Try Basket Culture if You Have Space Limitations

Hanging baskets of flowering plants can add a lot of color to a small garden space, especially if you have really limited ground area. In many cases, "normal" flowering plants can be grown as basket plants with great results. In an unusual case of a landscape plant grown off the ground, I recently saw a grafted Plumeria grown as a hanging basket given that the flowers had a natural tendency to face downward. The flowers could be enjoyed at face level without having to bend over.  I would not recommend growing an Oak tree or a palm tree in hanging basket, but many flowering annuals and herbaceous foliage plants can be grown well as a hanging basket. If you wish to make your own hanging basket gardens, there is a bit of homework to be done before you start, but the steps are easy and the materials are usually available at most garden centers.  

There are three major points to consider when growing hanging baskets. The first and possibly most important point is the size of the basket. An 8-inch diameter basket doesn't allow much room for plants to grow, whereas an 18-inch diameter basket will allow plants to grow large, or allow several species to grow in one container. The second consideration is the growing exposure i.e. the amount of light the plants will get, which will drive the type of plants to be grown and the type of soil to use. The third consideration is the type of plant to grow, based on the previous two criteria. Growing Boston Ferns in baskets means that the plants like large baskets, lots of shade, and plenty of water. Growing succulents in hanging baskets means that the plants like a lot of sunlight, a smaller basket, and a need to dry out between watering. Flowering annuals such as Impatiens and Begonias like a lot of sunlight and plenty of water to keep up with their rapid growth. 

Choosing a type of basket can be a challenge, depending on where you live. In our area in South Florida, we can find baskets made of wire, bamboo, redwood, cypress, teak, and even cast iron. I prefer to line baskets with coconut fiber, since it is cleaner, lasts longer and "sheds" less than sphagnum moss. For most uses, African Violet soil works well as a potting soil, and it is light enough that an 18-inch basket is still manageable. For succulents, I often mix equal parts of perlite and African Violet soil to allow the soil to dry out faster and permit more aeration for the roots. To reduce labor and ensure the plants have a steady supply of nutrients, I'll mix Dynamite or Osmocote into the planting soil before adding plants to the basket. Once the basket is planted, there is only minimal maintenance needed. A little advance knowledge about the needs of plants and some careful attention to soil type and plant choices will yield a beautiful and enjoyable hanging garden that will enhance your garden, patio or growing area for many months.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens    

Municipal planting of flowering annuals in baskets


A basic wire basket with
pre-formed coconut fiber liner.

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