I’m an incredibly lucky daughter! I’ve worked sunup to sunset every Mother’s Day weekend for as long as I can remember. Not a single one of these special weekends has passed without my Mom bringing me in my favorite snacks and coffee – and on more than one occasion she has been conscripted into working with me restocking hanging baskets! I love you Mom!
Moms are special and that’s why we put so much time and care into growing them the perfect gifts! Alec, Angela and I spend a lot of time thinking about hanging baskets. We grow over two thousand of them and beyond just the care they need from planting to sale, we are very picky about the varieties and combinations that we grow. Our hanging baskets are a Mother’s Day gift staple and for good reason. They’re beautiful!
With all that work in picking varieties and then growing them, you’d think we’d be done thinking about hanging baskets, but no! The challenge is that hanging baskets are one of the hardest things to keep looking good all summer. The reason is simple, there’s a whole lot of plant material to a relatively small amount of soil. This is true of almost any hanging basket, but is especially true of the huge baskets we grow here. The small soil volume means the basket will dry out quickly and keeping up with watering can become challenging. It is easy to keep a hanging basket looking good all summer, and by easy, I mean it really isn’t! Beauty comes with a price and in this case it’s going to be lots of water and fertilizer!
Your first decision will be to decide if you are going to buy an already planted hanging basket or if you are going to plant it yourself. The next step is to consider the size of the hanging basket. I am a big believer that the bigger the planter, the better off you are. Small pots will dry-out faster than larger pots because they have less soil. Watering will be your biggest challenge in maintaining your hanging baskets. Choosing a larger pot now, can make maintaining your basket much easier.
Once you decide on pot size, pay attention to the material from which your pot is made. Most hanging baskets are either plastic or coco-fiber/moss. There are a few wood, ceramic, and terra cotta hanging baskets, but they are few and far between. The pros of plastic are they retain moisture well, are inexpensive and are easy to find. The con is they are plastic and you may or may not like the way plastic looks. The pro of coco-fiber/moss baskets is they are decorative. The negatives are they dry-out faster.
You can make life a lot easier if you choose plants for your baskets that suit your environment. This is true, whether you are buying a pre-planted basket or planting your own. First, decide if your basket will be hanging in sun or shade conditions. Choosing plants that are adapted to the amount of sun your area will get is key to having happy plants. Once you know sun/shade conditions, it is time to start choosing plants for your basket. What traits are most important will vary for each gardener. Some questions to consider are does a plant needs deadheading, is it drought tolerant, does it wilt quickly, is it heat tolerant, does it need a lot of fertilizer, and what color do I want (that’s the fun part!)?
If you are buying a pre-planted basket, skip ahead to the maintenance section because we’ve already done this work for you. If you are planting your own basket you are going to need a good, light potting soil and you MUST fully replace the soil in your baskets every year. We use and sell Fafard potting mixes and they are perfect for this job.
Maintaining Your Hanging Basket
The keys to maintaining your hanging basket really fall into three categories: water, fertilizer, and other maintenance.
Watering is the hardest part of maintaining a hanging basket, or any container plant. You can’t keep the soil too wet because it will result in root rot problems, you can’t keep it too dry or the plant wilts and dies. You want to hit the happy medium. Here are the rules of thumb for watering hanging baskets:
1. Be sure your pot has drainage holes
2. Water in the morning
3. Water until water comes out of the drainage holes
Here are a few more tips on watering hanging baskets. Early in spring when your plants are smaller and the temperatures are lower, you may only have to water every other day. As the plants get larger and the mercury creeps higher be prepared to water every day and sometimes twice a day.
Your container plants are only getting nutrition if you provide it to them. After watering, fertilizer is the most important thing to keep your plants thriving. We recommend adding a slow or controlled-release fertilizer like Osmocote to your hanging basket right after plant them. We always add a scoop when you buy one too. This
If you are using a water-soluble fertilizer like Miracle-Gro, you will need to do it once every week to keep fresh blooms on your petunias
Do a midsummer trim. Hanging baskets can become a long and stretchy looking over time, even when you are doing everything right. If this happens, I give my baskets a “haircut” in mid to late summer. This simply means I take a sharp pair of scissors or shears and trim a few inches off the entire basket, like when you get your hair trimmed. How much you cut off is up to you, a light trim of an inch or two is usually plenty, but there are times when a bigger trim might be good. If you have long trailing pieces that you don’t like, feel free to cut them off.
Giving the basket a haircut will rob you of some flowers, but it will increase branching, tighten the habit, and help keep the basket looking good long-term. Your flowers should come back with in a few days to a week or so and your plant, given enough fertilizer, is likely to start growing more strongly again.
As always we are here to help! We love helping you design your hanging baskets, windowboxes and containers, so come on in and see us soon!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!
Michelle and Team Lakeview