Thursday, June 1, 2017

Getting Creative & Saving Money on Hanging Baskets

Last year I ran out of money before I had a chance to fill the last of my hanging baskets. The baskets on the back fence sat empty and forlorn all summer. Determined to better this year, I decided to get creative and find ways to stretch my money.

For my first hanging basket, I bought nothing at all. One day in early spring I was pulling out some Lamium, which I have in great overabundance, when it occurred to me to use the surplus Lamium in one of the empty hanging baskets. I planted it up, watered it and then forgot about all about it. On a wonder through the backyard a few days ago, I was rather delighted to find that the Lamium was looking not half-bad for something I almost threw onto the compost heap.

The Lamium won't be as colorful as store-bought annuals, but hey, they're free! They will have mauve flowers and even when the flowers are done and gone, with a bit of deadheading, the foliage should remain green and attractive. 

This will be the first of many experiments making hanging baskets using foraged plants I think!

If I had a greenhouse, grow lights or even a bright window, I might try growing my own annuals, but I have none of these things. The one decent window ledge in our house is already crammed with houseplants. 

In many of the gardens I visited last summer, I saw container plantings in which houseplants had been used to great effect. Why not let some of my houseplants do double-duty and spend the summer outdoors? Then in the fall, I can bring them back inside or I can take cuttings.

Here's my first hanging basket using a mix of houseplants I had on hand with a few annuals I purchased.

Boston Fern, Nephrolepis 'Fluffy Ruffles' has ruffled green leaves and is a medium-sized fern that likes part-shade and moist soil. 

Fuchsia are prolific bloomers that can spend their summers outdoors and can be brought inside for the winter (or you can take cuttings). Their dangling bell-shaped blooms make them prefect for hanging baskets. They like part-shade to shade and well-drained, but moist soil.

A few logistics. I find water can run right through some coconut liners, so I usually cut an extra piece of liner (you can buy a roll of coconut liner at most garden centres) and place it at the bottom of my wire baskets before I fill them with potting soil. 

To fill my hanging baskets, I used this moisture control potting mix which I hope will see my plants through the dry days of mid-summer. This potting mix feeds the plants as well. If you are using a regular potting mix, it a good idea to add a little slow release fertilizer to the soil before planting.

1. Fuchsia 2. Boston Fern, Nephrolepis 'Fluffy Ruffles'  3. Variegated Ivy 4. Annual Lobelia 5. Trailing green vine (sorry couldn't find a name for this one)

As well as using houseplants, I decided to be creative and use herbs. I chose mostly Mediterranean herbs that can take a bit of heat and even a little drought.

Tricolor Sage, Salvia Officinalis 'Tricolor' has aromatic purplish-grey-green and cream variegated foliage that is ornamental and flavourful. Plant it in well-drained soil. Full sun. Height: 60-80 cm (24-32 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-24 inches) USDA zones: 4-9.

Silver Thyme, Thymus vulgaris has grey-green leaves that are edged in creamy-white. Thyme likes poor soil and good drainage. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Full sun. Height: 15-30 cm (6-12 inches), Spread: 30-35 cm (12-14 inches) USDA zones:4-9.

I have never grown Rue before. I liked its foliage and the promise of yellow flowers.

Rue, Ruta graveolens has yellow cup-shaped flowers in summer and fern-like foliage. In the past, it was used for medicinal reasons, but is rarely grown these days. I have read that it repels Japanese Beetles (interesting!). Full sun. Height: 80-90 cm (36 inches), Spread: 40-45 cm (16-18 inches) USDA zones: 4-9.

Golden Lemon Thyme, Thymus x citriodorus has green leaves edged in creamy-yellow. The foliage has a lemony taste. Thyme likes poor soil and good drainage. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Full sun. Height: 15-30 cm (6-12 inches), Spread: 30-35 cm (12-14 inches) USDA zones: 4-9.

1. Sage, Salvia Officinalis  2. Rue, Ruta graveolens 3. Tricolor Sage, Salvia Officinalis 'Tricolor'  4. Silver Thyme, Thymus vulgaris 5. Golden Lemon Thyme, Thymus x citriodorus 6. Creeping Rosemary, Rosmarinus prostratus (see below)

Creeping Rosemary, Rosmarinus prostratus is a low-growing form of rosemary that has little pale-blue flowers. It is easy to grow in poor, well-drained soil. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Full sun. Height: 15 cm (6 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-24 inches) USDA zones:8-11.

