The main problem, which is somewhat of a paradox here in our wet coastal climate, is that they dry out so quickly. Depending on the number and size of the plants, most hanging baskets will need a minimum of watering once a day. Later in the growing season, when plants grow larger and temperatures warmer, they may need watering twice or even three times a day.
Hanging baskets purchased from garden centers are usually planted in soilless planting mixes. These provide excellent drainage, aeration, and water holding capacity that ordinary garden soil can’t supply. These mixes are also weed, disease, and insect free. In these mixes, the organic portion consists of a combination of peat moss, fir, pine or hardwood bark and or redwood. The mineral portion consists of vermiculite, perlite, sand or various combinations of these. Soilless mixes are lightweight, which makes moving the basket easier.
Whatever you do, don’t allow your plants to wilt. Although some plants can come back from severe water stress with no problem, the majority will not. When watering, water thoroughly so that water drains from the bottom of the basket. If the plant has been allowed to dry excessively, place the basket in a bucket of water for an hour or so to return the moisture supply to the potting mix.
Fertilization is also very important since frequent watering flushes nutrients from the soil quickly. In addition, the root systems of container grown plants cannot go out in search of food so it must be provided on a regular basis. Liquid fertilizers or timed-release fertilizers are the easiest methods of application. The soil in the container should be moist when fertilizer is applied, even liquid fertilizer. In general, baskets should be fed every two weeks from spring through summer with a complete liquid fertilizer, diluted to half strength.
Deadheading is necessary to help keep flowering baskets blooming well. Remove spent flowers as soon as they begin to decline. Once an annual flower blossoms and sets seed, it has completed its lifecycle. By deadheading, the plant is unable to set seed and will continue to flower. Removal of spent flowers also improves the appearance of the plant. Periodic pruning or pinching back may also be necessary for some flowers to encourage branching and keep them full.
Site selection is as important for baskets as it is for any other plant. Remember that most of the time the hanging basket will be viewed from below. Hang the basket so that it will be close to eye level. This allows the plants to be observed closer and, therefore, leaf form, texture and color are noticed more. Baskets with Impatiens, Begonias (both tuberous and wax), Sweet Alyssum, Lobelia, New Guinea Impatiens, Pansy, Swan River Daisy, and Nierembergia, should be placed in shade to part shade locations. Black-eyed-Susan, Geranium, Petunia, Nasturtium, Portulaca, Verbena, Dahlberg Daisy and Annual Vinca do well in bright sunny locations.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on www.hometowndebate.com 5/2/13. If you would like to respond to this story go to hometowndebate.com