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Success with Moss and Coco-Fiber Baskets

Learn how to plant and create moss or coco-fiber hanging baskets, a how-to guide.

Learn how to plant and create moss or coco-fiber hanging baskets, a how-to guide.

Our house has a wrap-around porch and every year I plant and hang seven baskets around it.   Four years ago, shortly after we bought our house, I was on a mission to find hanging baskets for the porch.  I didn't want to buy finished baskets, I wanted to plant my own.  I also didn't want Plain Jane plastic baskets.  I wanted something that was decorative.  It took me a while, but I finally found coco-fiber baskets that I really liked.  They look nice, are 14 inches in diameter and are also fairly deep.  I wanted larger baskets because they will dry-out less quickly.  Learn more about choosing and caring for hanging baskets here.

The first year, I simply added soil to the baskets, planted them up and away I went.  Before long, I began to hate watering my hanging baskets for two reasons. First, they dried out really fast so I was watering a lot, sometimes more than once a day.  Coco-fiber and moss baskets dry out more quickly because they evaporate water through the sides of the basket.  Plastic pots do not evaporate water through the sides of the pot.  Wind is able to pass through the porous sides of moss and coco-fiber baskets, which also increases water evaporation from the soil. 

The second reason I hated watering was that water would come pouring out of the sides of the basket.  I was trying to completely soak the entire root ball of the basket, but that was difficult when water was always escaping through the sides of the pot.  I felt like I had to pour on a ton of water to adequately water each basket and most of that water was falling on the porch.  I vowed to find a better way to do things the next year.  My solution is lining the pot with plastic.

I started out searching for a plastic liner I could simply insert inside the basket.  I wasn't able to find liners, finding one to fit my baskets was impossible and I'm not certain they existed back then.  You can now buy coco-fiber pots that have plastic or fiberglass liners (Hooks and Lattice is one company with liners - there are others) and even pots with water reservoirs to cut down on watering.  However, you can get the effect of a liner while recycling plastic bags.

How To Guide

Step 1: Choose your hanging basket and buy your potting soil.  Make sure you are buying a nice light potting soil, look for something made up largely of peat and perlite.  These mixes are light and fluffy and contain enough air space for good root growth.  Most potting soil will come in bags and will be pre-moistened.  If you buy a bagged soil you can skip to Step 3.  I use a lot of potting soil each year and if you can find it, bales of potting mix can be a better deal than the bagged version.

Step 2: If you are using a baled version of potting mix, you will need to moisten the soil before you use it.  The easiest way I have found to moisten baled potting soil is with a wheelbarrow.  Open the bale of soil and scoop or pour some of the potting mix into the wheelbarrow.  It is compressed and dry - you may be breaking off chunks from the bale.  Using a shovel with a rounded edge, break up the chunks of dry soil by smacking them with the back of the shovel.  Then take a water hose with a nozzle that has a "shower" setting or use a watering can to moisten the soil.  Using the shovel, turn the soil over - mixing it together to distribute the water.  Alternate adding more water and mixing the soil until you get nice moist soil.  It should be damp, but if you grab a handful you should not be able to squeeze out much water.

Step 3: Once you have the soil moist, it is time to line your baskets with plastic.  I have been using plastic bags to line my baskets for several years.  I first tried a grocery bag, but it was a bit small and didn't quite fit my baskets.  I have been successful using black garbage bags and Target bags for liners.  I plan on continuing to use Target bags in the future.  To use them, I first cut off the handles.  Then I find the center of the bottom of the bag and cut out a large circle (at least 6 inches across) - it doesn' t need to be perfect.  Then place the bag inside the basket, make sure to spread out the bottom of the bag so that the circle (drainage hole) is open.  The bag is going to have a tendency to want to blow around.  Once you get a scoop or two of soil in the basket, it will anchor the bag. As you add the soil be sure the hole stays open - this is for drainage.  If the bag isn't quite large enough, you can cut a slit in the bag so it lies flat along the coco-fiber liner.

Step 4: Once the bag is anchored finish filling the basket with soil.  Then trim off the excess plastic.  I like to leave at least half an inch sticking up above the soil.  This extra material works as an edge to help keep the water in the basket.  The basket second from the left, in the photo below, is trimmed and ready to go.

Step 5: Mix some controlled release fertilizer into the top layer of soil, according to package directions.  This will ensure your plants have food for growth. 

Step 6: Place the plants in the top of the basket.  There is no need to plant in the sides of a basket, not even with a large basket.  Choose strongly trailing plants and they will quickly grow to cover the basket.  For a 10 or 12-inch basket, I would use three 4-inch plants.  For my 14-inch baskets, I still use 3 plants, although 4 would be fine too.  When planting, you want to space the plants evenly - leaving some room between the plant and the edge of the basket.  I used very small plants for these rather than 4-inch plants.  I prefer to use 4-inch, they fill out much quicker.  I also usually give my plants a light trim right after I plant them.  This encourages additional branching and helps the basket look really full.  It isn't necessary, but it will probably give you a better final product.

