set up drip irrigation with a mister head that is just above the soil line so that the spray covers the basket area. During these hot days, the timer turns on twice a day for 3 minutes - that's it. It seems to be working well to keep the roots from drying out. My Golden Anniversary looks great! This watering will wash out fertilizer quicker so I need to get better about fertilizing more often, especially with the fuschias. Someone told me they were like hungry teenage boys...they need food! This system has worked for me - good luck!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 08/10/2018 - 10:12am

I have a couple of wall mount flower boxes with coco fiber liners that dry out quickly. I have lined the planters with plastic saucers cut to fit and then added the soil and flowers. When they are looking tired and droopy I will put ice cubes on the soil so that there is a slow release of water that seems to perk everyone up for a little longer time. It doesn't replace regular watering but it gives a slow drip to the plantings.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 07/14/2017 - 10:34am

Because mint is so invasive, I like to plant up all my different kinds of mints in hanging baskets. They fill out beautifully and drape over the edge.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 05/18/2018 - 8:44pm

I was just thinking about this today and wondering if it would work. It will be nice to access for the kitchen too! Thanks for the encouragement.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 06/03/2017 - 4:47am

Such a nice article, we liked it very much.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 10/08/2016 - 9:20am

Do you store them?
Will they comback next season?

Cindy Meyers's picture
Cindy Meyers Mon, 10/10/2016 - 12:16pm

If you used annuals in your hanging baskets they reach their maturity by autumn of the same year that you planted. An annual plant is a plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season and then dies. Some annuals may act like perennials in zones 10 - 11 and some plants even into zone 9.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 07/01/2016 - 7:27pm

I water my sun patiens every morning. The water sits there finally it will drain. My noon it drooping. Help! It is a hanging basket.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 07/12/2016 - 4:39pm

Watering a large hanging basket once a day ins't an unusual necessity and New Guinea Impatiens - which Sunpatiens are - are water needy plants, so they need more water than most hanging baskets do. So getting wilting during the day after watering thoroughly in the morning isn't all that surprising. Larger containers are easier to keep watered than small containers. That the water sits there before draining, might indicate that the soil in your basket isn't very good, but there isn't much you can really do about it.

It is difficult to transplant large hanging baskets, but transplanting into say an 18 inch diameter upright container, would really decrease how often you need to water and would allow you to choose and use a good, lightweight potting soil to help with water drainage.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 12/22/2015 - 10:55am

Where can I order 14" hanging pots

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 03/07/2016 - 10:38am

I don't know if anyone has responded to this, or if you have been able to find them; you can order them on

Cindy Meyers's picture
Cindy Meyers Wed, 12/23/2015 - 5:18pm

The best place to find containers for hanging baskets is at your local nurseries. They usually have a wide variety of containers for sale.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:21am

I have a 32" round metal coated basket filled with large ferns. I would love to locate several more. I have been searching online,but almost nothing of a similar size.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 03/15/2017 - 2:48am

can be found if you do a search of "Commercial Hanging Baskets". These extra large sizes are used to decorate line street poles.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 08/07/2014 - 11:28am

My baskets hang under the eaves of the porch so half of each baket is in the sun but the other half is in shade. I tried rotating the baskets weekly but that still resulted in motley looking plants. Should I be planting only shade tolerant plants.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 05/15/2017 - 1:00pm

I plant regular impatience in my shadier areas for my hanging baskets. So Pretty.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 06/28/2016 - 12:20pm

I took some sisel twine, about 10-12in, doubled it up to hold the weight and hung my baskets from the twine that I attached to my hooks, this way my hanging baskets spin slowly throughout the day. Now all of my hanging baskets get shade and sun throughout the day. I live in Alabama on the Florida state line, so its extremely hot as well as humid. Hanging my baskets this way allows shade and sun. So not only does it look super cute, it allows shade and sun while hanging under the eave of my home.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 05/28/2016 - 9:02am


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 06/10/2015 - 9:58am

Try rotating them more often. My plants sit under the roof to our deck and there is always a part of the plant in the shade. I rotate them every other day.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 05/29/2015 - 5:55pm

