Hanging baskets are a great way to add color to your yard. But they can be hard to keep blooming all summer. Learn the tips and tricks of how to plant a hanging basket that will look gorgeous for the whole growing season.
You know you’re a true gardener when your only two thoughts are “I need more plants” and “Where can I put this?”.
That’s the exact situation I found myself in when I came home from a good day of plant shopping and realized I bought WAY more plants that I have room for.
Doesn’t it looked like I started my own nursery on my back deck?
Luckily, hanging baskets are the perfect solution.
They don’t require any garden space. (Or really even a garden at all).
And the best part? There’s no weeding required!
So in case you’ve never done this before (or maybe you just need some inspiration), I’m sharing all my best tips on how to plant a hanging basket.
Before you actually plant your hanging baskets, you’ll have to decide what you want your planters to look like, which flowers you’re going to use and how many of them you need.
So let’s talk about that first!
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Here are some combinations to consider when you’re picking the plants for your hanging flower basket.
1 | Use all the same flowers
Like this hanging basket for part sun made with ivy geraniums.
2 | Different colors of the same plant
Like this hanging basket for shade with two different colors of impatiens.
3 | A mix of a few different flowers
Like these large planters with geraniums and trailing petunias.
4 | Flowers all the way round
Like this sun-loving sphere planted with pink and white Supertunias and ivy geraniums.
Or these shade-loving hanging baskets planted with yellow and red begonias, red and purple fuchsias and and purple bacopa.
5 | Foliage-only plants
You could bypass the flowers altogether and go for a foliage-only hanging basket. Like this Boston fern under my open air gazebo.
6 | Hanging strawberries or tomatoes
Hanging baskets aren’t just for flowers. They can also be used to grow edibles like strawberries and tomatoes.
Tips for picking the plants
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re picking out your plants:
- If you are planting mixed containers, make sure the plants you use all grow in the same conditions for both light and water. Otherwise, they won’t grow evenly and your basket will end up looking lopsided.
- If you want flowers all summer, buy annuals. Most perennials have much shorter bloom times. Consider adding some colorful foliage as well, which can keep your planters looking good if the flowering plants take a break.
- For hanging baskets that will be hung high, buy plants that don’t require deadheading. Otherwise, you’ll need to keep a ladder close by so you can pick off the spent blooms.
How to make hanging baskets that look full?
To make mixed planters that look full, get at least one plant that is upright (like geraniums, heuchera, or petunias), one rounded plant (like impatiens, begonias, or pansies) and one trailing plant (like sweet potato vine, fuchsias, or calibrachoa). The combination of the three will prevent any empty spots.
Or plan to plant a sphere which requires putting plants in the sides of the basket liner as well as in the top of the basket. This will require more plants, but will give you that covered with flowers look faster.
How many plants do you need?
I almost always use an odd number of plants, especially if I’m doing a mixed planter.
But the exact number of plants you need depends on how big they are when you plant them.
Three 4″ to 6″ plants are enough for a 14″ planter. It might look a little bare at first, but they will fill out quickly.
Five will fit if you want to get a fuller look right away. However, the cost of the extra plants will add up quickly if you have to do a few containers.
How to plant a hanging basket
Okay, now let’s get on with the planting.
1 | Get your supplies together
Here’s what you’re going to need:
- the plants
- a hanging basket
- plastic wrap
- potting soil
- a hand shovel
I prefer to use wire baskets with a coconut liner over plastic pots.
They look better and they allow the plant roots to breathe better. Which I think results in healthier plants with bigger flowers that last longer.
It’s easiest to line the basket with coco or coir liners that are already shaped to fit for your planter.
But if that’s not possible, you can buy a roll (which you can find HERE* on Amazon) and cut it to size.
The coconut fiber liner can be a little stiff. So letting it sit out in the sun for a couple hours before putting it in the basket will make it a little easier to work with.
2 | Line the bottom with plastic wrap
To hold moisture in the planter as long as possible, I line the bottom of the coconut liner with a piece of plastic wrap.
This plastic liner helps to keep some of the water in the bottom of the planter so the soil doesn’t dry out quite as fast.
3 | Fill the basket half way with potting soil
Next, you want to fill the hanging basket about half full with potting soil.
Make sure that you use the type of soil meant for containers.
It’s lighter than regular garden soil and usually contains slow-release fertilizer as well as peat moss to help keep it wet longer.
4 | Arrange your plants
Now you’re ready to arrange your plants.
Put the largest plant(s) in first. If you’re doing a mixed planter, this is usually the upright one. It should go in the middle or the back of the basket (if you’ll only be looking at it from one side).