 

Step 7: Using a watering can or the "shower" setting on your hose nozzle, lightly water the plants to settle them into the soil.  They are now ready to hang.  Right now you can see the white plastic - eventually the plants will cover this and you will no longer see it.  If you don't like this look, black plastic will blend more with the soil.  The photo on the left, below, is right after I planted the basket.  The one on the right was taken a month later, you can no longer see the plastic bag at all.

 

All that is left, is to keep your basket looking good for the rest of the season.  To read more on taking care of your hanging basket, click here.

494 Readers Rated This: 12345 (3.1)
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 08/11/2017 - 9:42am

I have Christmas cactuses in alot of hanging coco liner baskets. I would like to hang them inside my house during winter in order to enjoy their Christmas blooms. Am trying to figure out how to do that and still be able to water them and not get water everywhere when leaking through. Any suggestions?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 04/09/2017 - 11:25am

I was wondering if anyone has ever tried making slits in the liners farther down to put more plants in for a larger and fuller basket?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 11/19/2017 - 9:49am

Yes, summer impatients will grow easily out of the slits and create a large ball of blooms. Beautiful!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 05/25/2016 - 1:04pm

I followed this method in 2 of my 4 hanging baskets a few weeks ago. These 2 baskets do not seem to growing as fierce as the others. After re-reading your instructions I realized I forgot to cut a hole in the bottom of the bag! I did, however, take a pen and punch TONS of hole through the coco liner & bag after everything was potted. I don't want to have to redo these 2 baskets but am beginning to think that might be my only solution. Before I undergo that endeavor, do you have any suggestions?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Thu, 05/26/2016 - 10:33am

Cutting the hole in the bag was to create drainage, so my question is:  When you water does the extra water drain out of hte container well?  I guess, more to the point, does it drain as well as the unlined baskets do?  If water isn't draining as well out of the lined baskets as it does out of the unlines baskets, then I think, despite the holes you punched, that the baskets aren't draining well enough.  You could try punching even more holes to see if that helps.  I do think that as it gets warmer the baskets that hold a bit more water might end up being better off, but the poor drainage might well more than offset the benefits...

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 03/23/2016 - 8:46pm

Thank you so much. This helps a great deal.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 03/21/2016 - 6:52am

Lining with plastic works great. Started this 4 years ago when i added baskets to my deck and the water ran out as you described upon watering them. Recycled what shopping bags i had available. Cutting a clear drop cloth from the dollar tree store was next best idea.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 03/11/2016 - 8:07pm

Thank you for this article. I can't tell you how many years I've worked with baskets being frustrated with many of the same problems you mentioned at the start. This is a wonderful help to me and will be put to use this spring/summer. Thanks.

Sivad

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 06/02/2015 - 6:14pm

This year I used half-and-half bat guano potting soil and manure. Any thoughts about haw this will work?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 01/11/2016 - 5:59pm

Does not look like anyone replied to your comment/question. Did your packages tell you the N-P-K of the media? I would think that this combination would not be ideal for container-grown flowers or for fruiting vegetable plants but good for greens such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, etc. The products you mentioned sound as if they may have a lot of nitrogen in the formula. Bat guano by itself is pretty high in nitrogen (10%). Manure (unless you used bagged, composted manure) ranges widely in nutrient value, with chicken manure being the "hottest" - highest in nitrogen -and cow manure the "coolest" - lowest in nitrogen. Nitrogen stimulates foliage growth, so if you have containered flowering plants you may not see as many flowers as foliage by using your combination. And things like tomatoes & peppers definitely do not benefit from too much nitrogen.

Soooo...what did you plant and what results did you get from using the potting mix?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 04/28/2015 - 10:48am

I put 5-10 ice cubes in the baskets first thing in the morning. The slow melting does not run out and gives the plants a nice, cool drink!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 03/04/2017 - 4:27pm

Ice cubes, What a great idea!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 06/04/2015 - 12:39pm

THANKS FOR SHARING!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 03/13/2015 - 2:26pm

SoilMoist is a great product to use in coco baskets. Soil Moist polymer granular is a soil amendment designed to reduce plant waterings by 50%**, reduce transplant shock and soil compaction, and will remain effective in the soil for 3-5 years.** It is an inexpensive form of insurance for the plant and is environmentally friendly. Soil Moist saves time, labor and plant loss.

I have used this for years and it is great!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 04/14/2014 - 7:46pm

Three or four years ago I dropped $50 for a set up to water my hanging baskets. I have a 40 foot porch much like the photo above. I have 4 planters across the front and one on each end of the porch. I went to Lowe's and found all the accessories for automatically watering a garden using 1/8" black tubing and little sprinklers that fit into the tubing. I drilled a hole through the outside garage wall and hooked up an automatic waterier. That part was a bit expensive at about $30. I have the water come on at 7AM and then again at 5PM for 5 minutes of watering. The black hose is run under the eves toward the house. You can only see it if you are on the porch. I then ran the hose down each pot securing it to the chains with double sided velcro that sticks to itself. I now have baskets that people ask if they are real because I never take care of them except to once in a while remove a birds nest or turn it so the back side gets sun. What I need is an unobtrusive way to keep the birds out of the planters without streamers or a net covering the planter. Any suggestions? I can't wait to get my planters up. They are expecting a freeze tonight here in Lancaster PA this April 14th

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 04/29/2016 - 7:10am

I put those little wooden skewers you use for grilling into the center of my hanging baskets. Let them stick out a couple of inches and the birds never try to nest in my baskets.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 05/26/2014 - 4:26am

I use golf balls partially buried in hanging baskets to keep the birds from building nests. The foliage covers them and the birds think the plant is already occupied. Has worked for years.

