Mums in hanging baskets

How to water your plants while you’re away

Josh Miller/CNET

You’ve worked hard to grow beautiful houseplants and a healthy vegetable garden with a consistent watering schedule. If you head out on vacation, you don’t want your plants to suffer.

Here are four methods to keep your plants watered while you’re away. They also work great for the forgetful gardener.

Now playing: Watch this: 4 ways to get your plants to water themselves 2:13

Just a note: Only use these for plants that need daily watering, like herbs, vegetables and some houseplants. Your succulents would rather you just let them be while you’re out of town.

Read more: Our ultimate guide to growing a healthy garden.

Chris Parker / CNET

Old-school water wicking

For this, you need a large water container (like vase or bucket) and some cotton rope. Cotton clothesline, available at most hardware stores works great.

Cut a piece of cotton rope that’s long enough to fit between the bottom of your water container and into the soil of your plant.

Take one end of the rope and push it several inches below the surface of the soil, close to the plant. Take care not to disturb the plant’s roots.

Rest the other end of the rope in the bottom of your water container and fill it with water. Make sure that the rope touches the bottom of your container.

The cotton rope will slowly wick water from the container into the pot, maintaining a constant level of moisture in the soil.

Chris Parker / CNET

DIY drip system

You’ve probably seen those glass watering globes you stick into a pot to water your plant. There’s no need to buy them though, because you can easily make your own version.

Start with a clean and empty plastic bottle. For a small to medium container, a water bottle will work just fine. Drill several drainage holes into the bottle close to the top.

Before you head out on vacation, water your plant as normal. Fill the plastic bottle with water, and then quickly turn it over and plunge it into the first few inches of soil in the pot. Make sure the bottle is not too close to your plant and that the bottle is deep enough that the soil covers the holes.

The water will slowly leak out of of the bottle as the soil dries out.

For larger pots, you can use an empty wine bottle. Just fill it up, place your thumb over the opening before turning it over and plunging it into the soil.

Chris Parker / CNET

Give your plants a bath

For pots with good drainage, you can give them a bath while you’re away. Well, sort of.

Fill up your sink or bathtub with a few inches of water and lay a towel inside to protect against scratches. Rest your potted plants in the sink and leave them while you’re gone. The soil will draw water up to the roots, keeping the plant hydrated for up to one week.

Take stock of the lighting conditions near your sink or tub – if your plants need a lot of sunlight, don’t keep them in a dark bathroom.

Chris Parker / CNET

Plastic bag greenhouse

This method seems unconventional, but it works wells for longer vacations.

Get a clear plastic bag big enough to cover your plant and its pot. Add stakes to the pot to prevent the bag from clinging to the plants. Some say that the bag should absolutely not touch the leaves, but a little bit of contact is OK.

Water your plants as normal, being sure not to overly saturate them.

Place the plant into the bag, pulling the bag up and around your plant. Blow a bit of air into the bag before you seal it to help the bag balloon around your plant. It’s just more insurance that the bag won’t press up against the leaves.

Leave your plant in an area with indirect light (direct sunlight will heat up the bag and likely kill your plant). This mini greenhouse will capture water as it evaporates and drip it back into the plant.

Learn everything you need to grow a beautiful, healthy garden with CNET’s gardening guide.

Can technology grow a better garden? We test the latest gardening tech at the Smart Home.

Hope for Hanging Baskets

I’ve been thinking a lot about hanging baskets lately. Hanging baskets are a Mother’s Day gift staple and for good reason. They’re beautiful, they last longer than cut flowers, and for much of the country the timing is perfect to start gardening. The thing I’ve been thinking about is that hanging baskets are one of the hardest things to keep looking good all summer. The reason is simple, there’s a whole lot of plant material to a relatively small amount of soil. This is true of almost any hanging basket, but is especially true of the huge baskets you buy at garden centers. The small soil volume means the basket will dry out quickly and keeping up with watering can become challenging. It is possible to keep a hanging basket looking good all summer, but it will take constant attention from the gardener.

I love hanging baskets! I have seven of them around my wrap-around porch and each year I try something new in them. What’s going in the hanging baskets is often the first decision I make for my garden. In fact, I’m usually thinking about them the summer before I’ll be planting them. So what goes into having a great hanging basket all season? It starts with choosing your basket and your plants.

