Alberta's Best Garden Blog

Hanging Basket Care

Hanging baskets are a gardening trend that have stood the test of time and passed with flying colours—literally! Often filled with the biggest and brightest flowering annuals, hanging baskets add a delightful element to our gardens like nothing else can. Naturally, we want to keep that element around for as long as possible. Luckily, with some simple hanging basket care, you can keep yours looking fresh all summer long.

Best Flowering Plants for Hanging Baskets

While almost any plant can be dressed up in a container and look just fine, there’s a select few that really rock the hanging basket look. Since these suspended beauties are likely hanging above eye level, plants with short or strictly upright habits don’t fill the basket out very well. Bushy or trailing plants tend to suit the part, with their gorgeous blooms elegantly draping over the edge. In my experience, these are the best flowering plants for hanging baskets:

Petunias: One of the most popular container garden flowers, petunias are abundant bloomers of wide, trumpet-shaped flowers. These summer-bloomers can bring almost any colour to your garden, as well as a variety of patterns and petal shapes. Trailing petunias are particularly great for hanging baskets.

Geraniums: Known not just for their vibrant flowers and ruffled petals, geraniums are also popular for filling your garden with their floral fragrance. For something that really pops, go with high contrast geraniums with stunning edging, like Imperial or Mexicana. Plus, if you overwinter them indoors, you can treat them like tender perennials!

Impatiens: Impatiens are perfect for your shaded hanging baskets, brightening the dimmest corners of your garden with their bright, colourful blooms. They require even less work than other annuals since they self-clean their spent buds and re-bloom all on their own!

Begonia: Begonias are popular for their pretty blooms and attractive, coloured foliage. These vigorous growers leave your hanging basket brimming with blooms as they flow over the edges with vibrant tendrils of colour.

Verbena: Verbenas display clusters of tiny blooms—normally in shades of purple or white—which bring a subtle beauty to your hanging baskets. Don’t be fooled by their dainty flowers; these heat-loving plants thrive in the hottest, driest part of your garden to give you reliable colour all summer long.

Watering Hanging Baskets

Watering is the most important part of caring for your hanging baskets, and also the most challenging. The showy plants best-suited for hanging containers usually require evenly moist soil, and won’t do well if you let them dry out. But they also don’t like wet feet either, so overwatering isn’t a good idea. To maintain that happy medium, follow these simple tips:

Make sure your hanging basket is equipped with adequate drainage holes. This prevents the pooling of water at the bottom of the container which would ultimately rot your plants’ roots.

It’s important to adjust your watering schedule based on the needs of your plants. Include plants with similar needs in the same pot and pay attention to seasonal changes. In the spring, when the weather is cool, most hanging baskets can go 3-4 days without needing water. But once we start experiencing the dry heat of summer in the Prairies, both you and your flowers will need extra hydration. With water retention so low at this time, they might need to be watered daily to stay healthy.

Even if you have an established watering schedule, always check the soil before watering anyways. Don’t assume the rain is going to do your job for you either. For dense containers, water tends to fall on the plant rather than into the soil. I find the easiest way to test the soil is to stick my finger in and see for myself! If it’s dry all the way to your first knuckle, go ahead and take out the watering can.

When you do water, water thoroughly. You want to see water flowing freely from the drainage holes, drenching the soil and washing out any buildup of salts.

Fertilizing Hanging Baskets

In containers, plants don’t have the opportunity to spread roots in search of water and nutrients like they do in the ground. In an enclosed environment like this, it’s important that we provide them with adequate nutrients ourselves. Fertilization is important for giving your flowering friends the energy they need to fuel their profuse blooms and vibrant colours.

I like to add a slow-release fertilizer to my hanging baskets when I first plant them because new plants are always heavy feeders. This small but steady amount provides your basket with a consistent amount of fertilizer. Once summer arrives, you can start adding in a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every week or two. The additional nutrients help to keep them going and makes up for their avid growth and blooms during the growing season.

Maintaining Your Hanging Basket

When the growing season hits, you’ll be amazed by how fast your hanging basket plants expand and flourish into bushy blooms. You might even find your flowers leaning over the side, leaving the top of your basket bare. Don’t worry! All it takes is some strategic snipping to get your flower basket back to its rounded, bushy self.

Using small, sharp pruning shears, selectively prune some of the flowers that are leaning to the side. Cut back about a third of the plant — enough to encourage new growth and keep the basket attractive! Cutting from the side will redirect growth to the centre of the plant to revert it to its original shape. It’s normal to feel hesitant about cutting away perfectly fine blooms, but it’s well worth it to keep the basket in tip-top shape. Plus, they’ll return again in no time!

During your pruning process, make sure to deadhead any spent blooms, too. Most flowering annuals won’t drop fading flowers on their own. If you don’t snip them off yourself, the plant carries on as if the growing season is over and won’t put any energy into producing more flowers. After deadheading, your plant will come back with more beautiful buds for a continuous bloom all season long.

Hanging baskets are an awesome way to showcase some of your favourite flowers this year. They enhance areas of your landscape that would otherwise be left barren and colourless. With some simple maintenance and strategic trimming, you can keep your hanging baskets blooming and beautiful for the entire season.

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