Kelly Geoghegan's picture
Kelly Geoghegan Tue, 04/15/2014 - 5:06pm

The best way to keep the birds away would be to cover the planter with a net. Besides the net there isn't to many other options other than a cat!

Sorry! Kelly Geoghegan

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 02/23/2014 - 1:38pm

I purchased several of these planters last year for my 7th flr balcony. I had to water them constanly in the hot Texas sun and it made having an urban garden a huge chore. My neighbor had the plastic boxes and his flowers thrived while mine constanly needed water. This year I was going to purchase all new boxes, but now i'm going to redo all of my coco planters with plastic liners as you suggested and replant. I hope it works!!! :)

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 08/25/2012 - 12:31am

The AquaSav coco liners are perfect for this purpose. They come with the built-in invisible water tray, which not only prevents water from running down the basket but also prevents wind drying out the soil. The liner also helps to retain the right amount of moisture in the soil and helps to keep the fertilizers and nutrients in the soil. With the AquaSav coco liner the roots get in touch with the natural product, thus avoiding root abound effects. One concern with using plastic liner, as mentioned in the article, is that the roots are unable to breathe or grow. This will prevent plants establishing healthy strong root system.

Most professional growrers use AquaSav coco liners in their greenhouses. When the reservoir is full, the excess water goes out of the basket via the overflow region. This enables the liner to retain the right amount of water all times. This also helps the coco fiber (cellose material) to absorb the water and release when there soil moisture runs low or dries out.

With AquaSav liners, generally you have to water the plants, once every two to 3 days- no baby sitting. The liners can be found at Home Depot and at www.AquaSav.com.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 07/30/2012 - 9:39pm

I'm going to try the plastic lining. The water ran right out of the baskets last year and barely even seemed to get any to the plants! But I do like the look way better than green plastic pots, so I'm giving this a try tomorrow. Thanks for helping.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 02/05/2017 - 10:14am

The diaper trick works great. The gel inside the diaper holds water. I also use them when shipping plants.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 04/24/2012 - 3:33am

Replace plastic inserts with plastic lined baby diapers. They retain the moisture and watering is no longer a chore!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 04/20/2012 - 9:30pm

I was going to try something like this, this year because I too found that my hanging baskets were drying out too quick. Thank you for this information. I will make sure to cut the hole in bottom a I hadn't thought about doing that. I probably would have drowned all my plants as I live in the North West.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 04/20/2012 - 6:49pm

If u water your hanging baskets and pots and then in 5 min make the round again u will get a thorough watering with less water waste. I am nervous about wet roots with the plastic lined cocoa fiber especially when u have heavy rains at a stretch

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 04/20/2012 - 6:17pm

Great article, this will save my clients and myself
Lots of money, great tips.
Thank you,
Melanie

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 04/20/2012 - 6:04pm

I'm trying to figure out why you have to line your baskets.
I have been using 16 and 18 inch baskets with Costco potting soil and have never had a problem.
To start the plants, I use 7 2inch plants and water gradually over 3 days until water comes
out of the bottom of the planter and then once a week. On very hot days( for us) I water once a day.
Each time I water, I make sure that water flows out the bottom of the planter.
I live in central British Columbia, Canada, where we have a short growing season- Zone 3.
I have found over time that planting in smaller containers is just plain frustrating as they dry out
quickly when the plants have well established root systems.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 02/25/2012 - 11:22am

I see that MagniMoist basket liners are now being presented in the Proven Winners Road Show. I have used them and tbey are awesome. They do not let water spill out like coco and results are much better. Plus they are made in the USA from plant fiber grown in the USA. Better technology, saves water and produces US jobs. I bought mine at a garden center but info is at www.magnimoist.com

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 05/22/2012 - 5:02pm

Thanks for the info. Anything that helps the economy in the US and helps my gardening is a very good thing!/

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 08/17/2011 - 9:17am

Thank you for all this great information! I think it saved me a lot of agony and frustration. Can't wait to start planting. And I agree...Target bags are the best!
Thanks again,
Cecilia
Austin, TX

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 05/26/2015 - 7:54am

Great article and comments. I bought several wire planters on a garage sale and learned first-hand why they got rid of them. Coco fiber is expensive compared to buying plastic pots and more time consuming in the planting process. Now I have the knowledge to use it correctly and not spend so much time watering. Thank you!

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