Getting Started

Basket Selection

Your first decision will be to decide if you are going to buy an already planted hanging basket or if you are going to plant it yourself. The next step is to consider the size of the hanging basket. I am a big believer that the bigger the planter, the better off you are. Small pots will dry-out faster than larger pots because they have less soil. Watering will be your biggest challenge in maintaining your hanging baskets. Choosing a larger pot now, can make maintaining your basket much easier. I use 14-inch diameter, deep hanging baskets, so I have a reasonably good soil volume to plant material (photo, right.)

Once you decide on pot size, pay attention to the material from which your pot is made. Most hanging baskets are either plastic or coco-fiber/moss. There are a few wood, ceramic, and terra cotta hanging baskets, but they are few and far between. The pros of plastic are they retain moisture well, are inexpensive and are easy to find. The con is they are plastic and you may or may not like the way plastic looks. The pro of coco-fiber/moss baskets is they are decorative. The negatives are they dry-out faster, can be harder to find, and the coco-fiber/moss liner will need to be replaced periodically. You can get around the dry-out factor by lining the basket with plastic prior to planting (this is what I do). Ceramic pots are similar to plastic as far as the pros go and they are decorative. Wood and terra cotta will both dry-out faster than plastic, but not as fast as a coco-fiber/moss basket.

Plant Selection

You can make life a lot easier if you choose plants for your baskets that suit your environment. This is true, whether you are buying a pre-planted basket or planting your own. First, decide if your basket will be hanging in sun or shade conditions. Choosing plants that are adapted to the amount of sun your area will get is key to having happy plants. Once you know sun/shade conditions, it is time to start choosing plants for your basket. What traits are most important will vary for each gardener. Some questions to consider are does a plant needs deadheading, is it drought tolerant, does it wilt quickly, is it heat tolerant, does it need a lot of fertilizer, and what color do I want (that’s the fun part!)?

I personally tend to be a bit time-starved, I travel a fair amount for work and my husband has limited patience for watering. However, I don’t mind fertilizing and my color preferences seem to change every year. It also tends to be very hot in the summer here. Keeping these things in mind, I try to choose plants that can tolerate dry soil, don’t need deadheading and are heat tolerant. I don’t mind fertilizing, so either light or heavy feeders work for me. Your tendencies might be different than mine and could include things other than those listed here.


If you are buying a pre-planted basket, skip ahead to the maintenance section, below. If you are planting your own basket, there is one more decision to make and that is the soil for your basket. It is best to use a good, light potting soil and to fully replace the soil in your baskets every year. There are good commercial mixes available, for more on choosing potting soil, . Now that you have planted your basket, it is time to think about maintenance.

Maintaining Your Hanging Basket

The keys to maintaining your hanging basket really fall into three categories: water, fertilizer, and other maintenance.


Watering is the hardest part of maintaining a hanging basket, or any container plant. You can’t keep the soil too wet because it will result in root rot problems, you can’t keep it too dry or the plant wilts and dies. You want to hit the happy medium. Here are the rules of thumb for watering hanging baskets:

1. Be sure your pot has drainage holes
2. Water only when the top of the soil is dry to the touch
3. Water until water comes out of the drainage holes
4. Don’t allow your pot to sit in standing water

Here are a few more tips on watering hanging baskets. Early in spring when your plants are smaller and the temperatures are lower, you may only have to water every 3 or 4 days. As the plants get larger and the mercury creeps higher be prepared to water every day. With small pots or water “pigs” you might even have to water twice a day. You will also need to water more quickly if it is a windy day. Wind will cause pots to dry out more quickly, especially hanging baskets. As I said above, larger pots will dry-out less quickly than small pots. For more in-depth watering information, . If you have had problems with your hanging basket in the past, I really encourage you to read the watering article.

Another option to consider with watering is a drip irrigation system. Proven Winners® is marketing a very adaptable low volume irrigational system that works as well for flower bed as it does for hanging baskets and upright patio containers. This system called WaterWise is designed with the gardener and the environment in mind; it uses very low volumes of water with a system of ‘drip irrigators’ which deliver the water directly to the plants. The drip emitters limit wasted water from splashing on sidewalks and driveways. They also deliver the water directly to the soil by the plant eliminating water evaporation and lots of water on the leaves. Resulting in less disease and less water waste. The kit has everything you need to set up the system except the timer. The only tool you will need is a pair of scissors.

