If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Gardening is not without its challenges for sure, but overcoming obstacles makes it that much more rewarding. Among the stumbling blocks gardeners face is lack of space, crawling bugs that eat plants, and the inability to protect plants from harsh weather. Rather than traditional garden rows, suspending plants in hanging baskets alleviates all of these concerns. You can create a bountiful crop with hanging plants using your shed, pergola, porch, house eaves, or even posts anchored into the ground.
Between the trend towards minimalism, environmental changes, and the desire to grow our own food, there are many reasons that indoor gardening continues to increase in popularity too. From homey houseplants to grow stations with lights, one ultra-efficient way to incorporate plants into your home is by suspending them from the walls and even the ceiling. Suspended plants also add visual interest to an otherwise linear indoor landscape.
Whether you plan to suspend your plants indoors or out, there are some things you should know before you start putting holes in walls. Firstly, you’ll want to decide what to grow. Then you’ll need to evaluate the supplies they require. Finally, you’ll want to make sure your suspended plants are secure. Here’s your guide to preparing your space for suspended plants.
What to Grow
Most anything that will successfully grow inside can grow in a suspended space. After all, you’re really just growing them at a higher elevation, but soil, watering, humidity, and lighting needs are all the same. Outdoors, strawberries, annual flowers, and herbs will all thrive. For an indoor garden you could plant traditional veggies. Houseplants are just as happy dangling from the ceiling as potted on the ground. You can even get creative with hydroponic systems.
The specific supplies you’ll need depend on what you’re growing. However, all plants will need containers of some type. One difference between the containers you use on the ground and those you plan to elevate is that each container will need to have a way to hang. This can mean attaching hooks or using a container that already has them. Ropes, macrame, or other devices made for holding planters are an option too. You can even use old coffee cans or a kitchen strainer. The key is to make sure it will hold enough dirt when the plant reaches maximum size and that it allows for proper drainage.
Part of deciding which containers to use is figuring out how you are going to hang them. There are many varieties of hardware up to the task, which we’ll talk more about below. In a general sense, though, decide if you want to connect your plants together, such as in a hydroponic system, if you want to place hooks into the wall, or if you prefer to mount them on the ceiling. This decision affects the types of containers you choose.
Choosing the ideal location for your hanging plants means evaluating how much sunlight you need. You may want to place indoor plants near a window. Alternately, you could mount artificial lights to the ceiling and hang the plants below them. If you are hanging multiple plants in the same area of your ceiling or wall, consider the amount of total weight the structure will bear. For example, drywall with a multitude of heavy plants may separate from the studs in the wall or ceiling. This may be more of an issue in a shed or garage space than in the house, but it’s something to keep in mind during your planning. For outdoor plants, you may want to move them from one hook to another as the sun shifts or the requirements of your plant changes so install hooks in various locations.
The Proper Hardware for the Job
Once you’ve decided to suspend plants, it’s vital that you ensure they have the proper support. Without it, the weight of the plant will yank the hardware out of your wall or ceiling, ripping a hole and damaging the plant in the process. To avoid that fate, properly plan for each plant and source the right hardware for the job.
The securest way to suspend plants inside the home is to screw holding hooks and brackets directly into a stud. Locate a stud with a stud finder and subsequent studs should be located 16 inches apart. In between studs, you will need different hardware, discussed below. Outdoors, you can typically screw a hook or other hanger directly into a 4x4 post, eaves, and pergola beams. Just make sure the hook you select is large enough to hold the plant without being pulled out.
Countersinks are the hardware workhorses when it comes to any home decor, including plants. That’s because they are made specifically to handle the task. But, there are many types of countersinks and it is definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation. For this application, you can use countersinks to hold a plant hanger or wall hook in place. They work by creating a backing for the screw to connect into through the wall or ceiling materials. It’s likely that at some point you’ve driven a nail or screw into the wall, only to have it tear the wallboard once you hang something on it, or simply fall back out of the wall. Countersinks solve this problem, but you’ll need to understand the different mechanisms as well as the materials they are made out of.
The most basic countersink is a cone-shaped plastic. They come in a variety of sizes and colors. They are used when you need to hang something and you don’t have a stud behind the wall to screw or nail into. Install a plastic countersink by first drilling a hole in the wall slightly smaller than the countersink. The package will list the proper size drill bit to use. Then tap the countersink into the hole. Finally, drive the screw into the countersink. Be sure to only use the screw that comes with the countersink. Other screws often won’t work due to size or thread pattern. Plastic countersinks break under pressure and don’t hold a lot of weight so they won’t be an ideal choice for any larger hanging plants.
Metal countersinks are a better option as they hold more weight. Install metal countersinks in the same fashion as the plastic ones by first drilling and then tapping it into the hole. Metal countersinks typically have teeth that dig into the wall as you hammer it into place. Where plastic will crack and break, metal holds strong. However, metal countersinks have their limits too. Heavy plants can pull a basic metal countersink out of the wall, leaving a mess and a hole. You can also find metal self-drilling anchors with a spiral threading that are screwed directly into the wall that can bear more weight.
If you have brick walls, it’s critical that you use masonry countersinks. You will manage nothing but frustration if you try to use drywall countersinks on brick so check the packaging or ask a salesperson when you go to make your purchase. Also make sure you have a bit intended for masonry work to use when you drill the hole.
Concrete walls also require special hardware and tools, but thankfully they exist to make the job easier.
The countersinks we’ve discussed this far are meant for general applications with varying weight allowances. However the cone-shaped style offers less strength than those with a toggle back. Toggle-back anchors have a wing clip on the end. The entire anchor is inserted into the wall and once the screw is tightened, the wing clip spreads out across the back of the wall, offering superior support. This is a great choice for most suspended plant applications.
We’ve just hit upon a few types of anchors here, of which there are dozens. The takeaway is that you must understand the weight of the plant you’ll be hanging and the type of wall or ceiling materials you’re dealing with. Planters, plants, and soil can vary widely in weight, but expect a minimum of seven pounds and prepare for 20-25 for larger plants. If you know the weight of your plant, read the weight recommendations on the hardware packaging and move up one level of strength to account for growth and the added weight of water.
In general, a plastic anchor is a light-duty option and is not suitable for hanging plants. Instead, choose self-drilling, toggle, or molly-bolt anchors, which vary slightly but are all basically the same thing with different names.
Ropes and chains are other useful tools in your journey towards suspended plants. Again, make sure you’re using a durable rope or a mid-weight chain to handle the task.