Hanging baskets lined with sphagnum moss create attractive, natural planters. Flowering, trailing and vining plants complemented by a layer of sphagnum moss create a textured, visually pleasing suspended garden. Sphagnum-lined baskets are a simple project for a gardener and are especially attractive because they can be designed and constructed with a minimum of bending and kneeling.
Creating a sphagnum lining
Hanging baskets are available in wood, plastic or wire. Over time, wood tends to rot when exposed to moisture. Plastic does not have the organic appeal preferred by many gardeners. A galvanised or plastic-coated galvanised wire hanging basket that is 35 to 40 cm (14 to 16 inches) in diameter is well suited to lining with sphagnum moss and filling with plants. Baskets that are less than 35 cm (14 inches) tend to dry too quickly, and baskets much larger than 40 cm (16 inches) become heavy for hanging. Baskets have a rounded bottom, which is attractive when hung, or flat, which is suited to using on a deck, stairs or pedestal. To create a hanging basket, soak one bag of sphagnum moss in water. While the moss is soaking, mix potting soil with a multipurpose fertiliser and water-soaked polymer crystals. Follow proportion instructions from the fertiliser manufacturer. Polymer crystals aid in the retention of moisture and are available from a floral or garden supply store. Place the empty basket on a post or high table that allows you to work from all sides. While you are planting, periodically check the "view" of the hanging basket from the underneath. Start with one handful of wet moss, wringing it to remove excess water. Start on the bottom, using both hands, and firmly press the moss on the inside of the basket. Use one hand on each side of the basket to pack the moss. Continue up the sides, inside the basket, compressing the moss to a thickness of no more than 5 cm (2 inches). Approximately 1/3 of the way up the sides of the basket, place ivy or other trailing plants from the outside of the basket, with the roots on the inside, anchored with moss. If the moss is applied too thinly, soil will leak out of the basket; too thickly and the plants won't have enough space. Continue to line the moss along the bottom and then up the sides of the basket to the rim. Intermittently add vines or trailing plants. Consider how the basket will look from underneath. Place a flower pot saucer on top of the moss in the bottom of the basket to keep water from draining out. A plastic sheet liner is not necessary if the moss is packed firmly and the basket includes plants that have roots to anchor the moss. Fill the basket approximately half full with soil mixture. The basket is ready for planting.
Planting the hanging basket
Select plants by considering your colour scheme, sunlight and wind. Flowering plants are well-suited for the centre of the basket, while vining, trailing or cascading plants work for the rim and outside edges. Plants that work well for hanging baskets include: variegated ivy, trailing lobelia, silver liquorice, sweet alyssum, verbena, petunias, begonias, bacopa, dwarf heliotrope and trailing fuchsias. Plan the arrangement of plants by setting them on the surface of the planter. While making the sphagnum lining, ivy and other trailing plants were already added to the basket. Now, plan for the large, upright plants in the centre of the planter. Low-growing and vining plants should be placed closer to the rim. Add soil to about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of the basket rim. Gently press the soil around the roots of the inserted trailing plants as you fill the basket. Then, press the soil around the base of the surface plants, adding soil as necessary. When you plant at the edges, poke leaves and stems through the sphagnum moss. Remove any blooms so flowering plants fill out, and water thoroughly. Hang the basket so that trailing plants can orient to the light.
Hanging baskets can also be planted with strawberries. Some of the plants can be pressed through the sphagnum moss on the sides and the others planted in the soil on the surface.
Packaged sphagnum moss is sometimes contaminated with Sporothrix schenckii, a microscopic organism. Sporothrix is also found in soil, on shrubs and flowers. It can cause a minor skin infection in humans. It is prudent to wear gardening gloves when handling sphagnum moss, and to wash with soap after creating a sphagnum moss hanging basket. Dry sphagnum moss might irritate the lungs and should be avoided. Sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat are different products. Sphagnum peat is an ingredient in potting soil, but is not suitable for lining hanging baskets.