There are other drip irrigation systems out there also. They all work on similar principles. These systems generally apply ½ to 1 gallon of water per hour. Drip irrigation systems can be turned into automatic systems by adding a timer to your hose. This timer can be set to turn on your water at specified times and on specified days. Many variations of timers are available. Be sure to select a timer that allows you to set both time and day, you don’t want to be locked into watering every day.


Your container plants are only getting nutrition if you provide it to them. After watering, fertilizer is the most important thing to keep your plants thriving. I usually recommend adding a slow or controlled-release fertilizer to your hanging basket right after you buy or plant it. This will provide your basket with a good constant dose of fertilizer. Be sure to follow the directions on your fertilizer package to make sure you don’t damage your plants.

By midsummer, I usually start using a water-soluble fertilizer once every one to two weeks. Again, follow the directions on your fertilizer package. I do this for two reasons — by this time the plants are very large and to keep them going takes more fertilizer plus some of the controlled-release fertilizer has already been used by the plant. I sometimes also use a dose of water-soluble fertilizer after a heavy rain. A lot of water going through your basket, like you get with a big rain storm, can wash out fertilizer. A dose of water-soluble fertilizer the next time you water is a good, quick way to give your plant some food. For more in-depth information on fertilizing, .

Other Maintenance

There are two other things you may want to do to help maintain your basket for the long-haul. First, some plants may need deadheading. Most Proven Winners® plants have been selected to not need deadheading for continuous bloom, but some plants may benefit from it. On our website “Deadheading Not Necessary” is listed under features for those plants which do not need deadheading.

The second thing you may want to do is a midsummer trim. Hanging baskets can become a bit stretched or open looking over time, even when you are doing everything right. If this happens, I give my baskets a “haircut” in mid to late summer. This simply means I take a sharp pair of scissors or shears and trim a few inches off the entire basket, like when you get your hair trimmed. How much you cut off is up to you, a light trim of an inch or two is usually plenty, but there are times when a bigger trim might be good. If you have long trailing pieces that you don’t like, feel free to cut them off.

Giving the basket a haircut will rob you of some flowers, but it will increase branching, tighten the habit, and help keep the basket looking good long-term. Your flowers should come back with in a few days to a week or so and your plant, given enough fertilizer, is likely to start growing more strongly again.

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Be Prepared: Top Tips for Maintaining your Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets and container gardens are an easy way to add instant bright color to your yard. Many people find their baskets look amazing until early-to mid-summer, where they start to peter out. Here is an easy way to keep your baskets looking amazing all season long.


Watering is one of the hardest things to do for basket or container gardening. Too much water leads to root rot, while too little will leave the plant dehydrated. In both these cases, the plant will wilt and die. Plants in baskets need to be watered more frequently than gardens. There are two reasons for this:

1) Small pots dry out faster in the heat.
2) Plants have limited root space in pots and uptake water much faster.

Here are a few tips to help with watering:

  • DO make sure baskets have proper drainage. All hanging baskets purchased from our garden centre have great drainage.
  • DO make sure containers or pots that you plant into have drainage holes.
  • DON’ T water on a schedule. While it’s great to check your baskets daily, you may not need to water each plant daily; some may need water twice a day. Keep in mind that while one plant needs water, it does not mean that they all do. Many factors, including pot and plant size, will determine how fast a basket or planter dries out.
  • DO check pots individually. As a good rule of thumb, soil color is a great indicator of whether a basket needs water or not. Dry soil generally is the color of a brown paper bag, wet soil is dark brown to black in color. Only water when the soil is dry.
    • Another great tip for hanging baskets: feel the weight of the basket. If the basket is very light it needs water; if it is heavy it does not.
  • DON’ T give a cup a day. DO water thoroughly. Plants will do much better with a deep watering rather than a frequent light watering. It is best to water until water starts to come out the bottom drainage hole. This will encourage roots to grow to the bottom of the pot, which means a healthier plant. It also means you won’t have to water as frequently.
    • Has your plant gotten too dry? If the soil has seemed to “shrink”, where there is space in between the soil and pot, it has gotten too dry, and you need to re-hydrate the soil. The simplest way is to soak the baskets 3 times.
      • Water the basket to where the water runs out the bottom.
      • Wait 30 minutes, water again until the water runs through.
        • Wait another 30 minutes. Your soil is now re-hydrated. Water once more till the water runs through again; this third watering is actually where the roots of the plant will uptake water.


