When I visited Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, I was amazed at the city’s incredibly large hanging baskets. And when I say large, I mean huge – as in, so big they could do some serious damage if they fell!

Giant hanging baskets

Victoria’s harbor greets visitors with its gorgeous gigantic hanging baskets.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Wire basket liner

Lined baskets are available in different sizes, shapes and colors to fit any décor.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Sphagnum moss

You can find sphagnum moss at your local garden center.

Photo Credit: Jenny Hooks

Fuchsia

Fuchsias make nice basket additions.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

Hanging baskets

Even without plants growing out of the sides of the basket, a blooming hanging planter can still look full and beautiful – especially when used in groups.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

I couldn’t help but wonder just how these big beauties were made. After taking lots of pictures and staring up at the baskets for embarrassingly long periods of time (it’s not the first time passersby have thought me strange for staring at plants), I noticed that they were built in layers. Turns out that these giant baskets aren’t too difficult to make on your own. You just need a bit of adventure in your gardening soul and the right equipment.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • A big wire or metal basket. It should be at least 16 inches across and 10 inches deep. Some baskets have only vertical metal bars, while others have both vertical and horizontal bars – either will work, so just choose the one you like best.
  • Sphagnum moss (about 1 cubic foot) or a coconut fiber basket liner, often called cocoliners. (You can also use loose, long-fibered coconut fibers, but they’re not as easy to find.)
  • Good potting mix. I recommend buying something with a low concentration of fertilizer, known as a starter charge. Nutrients can be supplied either by organic matter (like earthworm castings or compost) or inorganic fertilizer (like that found in many name-brand mixes). If you choose to use a potting mix without fertilizer, add a controlled-release fertilizer to it.
  • And, obviously, you can’t forget the plants!

You can use any plants you like, but my advice is to pick some annuals that bloom continuously throughout summer. I’ve noticed that almost all large baskets contain a healthy dose of petunias – and with good reason: They’re easy to find, easy to grow and available in almost every color. Some of my other favorites include geraniums (especially ivy geraniums) and verbena (which really spreads out nicely). Other good selections include million bells (Calibrachoa), blue lobelia, marigolds, fan flower (Scaevola), Bidens, lantana and sweet potato vine. And don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to flowering plants! Consider using selections with great variegated foliage, too, like coleus and neat tropicals.

You can use a rainbow of hues or choose a limited color scheme. Try bold color blends like red, blue and yellow, or blue, orange and yellow. Or try something softer like pink and purple. Another little tip: Plants generally look better if you use odd numbers, so plant three or five of something rather than four or six. Also, choose plants with small root-balls, like those found in four-packs.

Now for the assembly:

  1. Soak the sphagnum moss or cocoliner in a bucket of water for a few hours or overnight. If you’re using moss, squeeze out the excess water and shape it to fit in the bottom third of your wire basket. Make sure it’s packed tightly to hold in the potting mix. If you’re using a cocoliner, just mold it to fit the basket, then cut horizontal slits in the liner about a third of the way up the basket.
  2. Add the potting mix to the bottom third of the moss or cocoliner. It should be firm but not packed in.
  3. Space plants around the outside of the lining, fitting them through the wires and placing their soil balls inside the basket, on top of the potting mix. In other words, plant them sideways or at a slight angle. Don’t worry that it’ll look awkward – they’ll grow upright as they mature. Depending on the size of the basket, this first layer will take about six plants. (Use three plants of two different species for the best effect.)
  4. If you’re using moss, shape it around the outside of the wire basket, filling in another third. For cocoliners, cut more slits⅔ up the basket. Put in another layer of potting mix. Then place the next layer of plants, side by side, around the perimeter. This layer will take about 12 plants to fill. Try to stagger the plants so the same species aren’t directly on top of one another.
  5. Repeat Step 4 for the top layer, and add the remaining plants to the top part of the potting mix (right-side up). You might want to put a single taller plant in the middle of your container, remembering to stick with your chosen color scheme.
  6. Water in very well.

Once your plants have filled in a little, you’ll need to water the basket every day. You also need to add fertilizer – whenever the plants look a little pale or the growth isn’t as lush as you’d like. (Liquid fertilizer is the easiest to apply.)

Then just hang them proudly on a secure hook for all to admire!

So if you want to make something a little bold and beautiful for yourself this summer, try creating some of these giant hanging baskets. They’re not that difficult to make – and you can save yourself a trip to Victoria to enjoy them!