Let’s be honest, we are going to be spending a lot more time at home this summer. So this spring let’s start something to create a space that will bring us joy all summer. If you haven’t already tried a hanging basket now is the time. If you have tried one before, stick with me, there are lots of tips and tricks to doing a hanging basket the right way. And by the right way I mean with only a little bit of effort that is going to equal a lot of success.
#1 – Know your site
Plants are naturally adapted to grow in specific areas, some thrive in sun while others would get a sunburn and need a shady site. It’s very important to know where you are putting your basket before you do anything else.
Does your site have six hours of direct sunlight?
Or is there not much direct sunlight at all?
If you choose your plants right then they will grow happily for you all season long without you having to do much but sit back and admire your handiwork. So decide whether you have full sun, full shade or something in between.
#2– Know thyself
The other thing you need to get real about is how dedicated are you going to be to the care and maintenance of your basket. Be honest with yourself, if you often forget to take the garbage out or pick up your mail (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything), you might want to look at something with drought tolerance and low maintenance (ie. No deadheading, more information on that below).
#3– Choices, choices, choices
Now the fun begins, it’s time to choose your basket and plants. When choosing a basket you can make your own or buy one ready made. There are advantages to both, if you make your own you get to pick your own colour scheme and can get very creative. Thinking of a monochrome minimalist all white, or are you more for a bohemian riot of colour, or a vibrant mix of tone on tone. The choices are abundant and there are glorious colours and textures for both sun and shade. If you choose a pre-made one you might not have as much choice in colour combinations, but all the work has been done for you (this is yet another example of “know thyself”).
Full of Colour
There are two common types of baskets, Plastic and wire/moss (wood is not really used anymore).
Plastic has the advantage of being easy to plant and better at retaining moisture.
Moss baskets are very attractive, can be slightly more involved to plant (for more information on how to plant up your own moss basket click here), and they do tend to dry out faster, so be sure to keep your eye on them.
Speaking of drying out, when choosing a basket remember that bigger is better, within reason… you still have to be able to hang it up.
Small pots and baskets are like puppies and kittens, cute but way too much work (they will need constant watering in the heat of the summer… but more on that later).
CARING FOR YOUR BASKET
Once you have your basket and plants there is one more thing you need to do before you hang it up, feed it.
Annuals are a lot like teenage boys, always hungry. I swear if they could get up and get the fertilizer themselves they would. To prevent your baskets from being as much work as a teenage boy, you need to add some slow release fertilizer to the soil.
If you bought a pre-planted basket chances are there is already some inside (but ask to make sure). A slow release fertilizer is a wonderful thing, you sprinkle it in the soil on the top of the basket and then all season long as you water and temperatures rise (and the plants grow) nutrients are slowly released to be taken up by the plants.
Be sure to read the label of your fertilizer for the application rate, but err on the side of generosity. And it’s always a good idea to keep some water soluble fertilizer close at hand in case you want to give an extra boost later in the season.
Our controlled release Hanging Basket Fertilizer has been designed to continuously feed your baskets throughout the season for beautiful & abundant blooms.
– Watering is key
This is cause of most failures with hanging baskets, lack of water.
I get it, summer is long and watering your baskets might not be on the top of your list of fun things to do. But it’s necessary and there are a few tricks to make it a bit easier.
First though let’s think about why watering is so important, consider how little soil is in your basket, probably not a lot. Soil is where the nutrients and water are stored. The further we go into summer the more the plant roots grow and there is even less soil to hold the water and more roots to take it away. Water becomes a precious commodity in the basket so you need to stay on top of it.
Get in the habit of checking your baskets regularly, it’s actually easy, just give them a little lift on the underside. If it’s heavy, there is lots of water in the basket. A light basket is a thirsty basket.
If you can, try to water each morning, it’s better for the plants and will make it harder to forget if it becomes habit.
If you are ambitious or just know you are bound to be an irregular waterer, consider installing a drip irrigation. They can be installed right off your tap and are a great DIY project. Talk to your local GardenWorks for details.
If that is a bit ambitious for you at least get yourself a watering wand, no one enjoys getting drenched while trying to reach overhead on your tippy toes attempting to get more water in the basket than on yourself. Oh, yeah and do that at least once a day… no thanks. A watering wand makes it easy, you can even enjoy a cup of coffee/tea while you water.
– Pruning and Deadheading
I know this sounds like the name of a rock band but really it’s an extra step you can take to bring the wow factor of your baskets way up.
Many people don’t think of pruning their baskets but it’s a great way to give it a full rounded look. When you prune you don’t need anything other than your fingers and you literally pinch off the growing tips. This causes the plant to bush out giving your basket a fuller look.
The last step is to deadhead, some annuals such as petunias or verbena will flower more if you pinch off the old dead flowers.
This is all about biology, once a flower dies, seeds are produced and the plant has fulfilled its purpose. If you don’t let it produce seed then it’s just going to keep trying and trying and trying… flowering, and flowering and flowering.
Now, if you have followed step #2 and know you are not going to be spending time deadheading your basket (of if your basket is hung out of reach) then go back to Tip #3 and specifically choose self-cleaning flowers (or flowers that don’t need deadheading). Some of the new petunia varieties, million bells, lantana or even a foliage plant such as coleus won’t need to be deadheaded.
A foliage basket like this one filled with shade loving plants is great for colour and minimal work as they do not require deadheading.
If you start off armed with a bit of information, knowing your site and yourself, you should be able to confidently come down to the Garden Centre and pick out the perfect basket/plants to suit your needs.
You’ll be setting yourself up for success, making the right choices at the beginning. Come on in and have a look, talk to some of the knowledgeable staff and bring some brightness and joy into your summer space, but don’t forget to water.
Written by: Ingrid Hoff