Why Are Your Hanging Plants Growing Upwards?


When we think of hanging plants, we usually envision dreamy baskets holding a dense bundle of growth with long vines trailing out the side of the planter. However, what happens if your plant doesn’t grow in the direction you hoped it to?

Hanging plants grow upwards due to three factors: light, gravity, and plant type. It is natural for plants to grow toward the nearest light source. Gravity is also a factor depending on the plant’s capacity to carry the weight of its vines. Finally, some plant types simply don’t trail downwards.

This article will discuss the aforementioned factors in more detail and share tips on controlling the growth direction of your hanging plant. 

Why Isn’t Your Hanging Plant Hanging?

Before anything else, let me say that there is nothing wrong with a hanging plant not tumbling down its planter. A plant’s growth direction is primarily dictated by natural forces. 

Light and gravity are major factors since they can encourage a plant (hanging or not) to grow in a certain direction. Let’s discuss these factors in more detail below:

Light Impacts the Direction of a Plant’s Growth

Let’s take a trip back to science class and talk about phototropism. It is a natural phenomenon that happens when living things respond to light. 

Some organisms choose to move toward the nearest light source. This is called positive phototropism. Meanwhile, others move away from the light in a behavior called negative phototropism.

What you need to remember, though, is that your hanging plants, like most plants, experience positive phototropism to perform photosynthesis and, thus, to survive. This means that depending on where your light source is, it is only natural for your hanging plant to follow that direction. 

If the light source is above the plants, then even your hanging plant will grow upward. This usually happens when there isn’t enough natural light in the room and the only source of light is a dim lamp fixture directly above the plant.

Knowing and addressing your hanging plant’s light requirements will help prevent it from growing upwards.

The Vines’ Weight Tell Which Direction to Grow

Aside from light, plants are also influenced by the forces of gravity. This is called gravitropism. Also referred to as geotropism, it is the natural phenomenon that dictates how the plant will grow depending on its gravitational position. It is the reason why roots typically grow downwards and stems shoot upwards. 

However, gravitropism may be influenced by the plant’s weight. This means that while it’s natural for most plants to grow upward, vines can trail downward if the stems and foliage get heavy enough. 

So if your hanging plant is growing upwards, it might be because it’s still too young and hasn’t grown enough foliage yet. Depending on how quickly your plant grows, it can take some time before its shoots start trailing down.

The Growth Direction of Your Plant Varies Based on its Type

Finally, don’t forget the type of plant you’ve chosen for your hanging planter. If you want to achieve hanging planters with thick vines sprawling downwards, like a waterfall of greenery, you should opt for trailing and vining plants from the get-go. Otherwise, your plant will grow the same way it will if you’ve planted it in a regular pot.

Even if you’re sure you got a trailing variety, remember that the weight of your plant’s vines can also impact whether your hanging plant will trail downwards or not. The heavier your vines are, the more likely you’ll be able to achieve the stunning dangling effect.

My article, “Can You Make Any Plant into a Hanging Plant?” can provide more insight when deciding which plant to put into a hanging planter. 

How To Control the Growth Direction of Your Hanging Plant

That said, there are steps that you can take to control the growth direction of your hanging plant. I will explain this in more detail below. The following are my tried and tested tips to influence how your hanging plant grows:

Ensure Proper Care

The most important step is ensuring that your plant is getting the right care to live happily and healthily. This way, it will have enough strength to grow long, luscious vines that will trail down its container. 

Just think about it this way. It wouldn’t matter whether your hanging plant is trailing out of the planter or not if it doesn’t look healthy in the first place. 

It’s worth remembering that you can achieve a lot with plants if you start by providing their basic needs. Doing so can even ensure the efficiency and success of the other techniques that I’ll be sharing below.

Prune Strategically

Another step that can help you achieve those long vines is to prune your plant. I know what many beginner gardeners might be thinking: “Wouldn’t it be counter-productive to cut your vines short if you want to grow them longer?”. 

No, not at all. In fact, according to an article published by The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, pruning can accomplish the following:

  • It promotes plant health and aesthetics.
  • It stimulates and encourages growth.
  • It can help you control the growth direction of your plant.

Just like any living organism, plants experience injury, disease, and even death. Pruning will help you relieve the plant of its weakest parts. 

This way, you’ll be able to prevent further contamination that can then significantly slow down the growth of your plant. 

As an added bonus, removing these parts from your plant will also make it look healthier and, thus, more beautiful.

Another benefit is that it allows your plant to focus more on sprouting new growth instead of recuperation. When done correctly, pruning can stimulate plant development at a faster and more efficient rate.

More importantly, pruning can also help you control the growth of your plant. It is possible to cut off certain parts of your plant to encourage more growth in that area. This is especially helpful if your plant has a certain side that needs more density and length. 

Here’s a quick tip: The parts you’ve pruned off don’t need to go to waste. You can use them for propagation. Alternatively, you can add them to your compost pile. Just ensure they are not diseased, as some microbes might survive the composting process.

Rotate the Plant

As discussed, a plant’s growth can be influenced by the direction of its nearest light source. If that’s the case, then rotating your plant regularly can help. This way, every part of your plant has its own fair share of sunlight. You may also choose to transfer your hanging plant to a sunnier location. 

This will depend on the lighting requirements of your chosen plant, of course. Remember that there are plants out there that do better with bright yet indirect lighting.

If you can’t seem to find the perfect place, then installing grow lights is also an option.

Use Wire

Finally, some gardeners use wire to manipulate plant growth. This practice isn’t new. While the use of actual wires only dates back to the 20th century, bonsai artists have long used other materials, such as string and rope, to control a plant’s growth direction.

An article published by Apartment Therapy featured a social media influencer who installed wires into her vining plant to make her plants look likes works of art. Interestingly, she used wiring to make her vining plant grow upwards. 

The good news is, you can also use this to manipulate plant growth in any direction you want 一 downward, sideways, or even in multiple paths to create a living sculpture!

Just be careful with how you handle the plant. You don’t want to injure it, after all.

Conclusion

There are three factors that can impact a plant’s growth direction: light, gravity, and plant type. 

Due to phototropism, it is only natural for a plant to grow toward the nearest light source. Meanwhile, your plant’s weight and gravity can cause its long vines to dangle from the hanging planter. Finally, there are plants that simply grow upward. 

Fortunately, there are different methods that you can do to influence your plant’s growth direction, especially if you want it to trail downwards.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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