Hanging out with your Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets of colorful flowering plants are a gardener's delight in May. After all, what a great Mother's Day gift to give or to get! With our crazy weather patterns, however, they can get leggy and sparse by vacation time in July and August. Read on for our tips on how to keep your hanging Petunia, Lobelia, etc. looking terrific through Labor Day and right up until frost nips them and us!



Watering might seem the easiest plant care task, but it requires just the right balance. Keep the plant too wet, and root rot will happen. Keep it too dry, and the plant will wilt and die. Follow these rules to be sure you are doing it right:

1. Use only planters with drainage holes.
2. Water only when the top one inch of the soil is dry to the touch - get those fingers dirty up to the first knuckle!
3. Water until water pours out of the drainage holes
4. Don’t ever let your pot to sit in standing water - they can't swim, get it?

When the basket is new, it only holds 3-4 small plants, and you may only have to water every 3 or 4 days. As the plants get larger and the roots fill the pot, you may need to water daily. If the pot is particularly small (less than 10"), or if it is windy, your plant may need a bit more water during the hot afternoon. During the hottest summer days, you may want to move your plants to a less sunny area.


Your container plants are only getting food from you!  Besides water, fertilizer is the most important thing to keep your plants healthy.  The easiest method is to add a slow or controlled-release fertilizer (like Osmocote or Jobe's stakes) right away.  This will give your plants a constant feeding.  Be sure to follow the directions on the package to make sure you don't hurt your plants by overfertilizing. 


By the end of June, start using a water-soluble fertilizer (like Schultz or Miracle-Gro BloomBuster) once every one to two weeks. Be sure to follow the directions on the package.  At this time the plants are very large and hungry, and some of the controlled-release fertilizer has been used up.  

A heavy rain can wash out fertilizer, so add an extra dose after one.

Haircuts and Deadheads

Nope, its not a 60's thing! Some plants do better if they have their spent flowers "pinched" or "dead-headed". Cut off the dead flower right under the base of the flower. To keep it neat, trim the stem back to right above the next leaf. See this list of plants that don't need this work.

By mid-July, your basket can bet a bit stretched out and scraggly. That means it's time for a trim. Get those scissors out and cut off a few inches, all around, flowers and all.  Better yet, cut a few of the longest pieces right to the top edge of the pot, cutting right above a leaf. This stem will now branch out and help to fill out that "bald" center. It's like Rogaine for your hanging basket!  Your flowers will back with in a few days to a week or so after trimming, and your plant will grow more strongly. 


Report Card

At the end of the season, make notes on what did (and didn't do) well in you hanging baskets. Did one type overtake another? Did one stay more yellow (needed more food) than the others? With these notes, come on in next spring and we'll show you what is new and exciting (here are some new ones), and which will look terrific on your front porch.



Photo Credits:
Hanging Baskets: ProvenWinners.com
Pinching Plant: Vanmeuwen.com

Originally published 6/2016; updated 6/2017