Second to watering, fertilizer is the most important thing to keep your baskets looking great all season. Fertilization is key, as plants need a lot of nutrients in order to sustain large growth and blooms. Each time you water, the nutrients that the plant has not already used are leeched out of the soil. By consistently feeding, you are ensuring that your plants maintain all the nutrition necessary to grow large and produce blooms.We recommend feeding your baskets either weekly or bi-weekly with a water-soluble fertilizer. If you want massive amounts of blooms, we recommend our Power Bloom fertilizer. One of our secrets to our large hanging baskets is a consistent fertilizer program.

TIP: We were able to water 2 of our 11″ hanging baskets with one watering can. One 12″ hanging basket required another full watering can. If plants are very dry, it would take one watering can per 11″ basket, and 2 watering cans for one 12″ basket.


Sometimes, even if you are doing everything correctly, baskets and containers can look stretched. Giving baskets and plants a mid-summer trim will help keep them full and robust. Get a sharp pair of scissors and trim one or two inches all around the basket. You will lose some flower heads at this time, but the pay-off will be worth the bloom loss. With fertilizer, you will begin to see blooms again in as little as few days to a week or two.

By fertilizing and watering properly you will have the best baskets and containers on the block!

Hanging baskets make great visual impacts when they are filled to the brim with bright summer blooms. They add instant color to any spot and are a sign of warm weather.

Though as days get hotter and the summer rolls on, hanging baskets can start to look tired: drooping blooms, minimal flowers and straggly plants.

Your hanging basket isn’t doomed. It just needs a good ol’ fashion pick-me-up.

Refresh your hanging baskets to keep them partying all summer long

Get ready to give your hanging baskets a make-over. With these tips, your hanging basket will be back in its prime in no time.

Photo Courtesy Proven Winners

Take the Heat Off Hanging Baskets

  1. Test the Waters Hanging baskets need more water when temperatures rise. During the peak of summer’s heat, water baskets in the morning until water drips from the drainage holes. Check them again in the afternoon to see if they need more water. On windy days, hanging baskets dry out, so they will need even more water.
  2. Food for Thought. Feed hanging baskets with an organic flower food, like Flower-tone or the new Bloom! liquid plant food. Because of how much water baskets need, nutrients are frequently flushed from the soil. Regular feedings give your hanging baskets the energy they need to shine and bloom continuously.
  3. Drop Dead Gorgeous Blooms. As flowers fade, pinch them off where they meet the stem. Deadheading hanging baskets keeps them producing flowers and prevents them from going to seed.
  4. Which to Switch. Not every flower blooms all summer. If one of your flowers is done blooming for the season, swap it out. Gently remove the flower, replace it with a vibrant plant and fill with an organic potting soil.
  5. What to Cut. When your hanging basket is looking a bit wild or leggy, cut it back by 1-2”.

Look at that! Your hanging baskets already look better. Keep up these tips throughout the summer to keep hanging baskets fresh, beautiful and blooming.

Hanging Baskets

City and project planners in need of quality, commercial size hanging baskets will find their answer in this collection from Planters Unlimited. Large hanging baskets found here are made from reliable commercial grade materials like steel and fiberglass. Also, chains and hanging hooks are made from heavy gauge steel to ensure a reliable mount that can stand up to inclement weather and the other challenges of exterior placements.

Available in a range of sizes, each of our heavy duty baskets are outdoor-rated and built for large planting loads. When you envision a pleasing stroll down a bustling parkway, you will no doubt see plant life as a part of the equation. In redevelopment projects for cities, municipalities and townships, flora and fauna can work wonders in increasing a warm and lively community feel. Mount large hanging baskets along street light poles, on the ends of buildings, on park posts and other areas that could use a little extra life or pop of color.

Commercial size hanging baskets come lined with Coco Coir, a natural and permeable material that allows oxygen to access plant root balls and foster healthy growth of plant life. Coconut Coir Liners are compatible with a range of greenery and flowering plants from dangling vines to seasonal blooms.

