Keep those baskets blooming and beautiful
Most any patio or porch can do with a hanging basket or two, a cheerful cascade of greenery and color. Less desirable is the suspended pot of brown sticks. With the goal of successful growing in mind, here’s a healthy basket checklist.
The right basket
There are lots of containers out there — plastic, wire, ceramic. At big home-improvement stores, hanging plants most often are sold in basic plastic. As a pot material, plastic has a couple of advantages. Unlike ceramic pots, it won’t shatter if dropped or knocked. Plastic also holds water better than another classic hanging basket style, the open wire container lined with moss, burlap or pre-formed coir, which is coconut fiber. Lined wire baskets make for a pretty, natural look, however, and moisture loss from their sides and bottoms can be slowed by lining the liner with a layer of plastic.
Stay out of the dirt
Seek out soil that is actually a soil-less potting mix made of peat moss and coir, vermiculite or perlite, and other materials. Standard garden dirt is too heavy for container growing.
Hang with care
Hanging containers can be very heavy — especially after they’re watered — so it’s imperative to find the right place for them. When hanging baskets from the wall or ceiling, make sure the area is sufficiently sturdy and that your hooks are rated for the weight they’ll need to hold. Hooks should be secured into wall studs or ceiling joists.
Improper watering, either too little or too much, has been the end of many a hanging plant. The soil should feel moist but not soaking wet, and certainly not dry and dusty. Check daily, or even more often in blistering heat.
Water running through a pot leaches nutrients from the soil. Plant experts recommend using a slow-release dry fertilizer in the hanging container and supplementing with scheduled applications of a water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks.
Plants and placement
Where a basket goes makes all the difference to what should go in in. Containers hanging above eye level look better with rounded or trailing plants that will fall over the container’s sides.
Baskets hung at or below eye level can be planted with taller plants. When mixing plants for a container at eye-level or lower, place tall specimens toward the center and small or trailing plants toward the basket’s perimeter.
There’s more than one way to water
Hanging baskets tend to require a lot of water, and in hot weather some plants may need watering twice a day. Several products on the market can help keep baskets from drying out, including:
- The Rain Gel-Jector, which contains the nutrient potassium, promises to hold moisture in baskets and reduce watering frequency. It’s injected into pots with a caulk gun. Rain Gel is also available in granule form, as is competitor SwellGel.
- Moss marbles, made from New Zealand sphagnum moss, swell when soaked in water and can then be added to pots or baskets.
- Rain Mats, which are placed in the bottom of hanging containers, can absorb up to two pints of water. A mat-equipped basket may need water only once every seven to 10 days.
Hung up on the classics
By Kenya McCullum
There are hundreds of plants that can take to the air. Here’s a look at some reliable favorites.
Impatiens. Impatiens is popular for baskets because it blooms continuously from spring until first frost. The flower is also famous for being a shade lover, making it perfect for a porch or patio.
Begonias. Although they need to be watered regularly, showy begonias are fairly low-maintenance. The most popular begonias used in hanging baskets include trailing begonias, wax begonias and tuberous varieties.
Ferns. Ferns are another very popular choice for hanging baskets and do particularly well in areas that do not have direct exposure to the sun, making them another natural for porch or patio. They should be well fed and need moist soil.
Verbena. Verbenas thrive in warm climates and can flower throughout the summer months. They do require a bit of maintenance. Give them plenty of sun and prune them regularly for the best results.
Geraniums. Geraniums come in trailing and upright varieties, and either type can provide beautiful, lasting color in a hanging basket. The plants are good for sunny spots and, in general, require at least partial sun. They also don’t like wet feet, so be careful not to overwater.