Hanging Basket Care
The keys to maintaining your hanging basket really fall into three categories: water, fertilizer, and 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 only when the top of the soil is dry to the touch
3. Water until water comes out of the drainage holes
4. Don’t allow your pot to sit in standing water
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 3 or 4 days. As the plants get larger and the mercury creeps higher be prepared to water every day. With small pots or water “hogs” you might even have to water twice a day. You will also need to water more frequently if it is a windy day. Wind will cause pots to dry out more quickly, especially hanging baskets. As I said above, larger pots will dry-out less quickly than smaller pots.
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. I usually recommend adding a slow or controlled-release fertilizer to your hanging basket right after you buy or plant it. This will provide your basket with a good constant dose of fertilizer. Be sure to follow the directions on your fertilizer package to make sure you don't damage your plants.
By midsummer, I usually start using a water-soluble fertilizer once every one to two weeks. Again, follow the directions on your fertilizer package. I do this for two reasons -- by this time the plants are very large and to keep them going takes more fertilizer plus some of the controlled-release fertilizer has already been used by the plant. I sometimes also use a dose of water-soluble fertilizer after a heavy rain. A lot of water going through your basket, like you get with a big rain storm, can wash out fertilizer. A dose of water-soluble fertilizer the next time you water is a good, quick way to give your plant some food. Remember, FOOD = FLOWERS!
The other thing you may want to do is a midsummer trim. Hanging baskets can become a bit stretched or open 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 within a few days to a week, and your plant, given enough fertilizer, is likely to come back stronger and prettier than ever.