Why do my hanging baskets die?

If I had to choose but one ‘flowery’ item that provides the biggest bang for the loonie, it would be a hanging basket.

Whether it’s spilling over with gorgeous flowers or dripping with delicious cherry tomatoes, hanging baskets instantaneously transform a barren spot into a luscious, eye-level oasis.

But while hanging baskets always look great the moment they are hung, keeping them in great shape can be a challenge for some gardeners. The ‘secret’ to healthy and lush hanging baskets — those that perform beautifully from spring right through until fall — is to understand a bit about the basics of high performance plant growth.

A bit of science

The first thing to understand about plants in hanging baskets — or any plants for that matter — is that there is no substitute for good genes. Great baskets always begin with great plant varieties. Plants without the right genetic formula will never perform well regardless of how much you baby them.

For example, if you try growing a beefsteak tomato variety in a hanging basket, it will be a weedy-looking monster by early summer, simply because it has far too aggressive a growth habit for the restrictive space of a basket. On the other hand, varieties like ‘Tumbler’ or ‘Tumbling Tom’ have a natural mounding growth habit and just the right ‘fruit to foliage’ ratio, making them a perfect match for hanging baskets.

Once you get the genetics right, have a close look at the both the potting soil and soil volume. Potting soils in baskets should have plenty of ‘pore spaces’ to allow for easy root penetration and movement of air and water throughout the mixture. The best quality potting soils contain coarse-fibred sphagnum peat moss, a popped rock called ‘perlite’ lime to adjust the pH into the correct range, and a ‘wetting agent’ that allows easy penetration of water throughout the soil.

I have tested a wide range of potting soils over the years, and many are just too dense for good root growth and have pH levels that are excessively acidic. There is very little that can be done to improve poor quality potting soil once it’s in a basket, so if you choose to blend it yourself, get the best ingredients and incorporate them in the correct proportions.

Now, while soil quality is critical for hanging baskets, so too is volume. Unlike open garden plots, the root zone in hanging baskets is very limited. Therefore, choosing large hanging baskets is very important for optimum plant performance. Simply choosing a 14-inch hanging basket rather than a 12-inch hanging basket will have a dramatic impact on plant growth because of the increased soil volume. In fact, the amount of potting soil in a 14-inch hanging basket is nearly double that of a 12-inch basket. That extra soil volume can mean the difference between a beautiful, season-long hanging basket and one that struggles to survive beyond June.

What should you do?

Once you have hanging baskets hung, there are three very important things that you must do: water, water, water! I can’t begin to tell you the number of dead hanging baskets that I’ve seen simply because they weren’t properly watered.

Now, I am certainly not pointing the finger at anyone, because I’ve killed my fair share of hanging baskets by letting them dry out, but the way I look at it is that if you can remember to give your dog or cat water, keeping your hanging baskets hydrated shouldn’t be extraordinarily difficult. And yes, I do have a dog.

My golden rule for watering a hanging basket is this: Water the basket until the water pours out the drain holes. ‘Baptizing’ the plants — as we call it at the greenhouses — by spraying the foliage will not get an adequate amount of water into the root zone. The best watering strategy is to soak the basket and then check it by sticking your index finger into the soil, up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels moist, don’t water. If it feels dry, soak the potting soil once again.

The last detail is fertilization. In our greenhouses I incorporate a ‘controlled release’ fertilizer into every basket so that the plants have some food even after they leave the premises. But it is still important to fertilize the plants with a liquid fertilizer, like 10-4-3, at least weekly. This will help keep the plants lush right through until autumn.

Growing great hanging baskets is relatively easy if you take care of the basics: genetics, soil, water, and fertilizer. I’ve had many people tell me that they’ve harvested more than 500 cherry tomatoes in a single season from one hanging basket, so I know that they have done a great job of fine-tuning their growing formula.

Doing a bit of math, the fruit — or flowers, as the case may be — in each basket costs a fraction of a penny each. On a loonie-per-loonie basis that’s a lot of bang for your baskets.

Jim Hole is the owner of Hole’s Greenouses in St. Albert and a certified professional horticulturist with the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Nothing adds stunning color and beauty to a landscape like hanging baskets blooming in all their glory!

The hanging baskets on our driveway post at the farm

Whether on a front porch, back porch, patio, or perched on a post in the middle of the yard, hanging baskets brighten up any space with a welcoming, down home feel.

