Step 1: Choose Your Basket
Typical hanging baskets are made of wire or plastic and come in diameters of 8 to 24 inches. Wire basket liners include sphagnum moss, coco fiber, plastic, and pressed paperboard. Sphagnum moss and coco fiber are porous, so they will dry out more quickly than pressed paperboard or plastic; however, the softer materials make it possible to poke planting holes around the outside of the basket. If you use a paperboard liner, drill drainage holes in the bottom before planting.
Step 2: Add Soil
Fill the basket with a lightweight potting mix. You can buy a packaged mix or make your own with equal parts peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Some prepackaged mixes contain slow-release fertilizer, allowing you to forgo semiweekly treatments with a quick-acting, water-soluble fertilizer. Mix in water-absorbing crystals or line the container with a water-absorbing mat to maintain moisture. Fill the soil to within an inch or two of the rim for ease in watering.
Step 3: Plant the Basket
Baskets packed with a single kind of flower have loads of impact. Combinations can be handsome, too, if there's space for the multitude. When using multiple species, include tall, midrange, and trailing forms for variety. Place taller plants near the center and trailing plants along the edges. Try to include varying bloom sizes. For example, vinca, miniature rose, and petunia offer large flowers, while hyssop, lobelia, and calibrachoa have dainty blooms.
Step 4: Water Well
Water the soil mix thoroughly after planting. Thereafter, you may have to water daily in hot weather. Lifting a basket is a quick way to judge if it needs water. The lighter the basket, the drier the soil. If the basket dries out during the season, the top of the soil may crust over. Break open the crust and rewet the soil ball thoroughly. Pinch the tops of plants if they begin to look leggy.