WOOSTER, Ohio — Hanging baskets are a great choice to decorate porches, decks and patios with color and fragrance. They are also a good gardening alternative for people with small spaces or who prefer not to go the flower bed route.
To make the most out of your hanging baskets this season, it’s important that you select the right plants for your home and that you take proper care of them, said Bob McMahon, associate professor and coordinator of the greenhouse and nursery management program at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI), the associate’s degree-granting school of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
“Hanging baskets take three to four months to grow to marketable size. They take a lot of tender loving care in the greenhouse, which is why they are not cheap,” McMahon said. “Because of that, people buying these plants want to make sure they take good care of them to fully enjoy their investment.”
The first and most important consideration is to pick the right plant for the specific location where it will live.
“Sun exposure and temperature will impact the odds your plants will survive and thrive,” McMahon said. “A south-facing patio will receive a lot of sun, so that’s not the best place for plants such as New Guinea impatiens, which prefer shade or partial sun.”
On the other hand, flowers such as lantana, garden verbena, petunias, geranium and sweet alyssum are much more sun tolerant and will thrive in south or west-facing locations.
Make sure you check the plant’s label for information about heat tolerance and ideal location, or request this information from your garden center before choosing your hanging baskets.
When selecting your plants at the store, check for signs of pests. McMahon said you might sometimes find aphids and other insects on them, especially on the underside of leaves and on young growth.
“Once you bring your plants home, keep them indoors until all risk of frost is gone,” McMahon said. “When they are outdoors, the key is to water them appropriately, especially when it’s very sunny and hot. Again, check the label to know each plant’s water requirements.”
Plants in hanging baskets also need to be properly fertilized to do their best. Some growers put a three-month slow-release fertilizer in their plants, McMahon said. If you find out from the garden center that the plants are not fertilized, you need to make sure to apply fertilizer at recommended rates for the type of plant and its size.
Other factors to consider include the way the plant blooms. “Some plants will just continue to bloom, while others you need to deadhead, or remove the dead blooms, for more flowers to grow from underneath the faded flowers,” McMahon said.
Finally, McMahon said, you need to keep in mind that some hanging baskets can be messy and may not be suitable for some areas.
“Some plants may drop lots of flowers all over the place,” he said. “Also, when you water hanging baskets, they are likely to drip. Keep this in mind if you have fancy furniture or décor on your deck or patio.”
Popular annual species for hanging baskets sold in Ohio include trailing petunias, geraniums, fuchsia, bacopa, trailing vinca vines, pansies, violas, New Guinea impatiens and begonias. Many baskets also include a combination of different flowering species.
McMahon’s students at Ohio State ATI learn how to grow hanging baskets as part of their course requirements. These plants are sold to the public in early and mid-May. This experience, he said, prepares students for jobs in the greenhouse industry—chances are one of them has grown or will be growing your hanging baskets.