Then add the mounding plants. These should surround the upright plant.
And finally plant the trailing flowers. These should be positioned close to the edge of the planter.
If you’re only using 3 plants, they should be planted in a triangle with the trailing plant at the front corner, and the other two plants staggered behind it.
Before putting the plants in the container, pull the root ball apart at the bottom. This will help the roots to grow into the potting soil resulting in bigger, healthier plants. It is especially important if the plants have been sitting in their pots for a while and are root bound.
Take a look at the plant placement to make sure you like it before continuing.
5 | (Optional) Make holes in the sides
To add plants to the sides of the basket, you’ll need to cut some holes in the liner.
A sharp pair of scissors or utility knife should work for this.
Then stick the plants through the holes from the outside.
Don’t worry if you have to squish the roots to get them through. It won’t hurt them (roots are tougher than you think).
6 | Fill in with more potting soil
Now we’ll fill up the rest of the basket with potting soil.
The soil level should be about half an inch lower than the top of the basket.
Make sure the original soil level on all of the plants is at the same height. You may need to put some extra potting soil under some of them to raise them up.
7 | Water well
Next you’ll need to water the hanging basket well.
Potting soil usually contains peat moss, which is great for holding water but it needs to be thoroughly soaked to start. Otherwise, the water will just run right through.
So make sure to water the planter long enough for this to happen. The water should be running out the bottom.
8 | Hang the planter
Now you’re ready to hang your planter.
If you are hanging them from a ceiling or pergola, eye hooks work well. The hook from the basket fits through easily and won’t blow out if there’s a strong wind.
To hang them from a fence or wall, you’ll need a bracket that is longer than half the width of the basket.
How to keep hanging baskets alive
There are two things you need to do to keep your hanging baskets alive all summer.
1 | Get a large enough basket
The one thing you’ll notice about most of the pictures above. They’re all planted in really big containers.
For hanging baskets, I never go smaller than 14 inches across. And bigger than that is even better, although they can be heavy to hang. For those really big containers, I hang them up before watering them for the first time. That way they’re a little lighter.
Smaller planters dry out way too quickly. And since hanging baskets have to be watered more frequently than regular containers, it’s almost impossible to keep the plants alive in them.
2 | Water every day
To keep the plants alive during the hot summer months, hanging baskets should be watered at least once a day (and maybe twice if the temperatures are really high).
The easiest way to make sure this happens is to set up an automated watering system.
Which has the added benefit that it will keep your plants alive even when you’re on vacation.
And it takes care of watering any high hanging baskets that are hard to reach.
If you don’t get an automated watering system and your plants are hung up high, you’ll want to invest in an extension wand for your hose (like this one* from Amazon) so you can reach them more easily.
If your baskets do get dried out, take them down and let them sit in a sink full of water for a while. This will get the peat moss in the potting soil soaked with water so it will start retaining moisture again.
How to keep hanging baskets blooming
There are three main reasons that hanging baskets stop blooming:
- there aren’t enough nutrients in the soil
- the plants need to be deadheaded or trimmed
- the light, temperature or water conditions aren’t right
To fix these issues:
1 | Fertilize often
Plants that bloom all summer use a lot of nutrients from the soil to maintain their flowers.
With all the watering that hanging baskets require, those nutrients get washed out pretty quickly.
So to keep the plants blooming, I water them with a water-soluble fertilizer like Miracle-Gro once a week.
2 | Trim regularly
Many flowering plants start to get a little leggy after they’ve been in containers for a while.
When this happens, trimming the plant back by about a third will encourage them to grow bushier and produce more flowers.
If you don’t want to cut the whole plant back at one time (it does take a couple of weeks for it to start blooming again), try trimming back 2 or 3 of the stems every week. This prevents the plant from getting scraggly in the first place, while allowing it to keep blooming.
3 | Pick the right plants
If you planted full sun flowers but the container is in the shade (or vice versa), your flower production will be severely impacted.
The only way to fix this is to move the hanging basket to a better location, or replace the plants.
There are also some plants (like pansies) that don’t like the heat.
So if you have hot summers, they’ll look really pretty in the spring and the fall. But not so much when it starts to get warmer. That’s why many gardeners replace pansies with other plants once the summer weather sets in.
And that’s it! You’re all set to enjoy your hanging baskets all summer long.
Other container planting ideas you might like
- The best annuals for shade
- No-fail method for planting containers
- The best blue plants for containers in the shade
- Window box plant combination ideas
Have comments or questions on how to plant a hanging basket? Tell us in the section below.
This post was originally published on May 27, 2021 but was updated with new content on September 15, 2022.