by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Because most hanging planters are suspended at eye level, sometimes higher, not all flowers an ideal. Many upright plants, especially those with flowers at the top, don’t look great when viewed from this angle. For hanging baskets and the edge container gardens, the best options are plants that look good naturally when viewed from the sides or bottom, with mounding, draping, or trailing growth habits. Fortunately, there are lots of plants that meet this description.
#1. Bacopa is a favored beauty with flowing five-lobed flowers that cheerfully drape over the sides of hanging baskets and container gardens. It actually looks better in a hanging basket than it does plant in the ground. Bacopa comes in many colors, including blues, white, and pink. The plant tag says it thrives in full sun; I find it blooms longest with some shade from the summer heat.
#2. Calibrachoa is often referred to as Million Bells Petunia because of the sheer quantity of blooms produced. A hanging planter staple, they are effortless to grow with sufficient water and Flower Power plant food. Coming in a fabulous array of colors, from cool orange, terra-cotta, and reds, yellows, purples, and pink, this draper thrives with at least six hours of sun or more. Calibrachoa pairs well with almost anything and will spill over the edges of your baskets or fill in between other plants.
#3. Dichondra – Every large combined basket requires something to balance the brightly colored flowers, and Dichondra has it all. Tiny heart-shaped leaves grow on long, trailing stems of silver, providing an excellent backdrop for bright-colored flowers. Dichondra is virtually immune to mildew.
#4. Fuchsia – These little divas drape, spill and dangle bell-shaped flowers in lots of colors, shapes, and sizes. Fuchsias range in size from tiny to towering to trailing and upright. They all look gorgeous growing in hanging baskets. Like all divas, fuchsias can be a little temperamental and prefer the shady parts of the garden. Shade-loving makes them perfect for covered patios and deep entry doors and courtyards. Despite being fussy, beautiful fuchsias are well worth the trouble.
#5. Lobelia richardii has narrow, dark oval leaves hidden by masses of blue flowers that continue blooms through fall. With so many flowers, they do require regular water and need to be fed at two-week intervals.
#6. Trailing Begonias are an ideal choice for shady spots. Trailing versions have tender, draping stems with large, wing-shaped foliage with so many neon red, yellow, and purple flowers. They are pretty stunning on a deck or patio.
#7. Trailing Petunias – Although sometimes considered common, the ubiquitous petunia is still an excellent choice for hanging baskets. More upright, bush varieties work well in the center of large baskets. With new colors and patterns available each spring, no flower provides the endless profusion of color as petunias planted in a sunny location. The tumberlina varieties are especially good for baskets, with double flowers that are fragrant and long-lasting.
#8. Verbena is rugged and easy to grow. Preferring the sun in a profusion of violet, pinks, and reds through the end of autumn. Feed every 2 weeks with Watters Flowers Power plant food for trailing tendrils covered in flowers all season long. Verbenas look better if you deadhead spent blooms.
3 Most Important Ingredients when planting Hanging Baskets
Watters Potting Soil is specially designed for Arizona’s dry climate. Porous enough for drought-hardy plants, yet says moist even on hot days. This soilless mix is the ideal organic soil needed for bloomers. Fill your containers and plant directly without further fuss or blending of ingredients.
Aqua Boost Crystals is the ideal additive for those baskets exposed to wind and hot sun. A Watters creation combines the 200% water holding capacity of polymers, infused with mycorrhizal fungi promoting more extensive roots. Sprinkles at the root level, these garden crystals double the amount of time a plant goes before needing more water.
Flower Power is a water-soluble plant food specifically designed to promote more flowers and larger fruits in garden containers and hanging baskets. Just one scoop of this plant food in a gallon of water sets your plants spiraling into bloom. Feed plants at two-week intervals thought the growing season for more fragrant results.
Until next week, I’ll be helping local gardeners design gorgeous baskets here at Watters Garden Center.