ABCs of Hanging Baskets

By Neil Moran

            Hanging baskets are an easy way to add instant color to any deck, patio or porch. The nice thing is you can either purchase ready-made baskets or make your own. And with the right selection and care you can keep them looking good all Summer long. Here are some tips for choosing and caring for them.

Plant breeders keep coming up with some awesome plants for hanging baskets. This year is no exception. One annual that is sure to please is Surefire begonia. I trialed this one last year and was truly amazed at how striking and dependable this begonia variety was. It fills up a 12-inch basket just fine and grows to about 10 inches tall. The plant literally looked pretty as a picture all Summer long. It prefers shade, but performed pretty well in full sun.

One old standby that always looks great and is pretty easy to care for is the geranium (Pelargonium). They come in a nice assortment of pink, white and deep red and can go a few days without watering. Other plants that make great hanging baskets include Calibrachoa, Verbena and Petunias. Proven Winner’s “Supers” have been bred to look good all Summer in a hanging basket with minimum maintenance and include Superbells (Calibrachoa), Superbena (Verbena) and Supertina Petunias. 

DIY hanging basket

Express your creativity and even save a couple of bucks by making your own. First, gather all the materials and plants you’ll need. Discarded hanging pots can be obtained from friends and neighbors and sometimes from nurseries and recycle centers.

Annuals can be purchased in cell packs or individual pots. Color coordinate your plants: blues and yellows go well together as do cool colors, such as blue, lavender and deep pink. The plants for hanging baskets will be ones that can fill the basket or spill over the sides. Use a quality potting mix for your containers. Premier Pro-mix, Baccto and Sunshine are all quality mixes.

Moisten the mix so that it is wet, but not dripping wet. Mix some slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote or a Scotts slow-release product in with the growing medium. Fill the containers to the rim with the mix and pack it down slightly. Plant three to five plants per container, depending on the plant chosen. Bottom water if you can by setting the container in about 8 inches of warm water, or gently water from the top. 

Growing tips

Here are some tips for keeping your hanging baskets looking beautiful throughout the Summer:

  • Place them in a partially shaded spot protected from strong winds, if possible. Even the most sun-loving plants will benefit from a break from the intense Summer sun.
  • Water thoroughly and regularly, daily if needed. A water wand is a good garden tool to use to give your hanging baskets a good drenching.
  • Feed about every two weeks to keep them looking good. This can be done with an organic fertilizer such as Espoma’s Flower-tone, 3-4-5, or with a water-soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle Grow. 

More annuals for hanging baskets

  • Scaevola species. This is another common plant used in hanging baskets. It’s a leafy plant with medium-sized flowers that come in white and deep lavender.
  • Lobelia species. This filler plant mixes in nicely with just about any other annual flowers, including petunias. It will perform best in partial shade.
  • Bacopa species. With its petite white flowers, bacopa complements the baskets of large flowering begonias we have around our living area in the backyard. “Bridal Showers,” a variety that is loaded with little white flowers, is a common variety.  Bacopa demands a little break from the sun or it too will fizzle out before the season ends.
  • Potato vine, the: Ipomea species. The unique foliage is what stands out with this selection. Mix with just about any color-complemented annual. 

DIY hanging basket

Here is a hanging basket “recipe” from Proven Winners. These plants are pretty common and should be available at a garden center near you. All of these plants can be substituted with variations of these cultivars. For example, a Lobelia erinus “Heavenly Lilac,” could be substituted with a Lobelia erinus “Sky Blue.”

This recipe calls for a 12-inch wide hanging basket, a quality potting mix, a tablespoon of slow-release fertilizer mixed into a moist medium and the following plant selections (four to five plants):

Superbells ‘White’ Calibrachoa hybrid

Leguna Lobelia erinus “Heavenly Lilac”

Superbells ‘Trailing Lilac Mist’ Calibrachoa hybrid

Resources for plants listed above:

To find a greenhouse near you that carries some of the above-featured plants, go to and click on “Your Local Retailers.”

Neil is a horticulturist and blogs at

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