Ferns, epiphytes in particular, are well suited for growing in hanging baskets. Find facts and information on types of hanging baskets, planting containers, and materials suitable for various types of ferns.
Epiphytes (plants which grow on another for support and are not a parasite) will do better in hanging baskets because the light airy conditions are close to those in their natural habitat.
Types of Hanging Baskets for Ferns
Galvanized wire baskets; Terracotta containers with holes near their rim through which chains or ropes may be passed; Pots made from the trunks of tree ferns and from redwood (both of which will not readily rot), which are screwed, not nailed, together and suspended by firmly attached galvanized chain or wire; Good quality plastic pots with a saucer attached- these are all suitable for ferns.
Well-designed and sturdy containers will not disappoint you by falling apart after only a few waterings, or hanging off center, or proving impossible to be able to replant.
Wire baskets made of heavy gauge galvanized wire that will not buckle, and that are supported adequately, are the most versatile containers, and also ideal for epiphytes. (Plastic pots are suitable to terrestrial ferns, those that grow on the ground.) They are simple and relatively inexpensive to prepare and hang, but their success does depend largely on the material used as lining material. It should be attractive as well as durable because, until plants are well established, a large portion of the container will be visible.
Materials to Line Hanging Baskets
Sphagnum moss, paperbark, and osmunda and coconut fiber, all of which are visually pleasing, natural and readily available from nurseries, make ideal linings. However, they should all be used in generous proportions because they break down with watering and weathering.
When using sphagnum moss, line the container to a depth of at least 3” (8 cm). If the moss is kept moist, it may continue to grow and add to the attractive appearance of the basket. Paperbark is easier to handle if it has been softened before use by soaking it in warm water. You can make holes in the sides of the basket where it is lined with any of the above materials.
Small ferns, such as species of Selaginella (club mosses) may be planted in the holes. The plants may have to be secured by some means, until roots have taken hold. The creeping rhizome of ferns, like the Nephrolepis genus (fishbone ferns), will quickly find any weak sections in a lining made of natural fibers, and push their way through adding to the attractive appearance of the hanging basket.
The previously mentioned materials may also be used in combinations; a basket lined with paperbark and edged with sphagum moss looks attractive, and one lined with paperbark on top and sphagnum moss on the base will drain easily. It is helpful if you have a place set aside to make your hanging baskets. A potting bench is an excellent piece of equipment to have on hand if you do a lot of potting or repotting.
Paperbark, moss, and fiber linings are expensive when used in large quantities. An alternative can be made by using a lining of opaque plastic, then covering it with a thin layer of one of the more attractive liners. Carpet underfelt, canvas and hessian are cheaper and effective alternatives. However, since these materials decay readily, it is necessary to provide a deep layer.
If the wire basket is a large one, and it does not matter if the lining takes up a large portion of the interior, pieces of bark shed by trees, or the fibrous sheaths that form on the trunks of palm trees may be used. They make excellent, long-term linings but may have to be lined themselves with a layer of fine plastic mesh to contain the soil.
Combating Hanging Baskets Drying Out
Hanging baskets dehydrate quickly. As a precaution against this, any of the listed materials may be lined with a layer of opaque plastic. (Clear plastic is not suitable as it will allow light to penetrate tothe roots.) plastic will also help insulate the container, but holes should be made in the base so that the soil will drain.
Best Hanging Baskets for Terrestrial Ferns
Hanging baskets made of terracotta or glazed ceramic material are ideal for terrestrial ferns, but large containers may prove too heavy to handle. These containers are often fitted with rope or twine supports which, if they are in contact with the soil, will rot through quickly.
Best Hanging Baskets for Epiphytes
The unglazed, shallow terracotta pots with holes moulded in the side, the type of pot used for orchid culture, are ideal for epiphytes. However, the holes are usually large and the material itself porous, so a mulch should be used. Pay careful attention to watering, as ferns require more water than do orchids.
Most small growing ferns are suitable for hanging baskets. Epiphyte are ideal as they will thrive in light, airy conditions. Terrestrial ferns may damage their fronds from a lack of humidity, especially if they are growing indoors. Ferns with pendulous fronds, and those that creep, are shown to great advantage in a hanging basket.
Adding Other Plants in with Ferns
Ferns may be planted in pleasing combinations with other plants to make a creative planter, but they will require extra care if planted with dominant species, such as ivy, members of the Asparagus genus and the variegated or ribbon plant. Flowering plants planted among ferns in hanging baskets look attractive, but few plants will continue to bloom in the shaded conditions required for ferns. On the other hand, orchids may grow well with epiphytes. Other types of shade loving plants, such as impatiens may also work well.