Grow Hanging Baskets Like the Pros

Keep Your Hanging Plants Beautiful All Summer 

Few things add more pop and excitement to an outdoor space than a wild & colorful hanging basket!  Ever since ancient times, we’ve been inexplicably drawn to the drama and intrigue of gardens that vine, trail, and swoop. 

When a hanging basket started in a greenhouse and nurtured through the early months by the pros, it’s easy enough to start with a PERFECT hanging basket in May.  Here in Waukesha, we see more hanging baskets fly out the door over Mother’s Day weekend than any other date on the calendar. 

Now, to KEEP them looking perfect: you’ll need to give them a bit more support as summer wears on. 

Basket Tip #1:   Patience

Don’t set your baskets outside too early!  Wisconsin can be moody in April and May.  Even if you’re antsy and can’t wait to see the pop of color outside the porch, DO NOT put the basket outside until temperatures are consistently above 50F (minimum!).  Let the basket stay toasty warm here, or keep it in a bright sunny space in your home away from sudden drafts or temperature fluctuations. 

Basket Tip #2: Sunlight Matters, and Sunlight Changes. 

Our summers are varied, and sun patterns change as mild early summer gives way to the heat of August, and then fades as fall approaches.  Some baskets love sun, others need shade: pay attention to how the sun exposure changes.  You may need to scoot your basket to the other side of the patio to benefit from waning sun, or move it underneath the eaves to keep it safe from the wrath of August.   

Basket Tip #3: Water.  No Excuses. 

There’s no cheating on watering when it comes to hanging baskets – you must pay the piper, or your basket will suffer and start to look cruddy.  Plants swaying in the breeze dry out more quickly than plants insulated in the ground or in thick pots that retain moisture.  Check for water daily, and water thoroughly. 

Basket Tip #4: Feed the Beast. 

The more you water, the faster the nutrition in the soil washes away.  When you’re doing a good job watering your hanging plants (See #3!), you need to replenish the nutrients in the soil.  Flowering hanging baskets should be fertilized weekly with a balanced liquid fertilizer.  Some plants (petunias and a few others) further benefit from rotating in a liquid fertilizer that contains magnesium and satisfies their high iron requirements.  For these plants, fertilize once a week: alternate the balanced liquid with the specialized petunia feeder.  

Basket Tip #5: Off With Your Head!

It’s a tedious task that gardeners LOVE complaining about, but dead-heading (removing spent flowers) is necessary to keep some flowers producing at their peak and looking clean.  Geraniums, marigolds, and several other popular Wisconsin choices look notoriously ratty if they’re not dead-headed for weeks on end.  Grab a mug of coffee, put on a podcast, and spend 15 minutes chopping off heads.  If you know yourself and you know you’ll dodge this task, choose flower varieties that do not need dead-heading.  Ask us for advice – we can help!   

Basket Tip #6: Spin Me Around

When we start baskets in our greenhouse, they’re given nearly 360 degrees of sunlight exposure.  In home landscapes, the baskets often have a house blocking out 180 degrees, or a fence corner, or an overhang.  To keep the basket full on all sides and balanced, rotate your basket 180-degrees once each week.  You may not notice a difference in June, but this extra step will pay off by August!   

These extra steps may seem like more work, they will pay off when you have full, lush baskets from the last frost of Spring through the first frost of the Fall to come.