Annual flowers are simply the best way to add brilliant color throughout the landscape.

Whether it’s Petunias, Impatiens, Zinnias, Begonias , Ornamental Peppers, or a slew of other choices, annuals, with their full canopy of bright blooms, can bring color all summer long. But placing them in flowerbeds can be somewhat of a chore.

First, there is the worry of animals and pests digging them up or destroying them. And then, of course, there is the constant nightmare of keeping the flowerbeds weeded.

That is where hanging baskets rule! They can be placed up and out of the danger zone of pests, and need little to zero weeding.

We use them all throughout our landscape to bring full season color, without the hassle to plant and maintain the bed space.

Unfortunately, late July and August seem to be a time when many hanging baskets starts to fade. But with just a few simple tips, you really can keep them booming and blooming all season!

The 3 Keys To Keep Hanging Baskets Blooming And Beautiful

#1 Fertilize On A Regular Schedule

Quite simply, without additional fertilizer applied throughout the season, hanging baskets will begin to fade.

Hanging baskets, just like flowers planted in containers, have limited soil fertility. Even if you use the best planting mix, it will eventually run out of power.

We plant ornamental peppers in baskets as well to provide a big burst of color

We use a two-fold approach to this problem. First, we apply a 1/4 cup of worm castings to the top of the baskets soil every month. Worm castings are the perfect slow release fertilizer.

Every time you water, those nutrients leach down through the soil and absorbed by the roots. When folks stop at the farm and ask how we keep our baskets blooming, we always tell them this is our #1 secret!

I am simply amazed by the power of worm castings more and more every day.

If worm casting aren’t available, try 1/4 cup of spent coffee grounds on the soil. They are high in Nitrogen and give a natural boost as well. Just look what they do for us humans in the morning. 🙂

Secondly, we water with a liquid fertilizer (compost tea or worm casting tea) every two weeks. The two-week schedule keeps the plants blooming, but not too aggressive in their growth.

Too much fertilizer and the plants will become root-bound in their pots. This simple routine is all that is needed to keep hanging baskets blooming like you never thought possible. See : 3 Simple Organic Fertilizers That Can Power Plants

#2 Consistent Watering

The quickest way to damage a hanging basket is to let it go too long without water.

Get in the habit of watering your baskets at the same time every day. Not only does it help the plant with regular watering, it helps you remember to do it!

The best time to water is in the early morning so they can withstand the heat of the day. But if you come home on a scorcher and they look wilted, don’t wait till morning!

Hydrate them and keep them healthy. Unfortunately, letting a hanging basket go too long without water can quickly spell the end.

#3 Removing Spent Blooms

Take a few minutes when watering to remove blooms that are spent or beginning to fade. This simple practice helps the plant to send and spend its energy where it matters most, on new blooms!

It is amazing how simply clearing old blooms off a plant one day can mean hundreds of new blooms just a few days later.

And If All Else Fails…

Sometimes, no matter what you try, a plant simply becomes too root-bound and cramped to bring back to glory. But whatever you do, don’t throw them away!

By simply giving those cramped roots a little more space in a new place you can bring them back to glory.

For baskets that have simply outgrown their container, there are two great options. Replant root bound flowers into a larger container or planter.

If finding a larger container is impossible, then replant them directly into the landscape. It is actually a really neat and easy way to keep them going! For more info on this, see our article : How To Rejuvenate Worn Out Hanging Baskets And Potted Plants

Here’s to keeping your hanging baskets blooming and gorgeous all summer long Jim and Mary!

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3 Keys To Keep Hanging Baskets Blooming And Beautiful All Summer! Tagged on: fertilizing hanging baskets flower baskets hanging basket care hanging baskets hanging baskets blooming

Why Do Plants Wilt?

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You leave for work in the morning and your plant looks perfectly happy, but by the time you come home, it’s sad and droopy. So why do plants wilt? Usually because they are thirsty!

