Hanging baskets are the perfect way to add colour to any outdoor setting – and some indoor ones too. We don’t all have large gardens and hanging baskets allow you to bring the beauty of floral arrangements into any setting. And, even if you have a garden to die for, hanging baskets add another dimension.
Both in the home and for commercial enterprises, hanging baskets provide eye-catching colour and vibrancy where everyone can see it. Pubs, bars, and offices with outdoor space can all benefit from hanging baskets.
Not so long ago any discussion about hanging baskets would have assumed live, growing plants rooted in compost but not anymore. Artificial flowers have come a long way in the last decade and the best today are almost indistinguishable from the real thing, even when examined closely!
But which is right for you, real or artificial? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each so that you can make the right choice.
Pros of Real Hanging Baskets
- They are real, so have the benefit of a natural fragrance and the buzz of bees and other flies, which can be pleasant in the summer months.
- They change and mature. Unlike an artificial display, growing plants alter over time and a basket will develop and morph as the different plants come into flower, blossom and die back. Every week will be different keeping the displays fresh and exciting.
- You can keep them disease-free. Because they are separate from other plants they are likely to be disease free and if you do experience pests and problems remedial treatment is usually effective.
Cons of Real Hanging Baskets
- They need constant care and attention. Looking after a real hanging basket might be straightforward but it is also extremely time consuming. They have to be watered every day, often twice or even three times a day in hot weather. The amount of moisture that can be stored in the compost is severely limited so if you forget to water the plants will shrivel and die in no time – miss a day in the heat of summer, and the entire basket may die. The plants need other forms of care too if the basket is always to look good. Deadheading, cutting back and replanting with different flowering plants is an ongoing task that can’t be ignored if you want your baskets to remain attractive. Regular feeding should also be a part of your support strategy. All those nutrient-hungry plants in a small area soon use up the food in the compost so an application of liquid feed is vital. It is so easy for that splash of joyous colour to turn into a drab tangle of dull green and brown.
- You will need to get help if you go away on holiday. A week’s neglect, let alone a fortnight, will see your hanging baskets in a sorry state. So if you go away you will have to pay or cajole someone to give your baskets the same love and attention you do when you are at home. Neglect isn’t really an option unless you plan on starting again when you return.
- Watering them can be difficult or unpleasant. You need a hose to properly water hanging baskets, because so much of the water drains through. You can use a watering can, but you’ll need a step ladder unless they’re fixed unusually low to the ground and will need to do multiple trips. It’s also difficult to water them and not get splashed! Getting wet isn’t the end of the world, but it’s not always pleasant, either.
- All that watering can be bad news for what’s underneath. Watering means wetness, and possible rot for wooden surfaces and staining for anything below the baskets. Like knocking over a glass, a little water goes a long way and when you are watering once or twice every day the damage caused can be quite severe.
- One plant can take over. If the weather is too harsh for your delicate flowers, you may end up with a basket overflowing with ivy before the summer is over. Not exactly what you planned!
- They only last well in warm weather. You can do hanging baskets in winter, but freezing temperatures can kill everything in the basket.
- Real hanging baskets are not impervious to weather. Strong winds and heavy rain play havoc with real hanging baskets. We seem to be experiencing more extreme weather episodes now than once was the case, possibly as a result of climate change, and you may find you need to protect your hanging baskets if they are not to be ruined by a sudden rainstorm or freakish high winds.
You may even need to take your hanging baskets down to protect them. A large hanging basket full of plants and compost is surprisingly heavy and you will need to be careful you don’t injure yourself if you do decide to take them down and keep them safe.
Pros of Artificial Hanging Baskets
- No maintenance. Probably the greatest pro of all is that none of that no watering, feeding, or tidying is required for an artificial hanging basket. You buy it, put it up and that’s pretty much it! Instant, lasting beauty that won’t mind if you forget to water or feed it if you stay at home or go away.
- You get instant beauty. Do you want or need a floral display to brighten up a dull corner or make your shop stand out? You've got it. Of course, garden centres do sell ready to go, fully flowering real hanging baskets, but if they are at the peak there is a danger they will be sliding down the other side pretty quickly. They’re also pretty expensive!
- They look good all year long. Although some flowering plants have long seasons, most are at their best for just a very few short weeks. That’s not a problem with artificial flowers. You can have what you want, when you want it, in the colour you choose, all year round. In nature, some plants flower when it’s cooler and the days are shorter while others need the heat and long day-length of high summer. They won’t mix. That’s not a problem if you have artificial flowers in your baskets. You can have whatever flowers please the eye without worrying about the season.
- You aren’t confined by what “works” in a hanging basket. You have a completely free choice of what goes in an artificial hanging basket. Not only do you not have to worry about what flowers when, but you can also have flowers that it may not even be possible to grow in the restricted environment of a hanging basket.
- No diseases or pests. Real plants get pests, and real plants get diseases. Pests and diseases can be difficult to deal with and are sure to make your real hanging baskets look less than ideal. Artificial flowers don’t get green fly, black fly, botrytis and all the other nasties that infest hanging baskets, they remain looking at their best forever.
- Artificial hanging baskets don’t need sunlight and moisture to thrive so you can use them anywhere. You never have to worry whether they have enough light, whether the temperature is too hot or too cold and with no watering required. You can even put them in the cupboard over the winter, and they’ll come back out in spring in full bloom and ready to impress!
- No dominating plants. Real plants compete with each other for light and nutrients which often leads to one plant overrunning a hanging basket, dominating the display and creating an unbalanced look. That can’t happen in an artificial hanging basket. What is there stays there in harmony with all the others just as the designer intended.
Cons of Artificial Hanging Baskets
- They never change. The fact that an artificial hanging basket doesn’t change is a pro, but it can be seen as a con too. No change means no variety, none of the seasonal variation that some people find so attractive in the real thing. But that diversity comes at a cost: time and effort. New plants have to be sourced, baskets need to be taken down and replanted, compost has to be rejuvenated. While the avid gardener might enjoy this, most will find it a chore and one they may not have the time for.
- Can be more expensive. Artificial plants nowadays can fool almost anyone, but only if you buy quality. But the old adage, ‘you get what you pay for’, is as true for artificial hanging baskets as for everything else, and it will look as good as it did when you bought it years or even decades later!
- You won’t get bees sticking around. A faux hanging basket doesn’t please the local bee population, at least, not for more than a few seconds. That’s a good thing if you don’t want bees sticking around, but not if you do.
Is a real or artificial hanging basket right for me?
We all love hanging baskets, whether they are the traditional sort with real plants or whether they are artificial, and they look so similar that what you choose will really come down to logistics and the result you want.
If you want to hang a basket in artificial light or in a position where regular watering is difficult or even impossible, then an artificial hanging basket is the only practical choice. If you want your hanging baskets to be uniform, if you don’t want to spend your summer mornings and evenings watering, then you’ll need to choose artificial.
Of course, the choice is yours. If you have the time, energy and skills to make and look after real hanging baskets then go right ahead. The very best real hanging basket will equal the artificial alternative. But if you cannot commit enough time and work to keep real hanging baskets looking at their best you are far better off choosing the artificial version.
To see our entire range of artificial plants for your home and garden and to shop our artificial hanging baskets, click here.