Fiberglass basket and liner options are also available for large hanging baskets that need to retain moisture at a higher level. Heightened moisture means plant life runs less risk of drying out, and fiberglass containers also make versatile heavy duty baskets that come in a range of custom color options.

Each of the heavy duty baskets found in this category also come with the option to purchase additional accessories like supplementary inserts (beyond the already included coco coir liners) and reservoir hanging basket watering systems. Available accessories are visible via drop-down menus within individual product descriptions.

Our knowledgeable customer service and project management team are available to assist with additional questions on products. We also offer individual consultation for your unique city planning or commercial design project. Please contact us at 1-800-896-0978 from 7am-5pm PST, M-F, to see what a collection of large hanging baskets can bring to your plans. Or view our Large Planters & Outdoor Planters Selection Guide, for a functional solution to bring your design to life.

How often should I water plants in hanging baskets?

Plants in hanging baskets need to be watered frequently (especially in summer). Potting mixes are light, well-drained, and dry out quickly. Plus, hanging baskets may contain several plants. In general, water plants in hanging baskets when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. On hot, sunny days it may be necessary to water once a day. When watering hanging baskets, be sure to apply water until water begins to flow out the bottom of the container. This ensures that the entire soil ball has been moistened. Do not let the potting mix dry out completely. Plants will wilt if the potting mix dries out excessively. Plus, it’s more difficult to moisten the potting mix when it has dried out completely. If the potting mix becomes extremely dry, it will separate (pull away) from the sides of the container. If you attempt to water from above, most of the water will flow between the soil ball and container and run out the drainage holes in the bottom of the basket. Unfortunately, most of the potting mix will remain dry. When the potting mix becomes excessively dry, place the basket in a tub of water for 1 or 2 hours. This forces water to be absorbed slowly from the bottom of the container. Do not keep the basket in the tub of water for more than 2 hours as this may result in root rot problems.

1. Fertilizing

HEAT WAVE! Summer is here to stay and with it comes the heat, which can be an added stress for your garden…especially your Hanging Baskets and Flowering Planters. Give them a little extra love with Prairie Gardens Plant Experts top 5 tips, and your planters will make it through the summer looking happy, healthy and extra fabulous.

Containers require frequent watering…and frequent watering leads to soil nutrients running out of the bottom of your containers over time.

This is why it is important to replace these social nutrients in your container by fertilizing throughout the growing season.

We recommend Miracle Grow Slow-release Fertilizer or Liquid Fertilizer – just follow the label instructions!

2. Proper Watering

Proper watering, especially during the summer, is a must. Check out how much, how often, and when you should be watering.

When should I water them? The best time to water your containers is in the morning to give them enough time to soak up the moisture before the heavy heat of the day. Plants also absorb water faster during the morning!

How often should I water them? In the heat of the summer you should be watering your containers and hanging baskets every day. On hot, windy or humid days you may need to water more than once. And on rainy days you may not need to water at all.

How much water should I give them at once? Water your hanging baskets and containers until water begins to run out of the bottom of the container. If the soil is bone dry and the water runs through the bottom very quickly, repeat this process a couple times.

How do I know if I am over-watering or under-watering? This can be tricky since the signs of over-watering or under-watering are very similar (yellowing of foliage). The best thing you can do is use the finger test before watering. Stick your finger 1-2″ into the soil…if it is wet, wait to water. If it is dry, water away!

3. Pruning

Is your hanging basket or planter looking sparse? Has it slowed down in producing blooms? Or is it growing unevenly?

This likely means your container needs a little haircut with a quick pruning.

Pruning helps promote new blooms and well-rounded growth habits. Watch the video below to see how to properly prune a petunia hanging basket.


QUICK PRUNING TIP: Our Plant Experts recommend pruning back no more than about one third at a time.

4. Deadheading

Some annuals require deadheading, or removing of spent flower blooms. The two most popular container annuals that require deadheading or pinching are Geraniums and Petunias. When pruning petunias, just simply pull off the faded bloom. When pruning Geraniums, remove the whole stem of the faded flower, snapping it off right below the node (see video tutorial below!).

5. Replacing

Sometimes a missed watering, not quite the right sun exposure or other factors can lead to some plants not thriving in your containers or hanging baskets.

If a plant has faded past help, just pop it out and replace it with a new one.

Visit the PG Greenhouse or your local JA Pop-Up Gardens for quick new plant additions.

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