The following post was written several years ago for the Flagler-Palm Coast News-Tribune, a newspaper published in Flagler County, Fl. (located about 30 miles north of Daytona Beach, on the east coast of Florida, Zone 9-B)
Today I finally got the chance to put out my hanging baskets. I absolutely love hanging baskets and probably have about a hundred of them.
Most are plants I have propagated myself, such as spider plants, which are probably the easiest plants to grow and one of the best plants for hanging baskets. They like a shady to partly shady location, and are also very drought tolerant, which is important, because hanging baskets tend to dry out quickly.
Sometimes people will have a hanging basket or two by their front porch, or maybe on their back patio. I have taken decorating with hanging baskets to the extreme, and have them hanging everywhere from numerous hooks nailed and screwed to every possible surface I could find.
This was a real problem when Hurricane Floyd came to town a couple of years ago. I figured all of those hanging baskets would become missiles and fly all over the yard. Who knows, maybe the ones closest to the house could come crashing through the windows. During bad storms, I have looked outside to see my hanging baskets hanging sideways. So as part of my hurricane preparations, I had to go around and take down all of my baskets, which was no small task.
But thankfully, we don’t have hurricanes the magnitude of Floyd too often to worry about.
When a neighbor insisted on trimming a lower branch off my oak tree I did not want him to because then I would no longer be able to use that branch to hang baskets on. He thought I was crazy of course and took the branch off anyway. Recently I went and bought about 10 more plant hooks, because I am hoping I will somehow come up with new places to hang baskets.
Hanging baskets just add so much to a garden. They create focal points, provide a burst of color, and give height to the garden. Whenever I have a place in my garden that could use enhancing, I use shepherd’s hooks with hanging baskets. Many hooks are priced under $20, so it’s doesn’t cost a fortune to add a few here and there.
There are many plants you can use in hanging baskets, and I would say pretty much anything goes. Often I like to use plants that cascade, such as Verbena, variegated vinca, Ivy Geraniums and Firecracker Plants.
For hot spots I use succulents such as Sedum, Portulaca, Purslane, Kalanchoes or Bougainvillea. I have a Bougainvillea which has probably been in the same basket for five years and is doing just fine. Bougainvillea is definitely a great plant to add on the south or west side of your yard.
For areas I might not tend to on a regular basis, I use Asparagus Fern. This tough plant is one of the most drought tolerant plants, and needs very little care or attention.
Ferns are a good choice for shady areas, as well as Ivy, Pothos and Wandering Jew. One of my favorite shade plants are Caladiums which do great in containers.
One of the mistakes many people make is using pots that are too small. The smaller the pot, the quicker it dries out, and in August, it’s a big problem. I’ve heard some say that in the heat of the summer they go out and water their plants twice a day. And they probably need to if they are using small pots. So use the biggest possible pot you can find and if you can find a pot with a saucer that is even better.
Since I’m not too fond of the plastic hangers most baskets come with, I make my own hangers out of nylon rope. When I was in junior high school I won a blue ribbon for a macrame belt. I vaguely remember the craft, but can tie a few knots here and there to make a hanger. It’s really easy. All you do is take two pieces of rope, that when folded in half are the length you desire for your hanger. Fold the rope in half, tie a knot at the top and then a knot at the bottom and then that’s it. You could also just buy a hanger and then copy it, since many hangers available are only strong enough for interior use.
I wish I could find the big baskets that are used by Disney at their parks. If you have never seen them, they are by far the most beautiful. Of course Disney spares no expense and fills these huge baskets to the brim with a variety of plants, a little of this and a little of that, similar to a floral arrangement.
Metal baskets with fiber liners, are of course the ultimate in hanging baskets. They cost more than just plain plastic pots, and it takes a little more time to work with them. But the end result can be spectacular.
So if you want to add a little color or drama to your garden, add a few hanging baskets and you will be surprised at the transformation.