There are lots of shady pockets in my backyard. Ferns and ivy seemed like the perfect solution for another of my baskets. To add a little color, I used a sky-blue Lobelia.

1. Annual Lobelia 2. Asparagus Fern, Asparagus retrofractus 3. Boston Fern, Nephrolepis 'Fluffy Ruffles'  4. Button Fern, Nephrolepis cordifolia 5. Blue Star Fern, Phlebodium aureum mandaianum 6. Variegated ivy, Hedera helix

Note: The ferns I used were all very small plants. If using larger ferns, you may have to limit the number and variety.

Asparagus Fern, Asparagus retrofractus has fine, needle-like foliage on barbed stems. It likes well-drained soil and to be watered often. In year's past, I have used Asparagus Ferns on the front porch and found it to be an easy plant to overwinter indoors in a window with morning sun. Height: 75 cm (30 inches).

Blue Star Fern, Phlebodium aureum mandaianum (sometimes sold as Polypodium) is from the tropical rainforest of south America. It has blue-green fronds and is easy to grow. A Blue Star Fern likes part-shade and plenty of moisture. Height: 30 cm (12 inches)

Once I had all my baskets made up, I went on to create a number of container plantings...but perhaps that subject is best left for another post.


  1. What a great idea to use houseplants and herbs! I would never have thought of that and they do look

    1. Thanks Snowbird. I must pop over for a visit.

  2. Really great ideas! I love the idea of growing herbs in a hanging basket. I think it would be lovely to be able to just walk out to the back deck and cut some for cooking.

    1. I certainly found it helpful last summer to have some of the herbs I use most commonly in a container near the back door.

  3. Jennifer, I love your baskets, great idea! I've spent way more than I should this year and added more containers than ever before, so I will be thinking of using some of my plants at hand here too, to stretch the cost. We added some funky containers this year from scrap steel from my husband's work, let's say it's an acquired taste. We'll see how it looks with some plants to soften the look. I've been cheating and cutting plants in half to stretch the budget if it's possible. Voila, one ten dollar 'King Tut' papyrus accent grass is now two plants (or three) if I'm lucky. I have an abundance of yellow creeping Jenny aka moneywort aka lysimachia that I think might make a nice trailing accent in the pots. Thank you for the idea!

    1. I bet the bits of scrap steel would be interesting in a container. It's also a great idea to divide annuals when you can to stretch the dollars.

  4. Inspired as always. Even using leftovers your baskets are so much better than mine!

    1. Thanks Sarah. I think you are being to hard on yourself. You strike me as a very creative and resourceful person, so I imagine your containers are better than you think.

  5. Some really wonderful ideas, Jennifer, and the results are just beautiful.
    I just came upon this moisture control potting soil this week. It's not what I usually buy, but it was all they had left in the store I was at. I LOVE it, and will definitely use it from now on.
    As always, thank you so much for all the beauty and information you post here.
    It is truly appreciated.

    1. My only concern about this soil is what happens to the spent soil at the end of the summer. Those moisture retentive pellets in the soil aren't exactly natural. I like the convenience of the moisture retentive soil, but I must confess the environmental impact of those pellets weighs on my mind.

  6. It's actually a great idea to grow herbs in a hanging basket.

  7. Great ideas, a good way of making a few bedding plants go much further. Can I just add a note of caution, Rue can cause skin blistering and photo sensitisation, be careful.

  8. I prefer these to the very brightly coloured ones, which I just can't aspire to (I found your post when googling "I am not a hanging basket person"!, however yours look a lot more natural, so pretty, & now I really want to make one! I'd been wondering about using some ivy which has become a bit of nuisance in another part of the garden.

    1. There are many types of ivy and many of them are quite aggressive, so it is hard to know exactly what you are referring to in your question. If it is common ivy, it likes the shade. Your hanging basket would have to live in the shade when your done your planting.
      As a general rule, you can use low growing perennials in hanging baskets. I've used Lamium, for an example, but in a hanging basket where it won't get a lot of winter protection, I'd treat it like an annual (ie it may die over the winter. I have an abundance of Lamium, so it is no big loss).
      Another caution: You might be able to dig up some common ivy, but it is not a great time of year to transplanting anything. The heat may do it in. If you want to try it, transplant the ivy and hang the basket in a sheltered spot for the and water it daily until the ivy settles in. Hope that helps.


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