Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Hanging baskets

Updated September 21, 2014


Giant pansies
Giant pansies

For those of you desirous of adding either a glorious splash of vibrant colour or a cooling concoction of green to your garden, courtyard, veranda or balcony area, opting for some kind of hanging basket is an excellent choice. And all those organic ‘foodies’ out there: what can be better than increasing your production space by ‘growing on high’?

Hanging baskets do not, necessarily, have to be exactly a traditional basket. But since our garden supply sellers have not really got their act together in this regard, finding specially designed hanging baskets can be next to impossible which is where improvisation comes in.

It is, of course, perfectly feasible to utilise most kinds of baskets — be these shopping baskets, storage baskets or otherwise — as long as they are deep enough to hold the necessary amount of soil/compost to provide enough rooting space for the species of plants chosen to ‘hang’. The baskets can be of any shape if they are to be suspended from loggias, strong frames of metal, wood or other suitable material or even from mature tree branches, but those to be suspended from wall brackets or fastened directly to the wall, must have flat backs otherwise they are liable to be unbalanced.

You can create so much beauty around your garden by not just planting in the soil but making use of hanging baskets to grow flowers and herbs

Hanging baskets can, with care, be contrived out of a varied selection of items — preferably recycled ones rather than newly bought — with vegetable/fruit baskets, be these plastic or other material such as very strong wire mesh, being ideally suitable as long as there are plenty of drainage holes in place. If, on the other hand, you have something usable which does not have drainage holes and in which drainage holes cannot be made — this is particularly relevant to some, not all, ceramics — then it is a simple matter to use the item as a hanging container in which to place the potted plants of your choice. But please be careful not to overwater as, excess water lying inside the ‘pot holder’ cannot escape and can be detrimental, even fatal, to plants; it also provides the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and creepy-crawlies.

Lobelias, begonias and trailing petunias are great
Lobelias, begonias and trailing petunias are great

Soil/compost for use in hanging baskets/pots should, preferably, be completely organic. A 50/50 mix of sweet earth and homemade, organic compost, is perfect as the compost will, if correctly made, provide enough nourishment for a wide range of purely seasonal plants to sustain them throughout their growing period. Perennial plants will, naturally, require regular feeding — this amount varying from species to species and the time of year — with liquid plant food, again preferably of a purely organic composition, being used after the bulk of essential nutrients and minerals have been taken up by the plants over the first six months or so of usage.

Hanging ‘baskets’ need not be made of any of the aforementioned items but can, with a little imagination, be contrived out of things such as an old pair of strong boots or ‘closed’ shoes, firmly nailed or otherwise securely fastened, directly to walls, on to wooden posts or suspended from some form of support bracket. I have, for many years, utilised free-standing boutique clothes rails to suspend a variety of hanging ‘containers’ which, at one point, included a pair of cut down, strong denim, jeans with the bottom of the legs tied closed with fishing line, the waistband secured to the rail with plaited fishing line, the whole filled up with soil/compost, then trailing tomatoes planted in the top and in carefully angled slits, each one just large enough in which to push in a tomato seedling, cut at eight to 10 inch intervals in the jeans’ legs.

A gorgeous display of living colour
A gorgeous display of living colour

The majority of gardeners will want to fill their hanging ‘baskets’ with a striking arrangement of upright and trailing flowering plants, depending on the season. This being September, and on until the end of November, a selection of the following is ideal: petunias, lobelia, pansies, violas, begonias, fuchsias, geraniums, salvia, cineraria, phlox, calendulas and thunbergira/black-eyed Susan, grown in individual ‘clumps’ or in mixed arrangements, providing colour for weeks, sometimes months, on end.

If, however, you have a yen for cool green or coloured leaved perennials, then there is a wide selection of trailing and suitable upright species to be found in the numerous plant nurseries we are now lucky enough to have in most parts of the country. Chlorophytum/spider plants, asparagus ferns, green or variegated ivy, pelia muscosa/Artillery plant, tradescantia/wandering Jew, zebrina/wandering sailor and coleus are all extremely useful in this respect.

Hanging planters of herbs are a wonderful garden addition for adventurous cooks: basil, thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram and mints all enjoy growing on high as long, as with all plant species, their daily needs are adequately catered for in all respects.

Remember to take into account the amount of direct sun and shade in the locations chosen in which to hang your purely ornamental or edible baskets.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to Remember to include your location. The writer will not respond directly by e-mail. E-mails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 21st, 2014