Many nonwoody plants rely almost exclusively on water pressure, or turgor, within their cells to keep them erect. However, plants are constantly losing water through small openings in their leaves (called stomata) in a process known as transpiration. While transpiration is vital for photosynthesis and helps transport nutrients from the roots to the rest of the plant, the vast majority of the water absorbed by the roots is lost through this process. On a hot, dry day (or after several days with no rain or watering), transpiration causes more water to be lost than is coming in, and the water balance within the plant can get thrown off. The dehydrated collapsing cells in the leaves and stems can no longer remain erect, and the plant begins to wilt. Interestingly, wilting also serves to reduce water loss, as the drooping leaves expose less surface area to the sun’s evaporative rays. Most plants recover quickly when given water, though prolonged dehydration can be fatal or cause leaf death.

There are also a number of plant diseases, known collectively as “wilt,” that cause plants to wilt and discolor. These infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi, and many of these diseases will kill the plant if left untreated. If a wilted plant doesn’t perk up after receiving water and generally looks unhealthy, one of these culprits may be to blame. Many important food crops are susceptible to wilt diseases, but modern breeders have developed resistant strains and varieties for a number of these plants.

Finally, some plants, especially legumes, wilt at night—a phenomenon known as nyctinasty. The leaves of many of these species are fitted with jointlike growths called pulvini, which allow the leaves or leaflets to wilt in response to darkness and temperature. The turgor pressure in the pulvini is largely regulated by a chemical photoreceptor that triggers water to move from the joints at night and refills them during the day. The purpose of this unusual adaptation is unclear, though genetic studies suggest that it may aid in growth.

Video Transcript

Hello, I’m Donna Emery from Glover Nursery in West Jordan, Utah. What causes cut flowers to wilt? Two major problems: One is air in the stem, and the other is bacteria blocking the stem so the flower can’t take up water. The way to avoid air in the stem is to make a clean cut – preferably underwater or at least near water. So, as soon as I make that cut with my wet knife, I can just pop it right into the vase. The vase I’ve chosen is clean – it should be clean enough to drink out of – that will help retard the growth of bacteria; so will stripping off lower leaves after you’ve made the cut, the initial cut. And, plop it immediately into water. You should cut flowers from your garden in the early morning or the late evening. That is when they are likely to be the most – their stems will be the most full of water. Don’t want to leave that cut stem in there. Stems and foliage actually encourage bacterial growth, which is the second problem with cut flowers wilting. So, change the water every day. You can use a commercial floral preservative that goes in the water; you can make your own. But, I find that if you change the water every day, that’s just as good. This is Donna Emery from Glover Nursery.

The dog days of summer are here, and with them come hard times for some of our precious flowers, whether they are cut, potted, or in the garden. One of the unsightly symptoms of heat distress is wilting: Bbelieve it or not, in hot weather, wilting is kind of like the plant version of sweating! There are some steps that you can take to make your flowers more comfortable in the heat and to perhaps prevent wilting. Here are some tips I have put together for you.

What Causes Wilting?

Photo by Selena N.B.H. (Flickr)

In order to defeat your enemy, you must know it, as the saying goes. There are a variety of reasons that plants wilt; bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases are some causes, as well as over-watering and too little sun. So how do you know that your flowers are wilting from the heat? Generally, if it is above 86 degrees, especially in a dry, windy climate, there is a good chance wilting is due to heat distress. If the leaves of your plant wilt during the day but are fine by the next morning, the wilting is probably due to heat. Areas on your flowers and leaves that are brown, yellow, or white are other symptoms of extreme heat and sun exposure, as are dropped buds. Wilting because of hot and dry conditions occurs because plants are releasing moisture through transpiration faster than they can take water up in their roots and distribute it to the leaves. Transpiration occurs at a higher rate in hot weather as a way of regulating the plant’s temperature, like sweating in humans. Wilting also serves to protect the plant’s leaves from the sun. When your plants wilt, it is a sure sign they need a little extra TLC; prolonged wilting can lead to susceptibility to diseases and pests and, in the worst cases, even death.

Practice Good Gardening

Photo by Eric Skiff (Flickr)

The best way to prevent wilting in plants is to take good care of them from the start. Regular, deep, and consistent watering at the roots of a plant will allow it to develop a healthy, extensive root system. Weeding, well-drained soil, regular feeding in appropriate amounts, and pest control also contribute to healthy plants with strong roots, which will protect the plant against wilting. Most sources say to water in the early morning, when it is cooler, to prevent excessive evaporation from heat; I have also heard of people watering at night in very hot, dry climates. The concern with watering at night is that it could lead to fungal diseases if water stays on the leaves all night. Mulching is a great way to hold in moisture and protect roots from the sun. You may want to consider planting an indicator plant that will wilt before your other plants get the chance to; that way, you can take action before your prized flowers start wilting.

