Tips for making big and beautiful hanging containers

Heather McCain tidies up a basket of "Supertunia" trailing petunias.

The first step toward creating a lush, beautiful hanging basket is in choosing your plants. Long-trailing plants such as trailing petunias require only top planting. For short-trailing plants such as 'Tapien' purple verbena, plant on the sides of the basket as well as the top for a full-looking floral display. Purchasing healthy plants is essential. I look for plants with several stems, since they will produce prolific growth. Plants in 2-1/2-inch containers are easiest to insert through a wire frame.

Most soil mixes for hanging baskets are peat-based, and can be difficult to moisten after they dry out, so I add some loam- or humus-based potting soil, as well as kelp meal for trace elements. Baskets lose water through evaporation, so closely monitor their moisture level--in hot weather, check baskets daily. Water thoroughly but allow baskets to dry out slightly between waterings. Besides a tablespoon of slow-release fertilizer at planting, I feed trailing petunias—those of the "Supertunia," "Surfinia," or "Wave" series—every third watering with a 20-20-20 fertilizer that contains iron. These extra nutrients are needed for voluminous floral displays. In mid-July, I check to see if the slow-release beads have dissolved. If they have, I add one tablespoon more.

To assemble a hanging basket, collect the materials and follow the steps outlined below. For baskets with trailing petunias, skip Steps 3 and 6, and use only six plants.

Materials for a hanging basket

  • Wire-frame basket (16 inches across, 9 to 11 inches deep), plus hanger
  • Wood-fiber liner to fit frame
  • One meter of landscape fabric or burlap (for arid climates only)
  • 8-inch plastic water saucer
  • 51 inches of 1/2-inch clear-vinyl tubing
  • 20 quarts of soil mix (16 quarts of lightweight, hanging-basket soil and 4 quarts of loam- or humus-based potting soil), plus one tablespoon kelp meal
  • 4 quarts of water
  • One tablespoon slow-release, 15-15-15 fertilizer beads
  • Plants in 2-1/2-inch pots: 15 short-trailing plants, such as Bacopa, Brachycome, Fuchsia, Lantana, Lobelia, or Verbena; or six trailing petunias such as "Supertunia," "Surfina," or "Wave"
  • Large container for mixing soil
  • Scissors, felt-tip pen, small plastic bags, and glue (optional)
  • To hang from a wall or post: a sturdy bracket with a horizontal bar measuring 12 inches or more
  • To hang overhead: a 1-1/2-inch screw hook, an S hook, and a length of chain

Assembling a hanging basket

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