By Bodie Pennisi
University of Georgia
Some examples of trailing plants that are beautiful in hanging baskets are petunias, million bells, geraniums, Bacopa, torenias, verbenas, portulacas, helichrysums, English ivy, German ivy, potato vines, scaevolas, Bidens, angel wing begonias and Vinca vines.
Best basketsPlastic hanging baskets are inexpensive. But you may want to use moss and coco fiber to get that "organic" look. Plants in moss and coco baskets can dry out fast, though. You may need to water often, especially if the plants are large and in a drafty place.
If you're making your own moss or coco basket, insert a piece of plastic with holes in it for drainage. This will allow water to stay longer in the container.
To retain a natural effect while helping hold moisture, you can put black plastic liner inside the moss liner and poke holes in it.
Best 'soil'Often called "potting soil," the best potting mix doesn't contain any soil. Regular topsoil doesn't have the qualities necessary to support good plant growth in containers, and it may contain diseases and weed seeds.
A good potting or soilless mix is well-drained and aerated and holds moisture and nutrients well. Such mixes may contain peat, bark, perlite and vermiculite in various proportions.
The pH of the mix -- how acidic or alkaline it is -- directly affects plants' ability to take up nutrients. Make sure you choose a mix in the 5.5 to 6.5 pH range.
Best sitesWindy sites aren't good for hanging baskets. The wind causes them to dry out fast and need frequent watering. This can stress your plants and cause them to perform poorly.
For places that get 4 to 12 hours of sun per day, select plants for full sun to partial shade. For those that get 2 to 4 hours of early or late sun per day, select plants for partial to full shade.
A ruleAll plants combined in one basket must have similar water, light and nutrition requirements.
When you plant a hanging basket, fill the basket with potting mix to within a few inches of the rim. If your mix doesn't contain nutrients, mix in some slow-release fertilizer. Follow label rates for the size container you're using.
If you're mixing in a water-retaining agent, mix it with the media before you plant.
Best plantsSelect healthy, high-quality plants. Inspect the foliage and flowers for any signs of pests or diseases. Take the plant from the pot and examine the root system, which should be white and well-developed. Avoid root-bound plants.
To keep your hanging plants growing and flowering, you have to supply plenty of water and nutrition all season.
When plants are small, their water and nutrition needs are less. As the weather warms and plants grow, though, their water and nutrition requirements increase.
Faithful careContainer-grown plants need fertilizing about once every other week. When using a liquid plant food, make sure the potting mix is moist. If it's dry, the fertilizer salts could damage the plant roots.
Regular deadheading (removing spent flowers) encourages new flowers to develop. Pruning and trimming stimulates new growth.
Scout thoroughly and often for pests and diseases. Look closely at the flowers and foliage for pests and damaged, deformed or discolored leaves or flowers. You may have to part the foliage to examine the center of the plants closely.
Don't stress your plants by not properly watering or fertilizing them. A stressed plant is more prone to diseases and pests.
Planting healthy, high-quality plants is a good start, but to keep them robust and beautiful, you have to provide the best growing conditions.
(Bodie Pennisi is an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)