By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners
If your hanging basket flowers look like they have seen better days, know that not all is lost! It’s normal that by midsummer, baskets can become heat stressed and need a little extra care to pep them up. These three tips should go a long way towards bringing your hanging baskets back up to snuff so they will look beautiful all the way into fall.
1. Your Plants Are Thirsty! Water Wisely
Your hanging basket flowers grew beautifully in the springtime when you watered a few times per week. What happened? By midsummer, hanging baskets need a lot more water because of one or more of these factors:
Your basket went from living a lush life in a greenhouse where it was hooked to constant drip irrigation and fertilizer to hanging outside exposed to sun and wind.
The plants have grown larger, so it takes more water to hydrate them.
Temperatures have grown much warmer, both day and night.
Water evaporates more quickly when the air is warm and the sun is shining at a more direct angle on your plants.
The soil has dried out a few too many times and has become hydrophobic (resistant to absorbing water).
So, what’s the best way to water your hanging baskets? Instead of watering on a schedule or waiting for your plants to wilt, check them at least once per day to see if they need water. If the basket feels light for its size and the soil feels dry at a depth of about 1” down, it’s time to water.
If, when you water, it seems to run right out the drainage holes and the soil isn’t absorbing much, you’ll need to soak your basket. Submerge the container in a tub or 5-gallon bucket filled with water and let it sit for about 30 minutes. This will help to rehydrate the soil so it is no longer hydrophobic. From then on— assuming you don’t let your basket dry out again— the soil should be able to absorb the water normally.
Having trouble keeping up on watering? Consider installing a WaterWise® drip irrigation system set to a timer so your baskets get the water they need every day. Or transplant your hanging basket into a larger one or into a larger upright container. More soil volume means your plants won’t dry out as quickly.
Feeding your plants regularly with water soluble fertilizer will keep them growing and blooming strong all season.
2. Your Plants are Hungry! Don’t Skimp on Feeding
When it’s 90 degrees when you get home from work, the last thing you might feel like doing is heading out to fertilize your hanging baskets. Instead, pick a time early in the morning to give them a little breakfast-time boost. Then, your plants will have all day to absorb that nutrient-infused moisture.
The two keys to feeding your plants are consistency and quality. Plants thrive with consistent moisture and nutrients, and don’t like to go long periods without either.
For peak performance, we recommend that you feed your baskets every third time you water. By following that schedule, you’ll naturally be fertilizing less in the spring and fall and more in the summertime when your plants are most actively growing. If every third watering isn’t feasible, aim for once per week. Set an alert on your phone to remind you when it’s time to feed your plants.
You already know there’s a big difference between eating a well-balanced, home cooked meal vs. picking something up quick from a fast food drive thru. The same dichotomy exists in plant foods. Premium Proven Winners water soluble fertilizer contains micronutrients and other vital ingredients like the EDDHA form of iron which is easier for plants to absorb and use. Weaker fertilizers may cost less but will not be as effective.
In addition to feeding your hanging basket plants with water soluble fertilizer, it helps to mix a good quality continuous release fertilizer into the soil at planting time, or sprinkle it on top of your basket every couple of months. This kind of fertilizer is designed to deliver more nutrients during peak growing periods when the weather is the warmest and plants need food the most.
It’s time. By midsummer, your hanging basket plants are ready for a haircut to tidy them up and spur new growth. If the stems have grown too long and the flowers are blooming mostly at the ends, use a pair of scissors or pruners to trim them all up to the bottom of the basket. If just a few stragglers are hanging down lower then the rest of the plant, simply trim those few stems up to be even with the rest. This video demonstrates how to give your basket a haircut.
It’s also important to rein in any plants that have become too aggressive in your basket and are drowning out the others. Sweet potato vine is a common example of a plant that will happily overrun its neighbors if you let it. Don’t be afraid to remove as much as 25% of a plant’s stems to regain balance in your basket.
After giving your plants a haircut, it’s important to give them a boost with water soluble plant food. Feeding and trimming combined will kickstart new growth, and your plants will be full of blooms again in just a week or two.
Want a quick review of these three tips? This helpful video walks through them all in a snap.