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  • Writer's pictureEllen

Design Your Own Hanging Basket

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Robins, new leaves, and blooming lilacs are all familiar signs of spring... but you know warmer weather is here to stay when you see a line of cheery hanging baskets gracing every front porch!

A flowering hanging basket is an easy way to add a pop of color to the front of your house. In early spring when there's still a chance of frost, hanging baskets are easy to bring inside on a chilly night (unlike those poor plants in the ground that can't be moved!) While many people grab a hanging basket or two as an afterthought along with their groceries, we like to skip the big box stores and design our hanging baskets ourselves! Designing your own baskets allows you to pick flower varieties and colors that aren't found in those big box stores, so your baskets stand out from the crowd. Plus, you can customize your baskets to your growing conditions - shady porch? Full hot sun? Choose varieties that thrive in these conditions and enjoy a beautiful hanging basket all season long!

How many plants do you need in your basket?

We generally aim for at least one plant for every 2" of basket diameter. For example, if we are planting a 10" diameter basket, we will include 5 to 6 plants depending on the number of varieties we are adding and the growth habit or vigor of those varieties. Smaller plants like portulaca or calibrachoa will need more plants to fill a basket, while larger plants like sweet potato vine or begonias will need fewer. When in doubt, squeeze another plant in there!

Left: This 10" basket has five plants in it; three geraniums and two sweet potato vines.

Right: This larger 14" basket fits seven petunias.

Alternate colors and varieties for the best effect.

In our opinion, the best hanging baskets mix colors and textures for a more interesting, varied look. Many of the big box store baskets only have one color or kind of flower in them, which means everyone's baskets look the same. Add your unique twist by choosing more than one variety of a classic hanging basket flower. If you love petunias, try mixing two different sizes of flowers, such as large "Daddy Mix" blooms with smaller "Shockwave" blooms, to add visual interest and depth. Mixing single and double-bloom varieties is another way to add variety. We love this combo of single-petal Shockwave petunias with double-petal calibrachoa, which mixes two different flower textures.

Consider whether you would prefer shades of a similar color (for example, light and dark purple) or contrasting colors (for example, pink and yellow.) Choosing shades of the same color will give you a more subdued and elegant looking basket. Choosing classic complementary color schemes, such as purple and yellow, red and green, and blue and orange, will give you the most showstopping combinations. These color pairs are opposite from each other on the color wheel, and the contrast will really help your colors pop!

Left: Color wheel. Colors that are across from each other on the wheel are complementary.

Right: Combining yellow and pink flowers helps make each color pop.

"Thrillers" and "Spillers"

Some of our favorite baskets combine two or three completely different plant species together for maximum wow factor! If you are choosing more than one species, consider choosing at least one "thriller" and one "spiller." A "thriller" is a plant with an upright growth habit, which will grow in a tall or mounding fashion and fill the top part of the basket. Examples of good "thriller' species are geraniums, marigolds, coleus, and angelonia. "Spiller" species have a vining or trailing habit, and cascade over the sides of the basket as they grow. Some good "spiller" species include sweet potato vine, creeping Jenny, lobelia, and trailing varieties of petunias. Combining both a "thriller" and a "spiller" will create a lush, full basket that fills the basket top while simultaneously cascading dramatically down the sides.

This basket combines red geraniums ("thriller") with trailing creeping Jenny ("spiller")

Sun vs. Shade

If you know where your basket will hang, make life easier for yourself by choosing varieties that will thrive in those conditions. For shady locations, consider using shade-loving species such as coleus, ferns, fuschia, and bacopa. For hot, sunny locations, choose heat-loving species like portulaca, petunia, and begonia.

Planting Your Basket

Now that you've chosen your flower varieties, it's time to plant! First, make sure your basket has good drainage in the bottom. Drill or punch holes in the bottom of the basket if there aren't any already, and use a plastic drainage tray or a small amount of clean gravel in the bottom of the basket to help water drain away from the plant's roots.

Use a potting mix that has a good percentage of peat moss, coconut coir, wood fiber, or another absorbent material. This will help your basket retain moisture and keep it from drying out too quickly. This is especially important for baskets that will be in full sun or a breezy location, which can pull moisture out of a basket quickly and leave your flowers drooping.

Alternate flower varieties and colors across the basket. For example, if you are planting a 10" basket with three varieties, include two plants of each variety and place each pair opposite from each other across the basket.

This red, white, and blue petunia basket has two plants of each color, alternating around the basket so that the colors mix together nicely.

Fertilize your basket weekly with a water-soluble fertilizer. Because hanging baskets cram so many plants into a small amount of soil, they need heavier feeding than plants growing in the ground. This is especially true for heavy feeding plants like sweet potato vine and begonia. If your plant's leaves look yellow or lighter than they should, check and make sure you are feeding them enough.

Want to design your own basket?

Pick up some unique and interesting varieties at our plant sale! We specifically choose to carry varieties and colors that you won't find in the big box stores, so if you buy flowers from us you are guaranteed to have an interesting and unique hanging basket!

I'd rather leave it to the experts!

We also carry a wide variety of beautifully designed hanging baskets in our greenhouse! Come check out our unique color and flower combinations, which we have specially designed to be different from the ones at the big box stores.

2023 Greenhouse Hours:

Wed-Fri: 3pm - 6pm

Sat-Sun: 8am - 6pm

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