A few years ago I picked up a nifty planter that didn’t just have an opening at the top, but also had multiple pockets on the sides.
I knew that this would let me create a hanging basket that was completely covered in plants, instead of just having plants coming out of the top of the pot.
I am sure the one I have is modeled on the large baskets commercial growers use to create those giant globes of flowers you often see hanging from lamp posts in quaint areas of town.
Last year I saw quite a few of these planters available online but they seem sparse this year. The one below is on Amazon* but it is showing “currently unavailable” at the time I am writing this article.
If you are unable to find one like mine, a hanging strawberry pot* performs essentially the same function, although I think the planting holes might be a bit smaller.
The planter I purchased, which I can’t find online anywhere or I would link to it for you, was $19 CDN. One of the handy features of this design is that the individual pockets can be popped off. This is helpful for inserting plants. Also, since I hang my planter close to a wall I popped the lower back pocket out pf the planter and covered the hole (from the inside) with a piece of heavy plastic, as having a plant in that position would be awkward.
If you love the idea of a basket with multiple pockets, but can’t find one to purchase, you could take a coir fibre-lined hanging basket and cut holes in the sides of the basket liner* in order to fit in plants.
It’s not difficult to plant up one of these planters, but there is a method to it, so here is what I learned while using this planter over the last two seasons.
How to Plant A Hanging Basket with Side Pockets
The first thing I did was to get a selection of small plants equal to the number of holes on the sides of the planter, plus some plants for the top of the basket. As you will see in a moment, the plants need to have a pretty small root ball at the time you plant them in order to fit in the container. I wouldn’t try this with plants that come in anything larger than a pot that is 4″ across. Plants that come in cell packs, usually 4 or 6 in a tray, work really well for this project.
I put a layer of potting soil in the bottom of the planter, up to the level of the first row of holes.
Then I removed a plant from its pot and placed it through the hole in the planter,. It is on an angle, not upright, and this is fine.
If the plant is healthy and of a vigorous type (i.e. something sturdy, not a finicky plant), you can often squish the roots a bit to make them fit. I know this seems harsh but many plants will be just fine with this treatment. I am not advocating that you try to mush a 6″ root ball into a 3″ hole, but I am saying that a 4″ root ball can often be compressed into a 2 or 3″ hole with little to no damage.
Once I had the plant in the hole, I covered the roots, which were inside the main pot, with soil. Then I planted up all of the lowest row of holes like this. I added more soil, up to the next higher row of pockets, and repeated the process with them.
If you have a bigger pot with more rows, just keep repeating until all of the side holes are filled.
Once the sides were planted, then I put the plants for the top of the planter in place, and filled all around them with a good quality potting soil.
The last and most important step was to water all of the plants thoroughly. Depending on how your planter is designed, you may need to water each individual pocket (I needed to do this on mine, as there is a quantity of soil in the little pockets that hang outside of the main basket). I completely drench the basket the first time I water it, until water runs out the bottom.
Then I hung it up and let it grow! Be sure to monitor it carefully and water it thoroughly every time it starts to dry out (see this post for tips on watering hanging baskets).
I learned that once the plants get established, this type of multi-pocket planter needs to be watered more frequently than a planter of a similar size that only has plants growing from the top–there are more thirsty root systems in a multi-pocket planter!
Do not be dismayed if your planter looks a little sparse when you first plant it up, mine sure did! Because you need to use small plants to fit in the holes, it is completely normal for it to look like this until they grow. In a very short period of time, with proper care, the plants will fill out and cover the planter.
As with all plants grown in containers, you can’t forget to fertilize them. These plants are depending on you to feed them as they will not thrive on water alone if there is no nutrition in the potting soil. Mixing some slow release fertilizer granules into the potting soil when you’re planting it is an easy way to take care of this.
Plant Choices Depicted in This Post
I love the creative possibilities this type of planter provides. However, I have to be clear that I do not think I used the most attractive plant combinations in mine the last two years. Year one had some winners but it was definitely a year of learning (note to self: ivy geraniums don’t always fill out as much as one might hope). For year two, I had high hopes, but it was 2020 and we were locked down so I was only able to make one trip to the nursery for the entire season; I purchased whatever plants I could get. The result was colourful but kinda lopsided. I am optimistic for 2021, mostly because I have been overwintering a combination of plants that I think will work well. We will see.
But that’s what gardening is about–you try some things and learn some things and try again!
*Disclosure: some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.