Plant Heat-Tolerant Varieties or Plant in Micro-Climates

If you live in an area where you experience hot summers and plants are prone to wilting, you may want to look into planting native flowers or heat-tolerant varieties. Cupheas, blanket flower, moss rose, and rudbeckia are a few heat-tolerant flowers to consider. Research your plants: Some plants are notorious for wilting, like hydrangeas. If you have such a plant, plant them somewhere in your garden where they will receive morning sun but be shielded from afternoon and evening sun. If nothing else, you can use shade cloths and misting to protect distressed plants. Planting in shaded areas creates a micro-climate that is cooler than the rest of the garden.

Special Considerations for Container Plants

As with plants in the ground, the best way to prevent wilting in container plants is good care from the start; however, there are some other things to consider with container plants. Potted plants do not have as much soil to hold moisture, so they dry out much more quickly than plants in the ground, especially in hot, dry, sunny weather. I make sure to check my container plants every day when it is hot. If you have especially small containers, you may need to check them several times a day and water. Unglazed terra cotta pots lose water more quickly than glazed or plastic pots, and dark-colored pots absorb more heat, which can hurt roots. It is a good idea to have a saucer under the pot so that the plant has a chance to suck up more water, although you should not leave a plant standing in water for a long time. I love container plants because if I notice them wilting, I can easily move them to a shadier area during the hottest days or hottest part of the day and then move them back.

Preventing Wilting in Cut Flowers

Photo via Courtney Rhodes (Flickr)

If you are cutting your own flowers from the garden, take my advice and do it early in the morning; plants are at their freshest at this time of the day, and if it is hot, this is the coolest part of the day, when they are not yet wilting. It is a good idea to carry a bucket of water with you so that you can put them in water immediately after cutting the stems with a sharp knife. If you are purchasing flowers from a florist or store, ask for a damp paper towel to wrap the stems in if you have a long drive home: I always offer customers this option. Going without water is a big cause of drooping in cut flowers. Once you are home, cut the stems under running water. Add floral preservative to a clean vase of water, or make your own, and add a teeny-tiny drop of bleach to keep bacteria from growing. Changing the water every day and stripping the bottom leaves keeps bacteria from growing as well; preventing bacterial growth will prolong the life of cut flowers. Keeping flowers out of direct sunlight or hot spots and in a cool room will also keep them from wilting and prolong their lives, the way a florist’s cooler does.

My Petunias Are Wilting – What Causes Petunias To Wilt And Die

Petunias are extremely popular flowering plants that grow well in containers and as bedding plants in the garden. Available in very diverse varieties and colors, petunias can be found to meet just about any specifications you have. Whatever you want, you should have vibrant, beautiful blossoms all summer. But this may not always be the case. What happens when your petunias start to wilt? Sometimes it’s easily fixed, but sometimes it’s a sign of something serious. Keep reading to learn more about petunia wilting problems and what causes petunias to wilt and die.

Troubleshooting Petunia Wilting Problems

Wilting petunia flowers can mean many things. Maybe the most common (and easily fixable) is improper watering. Like lots of plants, petunias respond to a lack of water by wilting. Don’t just water them more, though!

Wilting petunia flowers can also be a sign of too much water. Always check the soil around your petunias before watering – if the soil is still damp, don’t water it.

Lack of sun can also lead to the wilting of petunias. Petunias prefer full sun and will produce the most flowers if they get it. They can survive in partial sun as long as they get 5 to 6 hours of direct light every day. If your petunias are in the shade, that might be your problem.

Petunia wilting problems can also be a sign of insect or fungal issues:

  • Aphids, budworms, and slugs like to eat petunias, opening up sores in the leaves that allow disease in. Lead slugs away from your garden with bait. Spray for aphids and budworms if you see them.
  • Certain diseases like white mold, gray mold, black root rot, and verticillium wilt can all lead to wilting leaves. Avoid disease by watering your petunias early in the morning so water doesn’t sit on the leaves and planting your petunias far enough apart to allow for good air circulation. If your petunias contract a fungal disease, remove the affected parts of the plant and apply a fungicide.

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