I have the exact same problem! I am trying the sunpatients this year, so far they are doing well. As much as I love my live hanging baskets, if these don't work next year it's fake plants and no one will be able to tell from the road!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 08/19/2014 - 10:57am

You want to look for plants that will do well in sun or shade condtions.  Here are a few to consider:

Diamond Frost Euphorbia

Diamond Delight Euphorbia (new for next spring, even better in shade than Diamond Frost)

Torenia such as our Catalina series

Sunpatiens - good in sun or shade

Sweet Potato Vines - the colors are better in sun and the plants might get leggy in shade, but they can be trimmed back at will and will add season-long color

Coleus - although hanging baskets aren't the place they shine.

Hecuhera - they are perennial, but have good foliage colors for baskets

Now, you will still want to turn your baskets.  I too have baskets hanging under the eaves of my porch and I had one reader suggest swivel hooks as a way to make the baskets easy to turn or potentially for the wind to turn them enough that you don't need to turn them yourself.  If you google Double Eye Swivel Ring - you'll see what I mean.  Make sure they are heavy-duty enough to hold the baskets you want to hang, then slip one end over the hook in your eave, and put the basket through the other hook and you will be able to swivel away...  Or ask at any hardware store for Double Eye Swivel Hooks.  Or this link shows you one example from sears (I have no idea if it is heavy enough to hold a hanging basket, I just wanted you to see one example of what I am talking about)

Kerry Meyer
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 08/03/2014 - 5:32pm

I bought two of your hanging baskets in May, and each one died. Not sure why this happened. I always buy proven winners and have never had any problem with them. Couldn't return them as I didn't keep the receipt. Needless to say, I didn't buy replacements since they were expensive to begin with and didn't want to take a chance on this happening again. Also, had some annuals from you die this year too. I am missing the color on my porch this year, but will try again next year.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 04/09/2015 - 10:44am

Hi there, if you pick up your Proven Winner Hanging Baskets at the Home Depot and purchase it on either a debit card or credit card, that acts as your receipt.. If you just want to exchange it for another, they will take it without a receipt.
Sometimes it helps if you spray with an insecticide soap. A lot of times, the proven winners will be up against another plant container that's been brought in with tiny thrips that actually pierce and suck on the plant.
If your plants deteriorating for no apparent reason, 99% of the time, and especially when its if higher quality like a proven winner, its more than likely a piercing insect. If they're all at the garden centre together, cross contamination is a possibility. Not to worry, having a bottle of insecticide soap on hand will keep your roses, tomatoes, gerberas looking fantastic..good luck

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 07/03/2014 - 7:29pm

I am sitting in my house right now and picturing my beautiful hanging plants being pummeled to death by this torrential rain storm we are experiencing at the moment. Can anyone give me any hope as to their survival? I'm feeling very sad about this. I so enjoy them and was preparing them for my annual hummingbirds arrival. :-(

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 08/06/2014 - 4:26pm

I take mine down and put them on the porch which is sheltered.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 04/30/2015 - 8:26am

i was worried too after the expense and work I've already put into my baskets. the rain was so torrential and the breeze that came with it. so i got white plastic bags, turned them upside down and put over the entire basket. they are protected from wind and rain, whilst still getting air from below.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 08/04/2014 - 2:42am

I would also like to know what to do. My plants are looking so drab, the petunias have all been damaged and others looking extremely sodden. I was wondering whether to have to take them into , say the garage, when it rains. I am wanting a lovely show on Friday, but I am getting a bit desperate. Any ideas out there?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 08/03/2014 - 1:08pm

I go out after every heavy rain and deadhead any damaged blooms and leaves. Seems to help. If your baskets have saucers, I'd remove those to increase drainage for a day or two after a heavy rain, or even before the rain, and replace afterward.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 08/03/2014 - 12:25pm

