While garden centers have many pre-planted baskets to offer, ready to take home and hang up, planting your own hanging basket is a less expensive option. And using your own hanging plastic pot or sphagnum moss basket allows you to reuse the container each year. The best choices for hanging baskets are long-blooming plants tolerant of heat and wind. Plants with a bushy, trailing shape are ideal for hanging at eye level for can’t-miss attention on a front porch or back deck.

All hanging-basket plants do best when kept consistently damp (that usually means daily watering) and when fertilized regularly – either by half-strength, liquid flower fertilizer each week or a granular fertilizer rich in natural and organic nutrients.

Some popular plants for DIY hanging baskets - do you have a favorite?

Black and chartreuse leaved sweet potato vines
Black and chartreuse leaved sweet potato vines give color to this fence.
George Weigel

Sweet Potato Vine: This plant is a version of the tuberous root that we eat and features colorful leaves of gold, chartreuse, copper and nearly black. In a basket, these showy leaves make a dense ball that trails down several feet. (Full sun or part shade)

Spiderwort: Traditionally a houseplant, this trailing vine has gorgeously variegated leaves of green, cream and metallic purple. It grows lushly outside in summer, then can double as a hanging houseplant inside in winter. (Shade only outside)

Verbena: Another trailing annual that can act like a perennial in frost-free zones, verbena has clusters of small flowers on trailing stems. The fine leaves of some varieties are gray to silvery-green, giving added interest to the bloom shades of red, pink, purple, white or lavender. These often look best as the weather cools in late summer. (Full sun to part shade)

Red ivy geraniums
Red ivy geraniums trail down hanging baskets.

Ivy Geraniums: Cousin to the better known geraniums grown in pots and the ground, ivy geraniums have glossy leaves, a trailing habit, and a heavy bloom (mostly pink or red). These are good choices in cooler, shadier spots. For hotter, sunnier spots, try the newer “interspecific” crosses of zonal and ivy geraniums, such as the Calliope® and Caliente® series.