Numerous tropical and annual bedding plants can be grown successfully in hanging baskets. Hanging basket production enables greenhouse growers to generate income by utilizing space above production benches or floor space and walkways. Hanging baskets can fetch a higher price (on a per plant basis) than small containers or flats and can, therefore, enhance the profitability of greenhouse bedding plant operations. In some instances, growers may devote whole or sections of greenhouses to hanging basket production.
Potential retail markets include farmers markets and direct sales from the greenhouse or farm. Wholesale markets include local garden centers, landscape contractors, discount, grocery, or farm supply stores, and roadside direct-to-consumer farm stands. Hanging baskets are also frequently available at Kentucky’s produce auctions. The value of hanging baskets sold by horticultural producers increased from $370 million in 2009 to nearly $430 million in 2014, according to USDA. Hanging baskets have grown in popularity with consumers, translating into an important category for plant retailers. Nationally, hanging basket sales have accounted for 10% to 15% of total retail garden center sales. Hanging baskets continue to be a discretionary consumer expense, with more potential likely for increasing category sales to consumers in upper income demographics. From 2013 forward, consumers showed some preference for larger hanging baskets incorporating diverse plants in unique containers.
The number of seedlings or rooted cuttings transplanted to a hanging basket depends on the container size, the plant species and cultivar selected, plant vigor, as well as plant quality (branching habit or trailing) and cost. The amount of production time available can also be a factor. Plant vigor and height need to be coordinated so that plants grow together well. Each container can be planted to one species (monoculture) or multiple species (mixed). It is important that all plant material in a single container have similar cultural requirements for light, temperature, nutritional, and watering needs. Flower colors in mixed baskets should complement not clash with each other. For growers beginning mixed species hanging basket production, there are many online resources available offering basket ‘recipes’ that have been tested and demonstrated to work well. An artfully arranged mixed hanging basket is highly marketable and can bring a premium price, especially at independent retailers.