Other than concocting some type of cover (Umbrella) to protect your plants from damage I can not help.
But many plastic hanging baskets have an attached saucer that holds excess water, gets sucked back up into the soil and causes plants to rot. I can assist you with that problem if you plant you own hanging baskets. Any plant you use in a hanging basket does not need the depth of soil that the basket provides. This hint will help cut the cost of premium potting mix also.
Put a layer of packing peanuts ( Make sure they are not biodegradable), 2 to 3 inches deep in the bottom of your container, then cover them with a layer of cheap paper towels or old tee-shirt cut to size. This cover should extend a ways up the sides of the container. I use a mister with water it helps cover to adhere to container, I also mist the top of the paper towel as it has a propensity to fly up when you add the potting soil. Yes the paper towels will disintegrate , but by that time the root systems of the plants will bind the soil.
By doing this you have created an environment similar to t hat of nature, for good drainage.
This same idea can be used for any container. As the container size increases so should the filler (aluminum cans, crushed plastic bottles, etc), for larger containers I use weed barrier to keep the potting soil from dropping down into the filler. If using wed barrier just make sure to lay it down with the correct side up.
I have done this for decades with not problems and taken a number of first places and championships with my containers at my local fair.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 07/03/2014 - 6:40am

I know it's a little off topic but I was trying to plant flower boxes on my deck I found some at home depot that worked ok but they sit low on the inside of my railing not right up top like I had hoped. Also I got a mix of annuals and have been watering regularly and there are drainage wholes but my marigolds are all dried out and a few others are not far behind. Suggestions?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 08/06/2014 - 6:04pm

QVC sells awesome railing boxes, they will fit even on a galvanized fencing. The planters are made deeper than some, have a water reservoir and have a support to keep them from never drooping on the rails. I have four of them, love them and they are always level.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/30/2014 - 3:36pm

I fill my baskets with shredded paper about half way and then fill the rest with dirt. This helps them to not be so heavy and not dry out so quickly.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/23/2014 - 9:51pm

I put 3 multi liners into 12" baskets. The baskets look a little tired already. Is this too many? Should I have only used 2?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/23/2014 - 11:24am

I use the double swivels, too. I buy them at Lowes in the department for screws, fasteners, etc. I also use landscaping fabric inside the basket coco liners.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 05/25/2014 - 1:47pm

How do I determine what size pot to use to plant my hanging basket?

Kelly Geoghegan's picture
Kelly Geoghegan Thu, 06/05/2014 - 12:13pm

Most put about 3 plants in a 10-12 inch pot, 5 plants in a 13-15 inch pot and so on! You can always go to our recipe search and find combinations for ideas!

Hope this helps! Kelly Geoghegan PW

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 05/16/2014 - 10:48am

When I water my hanging baskets, I do so until water drips through the drainage hole. However, this is causing wood rot on my porch railings directly underneath each basket. Has anyone else had this problem? What did you do to solve it?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 06/12/2015 - 9:38am

I too have had this problem and tried something different each year. Finally came up with something that works. After hanging the plastic baskets I hot glue a plastic funnel over the drainage holes. (Hopefully in the center, if not you can plug the outside holes and make new ones in the center.) Then I screwed one of those accordion type oil funnel hoses to the end. First year they were all different colors, however this year I spray painted them green and they hardly even show at all. The hose must face away from the porch and in my case run out into the flower beds below. They might need adjusting if a breeze causes them to turn and It might be necessary to tie the hose up a little if it droops.
This may sound like a lot of trouble, but once its done-its done. And a lot better than green mildew or repainting or replacing the wood on porch.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 08/01/2014 - 9:53am

i take my baskets all 15 of them down when watering for about an hour and then re hang then to prevent dripping on the fence

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/30/2014 - 3:25pm

I bought the clear plastic pots that hang over the sides of your pot that will catch the excess water. If to much water accumulates, you will need to dump it out. These work great to protect your porch and or railing. These are what most green houses put under hanging baskets.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 05/24/2014 - 5:51am

I just collect the water in a 5 gallon pail.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 05/22/2014 - 8:38pm

I had the same problem and moved the hooks 3 or 4 inches away from the railing and porch deck. it helped some... the hanging baskets drain over the window boxes below. I also take them down once a week and water them on the lawn with a hose, I have found I dont have to drench them when I water over the porch. A bit labor intensive but it has helped some.

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?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 02/08/2018 - 10:43pm

I bought what is called Weekender baskets. I take the empty basket back every year to my local greenhouse and they replant it for me. Just google weekender baskets.

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

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