Inula Royleana
Midwest Gardening
Hanging Baskets

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Most of us love hanging flower baskets, but most of us do not love caring for them

Hanging Basket of Calibrachoa by Mike Salsbury

Caring for hanging baskets of flowers is not difficult, but it is not particularly convenient.  After all, they are usually hanging way over your head, so it’s not at all convenient to water, fertilize, pinch and deadhead the plants.  If it is not convenient, it doesn’t get done often or complete enough.  So unless you are able to hang your baskets in a fairly low position, I think the first suggestion for the care of hanging baskets is just get a hook.  You know, the deep hook on a long handle like garden centers and even retail clothing stores use. You can find a long handled shepherds hook on amazon, a high reach garment hook at the container store or a retrieval hook at a few other places on line.  But do make sure you get a heavy duty pole that won’t bend under the weight of your basket.  Getting your basket down will only take seconds and caring for the plants much easier.  This will not change the care that is necessary for hanging baskets any different, just quicker and easier.

Most of the things you need to know and think about when caring for a hanging flower basket are simple and common sense.Ceramic hanging basket by malyousif

  • The bigger the basket the better.  A large basket will hold more soil so it will hold moisture longer.  But it must have drainage holes to prevent root rot.
  • Plastic pots will not allow the soil to dry out as quickly as wire baskets with coco fiber liners.  Most of the plastic pots that pre-filled at the garden center are not very pretty, but ideally the plants will overflow and cover the pot in time.  Containers made of plastic are getting much nicer looking than they used to be but it is difficult to find a nice plastic hanging basket to fill yourself.Wood hanging basket by Janet Crum
  • Ceramic pots have the water retention advantages of plastic, but they are very heavy.  Be sure a ceramic pot is attached securely with a heavy duty anchor.  They are also very heavy when you are taking them down and not as easy then to handle.
  • Wood or terra cotta baskets fall somewhere in between plastic or ceramic pots and coco fiber lined baskets as far as water retention and weight.
  • Soilless planting mix with lots of peat moss or a very light potting mix will keep the mix moist longer.
  • Be sure your selection of plants matches the intended location of your basket.  Consider how much sun, heat and wind the basket will be subjected to.  A basket exposed to lots of sun, heat and wind will require more supplemental watering.  And will the basket be open to rain or is it sheltered under an eave?  If your basket is sheltered under an eave or a deck you will need to be diligent about watering it.
  • Low maintenance plants will be easiest to care for in hanging baskets.  Plants that do not require much or any deadheading, that are tolerant of dry soil and that do not require frequent heavy fertilizing will make caring for your hanging basket easier.
  • Mulch the soil surface of the container to minimize evaporation.  Bark or pebble mulch is fine, I use sphagnum moss which forms a thick mat over the soil.  That also prevents soil from splashing or running out over the side when you water.
  • Water your basket slowly until water runs out the bottom to make sure you have saturated it well.
  • Water your basket on a regular basis every few days to a week.  How often you need to water will depend on the sun and heat exposure, how much rain has fallen, and how much water the plants demand.
  • Do not allow plants to wilt before watering, this only stresses the plant and damages its health.  If your basket becomes excessively dry set it into a basin of water for about an hour.  This will give the plants time to replenish their water stores not just the soil.
  • During periods of extended heat your baskets may need to watered as much as two or three times in a day.  When the heat is this extreme it is best to take your hanging basket down and place it in the shade.
  • During high winds your hanging baskets should be taken down and placed in a protected area.
  • Frequent watering runs soil nutrients right out with the water so fertilizing frequently is necessary.  Use a water soluble fertilizer and do not apply it if the soil is very dried out.  The plants will take up too much fertilizer too quickly. Generally every 2 weeks is enough, but as your plants get larger late in the season, they may need fertilizer every week.  Or you may want to use slow release fertilizer pellets that may last all season long.  DO NOT OVER FERTILIZE.  Follow fertilizer package instructions carefully as too much nitrogen will burn your plants.hanging basket by Crowcombe Al
  • If you have planted your basket yourself, pinching back plant stems every couple of weeks in the beginning will help your plant to become full and dense.  As your plants grow, an occasional trim or just deadheading spent blooms will encourage new branching and more flowering.  Some plants can become leggy and will benefit from removing up to a third of long branches.  It will promote better branching, a fuller healthier plant and more blooms.  Petunias and verbena are examples of flowers that will benefit from pinching and trimming.

A reputable garden center can advise you of plants that do well in hanging baskets.  Many on line and mail order growers also have such information available to customers.  So get yourself and hook and enjoy your hanging baskets.

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