How to Fertilize a Hanging Basket

Every plant can use a little help, especially if it lives in a basket, pot, or bag.

Containers of any kind need some occasional maintenance, which includes adding nutrients into the soil to keep it hospitable for whatever you’re growing.

Fertilizing a hanging basket can provide the nutrients your plants need to keep growing, flowering, and fruiting as they should.

When to Fertilize a Hanging Basket

When you fertilize will depend on what type of fertilizer you’re using.

Fertilizers all provide a different mix of nutrients at varying concentrations. The higher the concentration, the less your plants need.

Most hanging plants do well being fertilized only once or twice during their growth and blooming stages, or when you’re prepping the soil for a new plant. For example, if you’re growing lettuce, you need to fertilize it every 2-4 weeks to keep it producing healthy leaves.

If you’re fertilizing a flowering basket, you can add a low concentration fertilizer every 2 weeks to keep it blooming as long as possible.

Choosing the Right Fertilizer

Some fertilizers are good for general use, but it’s better to choose a specific fertilizer based on what you’re growing and what you want it to do.

Organic Fertilizers

These are fertilizers made entirely from natural and organic materials. Organic fertilizers usually have a balanced mix of nutrients, but it’s impossible to measure the exact levels of any type of nutrient.

The most commonly used organic fertilizers are compost, manure, and bonemeal, but there are many other variants.


Compost is made from decomposed organic materials, such as vegetable and fruit scraps, grasses, and leaves.

When it’s mixed into soil, it makes the soil healthier for whatever is planted there.

Compost tea

Compost tea is a variant of compost that involves soaking it in water and filtering out the solid materials.

The result is a diluted nutrient mixture that you can use to water your plants more regularly.


Different types of animal manure from herbivores can be used to add nutrients back to the soil, with the most common being cow and chicken manure.

Fresh manure should be composted or diluted before being used.


Bonemeal is made from finely ground bones. It adds a lot of calcium to the soil.

Plants only need one application of bonemeal fertilizer per growing season.

Inorganic Fertilizers

Inorganic fertilizers are balanced mixtures of specific nutrients. When you buy them, you can select the balance you want to add to your soil, depending on what your garden needs at a specific time.

Inorganic fertilizers can come in liquid, powder, or granule forms.

Nitrogen Fertilizers

Nitrogen is used by plants to build healthy roots and stems and to add nutritional value to fruits and vegetables grown on the plant.

Higher nitrogen concentrations are usually needed during plant growth stages.

Phosphate Fertilizers

Phosphate (also referred to as phosphorous) is a nutrient that helps plants develop normally and photosynthesize effectively. This nutrient is essential for plants to mature in a healthy way.

Potassium Fertilizers

Potassium helps plants resist diseases and wilt. It’s good for a plant’s overall wellbeing, helping it to grow stronger and produce more flowers and fruits.

Accessing the Basket

If the hanging basket you want to fertilize is already at waist height and securely hung, you can probably work on it without removing it first.

Otherwise, you should remove the basket and set it on a table or the ground. This will allow you to work on the soil without the basket swinging around over your head.

If you’re applying liquid fertilizer, you don’t need to remove the basket.

Applying Fertilizer

Each type of fertilizer is applied differently. Here’s how you do it.


Granule fertilizer should be applied once per year. Over time, the granules break down and gradually nourish the plant. Since they take time to break down completely, they last for months.

You apply granule fertilizer directly into the soil as you’re planting. If you’re not repotting the plant, you want the granules to be placed just under the surface of the soil.

Use your hands or a three-pronged trowel to gently scrape away a small layer of the topsoil. Sprinkle the granules around and cover them with the excess soil.

Another option is to apply the granules on top of the soil, then add extra soil or compost on top.

Water the fertilizer to begin breaking it down for your plants.

Liquid Fertilizer

Compost teas, liquid fertilizers, and diluted powder formulas can all be applied as you’re watering the plant. As long as they’re diluted or in low concentrations, you can apply liquid fertilizers a maximum of once every 2 weeks.

Compost tea can be applied a few times per week because it’s more heavily diluted.

Powder/solid Fertilizers

If you’re freshly planting in a hanging basket, you can mix the fertilizer into the soil directly. Make sure to get fertilizer throughout the basket, not just on the topsoil.

When you’re applying compost to an existing plant basket, you can sprinkle it around the topsoil like mulch.

Water the compost immediately to start spreading the nutrients for your plants.

Final Thoughts

Make sure you’re setting your garden up for success!

Fertilize your hanging baskets throughout the year to keep them healthy, productive, and beautiful.

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