How to Save Your Hanging Baskets

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A couple of months ago I wrote an article on how to make a hanging basket for your yard. Mine looked great until powdery mildew came through and helped the hungry birds in taking out all the pansies. Yes, now we know why they’re called that! Wimps, the lot of them. The snapdragons are holding on but looking piqued after a week with no rain. The result is my formerly cheerful hanging basket is now in dire need of some serious help. If something like that has happened to your own project in the past couple of months, read on and together we’ll try this rescue mission.

Hanging Basket Rescue – Important Supplies

2 or 3 Extra Plants. Get something that’s not prone to whatever problem befell the now dead occupants and won’t create problems of its own. You also want to look for cost-effective plants just in case they too decide they don’t like the high life. In my case, the powdery mildew could linger in the soil and just kill my new plants if they are not resistant to it. I also need something that’s more durable and doesn’t have to be coddled, particularly with the basket in a very sunny spot.

Instead of buying new plants, you could also dig up offshoots or move plants from other areas. I personally have strawberries everywhere but the birds in my garden already seem to think they’re auditioning as extras in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. They dive-bombed me while I was working in the garage and even ate the small starter plants that I was growing for last month’s articles. That’s why I went with the sedums I found on sale for $1 apiece at Lowes. They’re unpalatable to birds, heat resistant, and not susceptible to powdery mildew.

Saving Your Hanging Basket – Extra Supplies

Mulch. The best bet is to go with whatever materials you already have on hand unless there’s some logical reason that it won’t work. Rocks, washed playground sand, pebbles, sphagnum moss, natural wood chips, and so on are good choices. Just remember to use things like moss and wood chips for moisture loving plants (like pansies) and sand for plants that need good drainage or prefer their environments a bit on the drier side of things. I omitted the mulch and this could have contributed to my problems because some flimsier plants can’t handle being splashed with water very well.

Fertilizer. If your basket has problems that a good soaking won’t fix, a bit of fertilizer might be the solution to helping it look better. Just be sure to read the instructions on the label so that you don’t make a bad situation worse by cooking the plants with too much fertilizer.

Costs: $3 + tax for the new plants.
Time: Assembly 1 hour. Trip to the Store : 1 hour

How to Save Hanging Baskets – Steps

What a mess.

1. Clean as much debris from the previous occupants as you safely can. Sweep off any extra plant parts and remove any mulch. Throw that away, and not in the compost heap if you have disease problems.

Clean up debris.

2. Carefully extract the new plants out from their containers. Squish the roots gently so they’re not compacted. Then arrange the replacement plants in the basket so that they fill up the gaps. Try to work carefully around any survivors that are holding on to life.

Take plants out of their containers.

3. Dig holes to put the new plants in.

Make a hole to put the new plants into.

4. Add new plants. Fill around them with extra dirt and make sure all the roots are covered up. Add fertilizer according to the package directions. Top dress with the mulch of your choice.

Carefully put in new plants.

5.Water the hanging basket until liquid runs out the bottom of the container. Apply new soil as needed to fill up any holes/gaps that result.

6. Make sure to water your hanging basket on a regular basis and keep an eye out for problems so that they can be treated as they appear.

7. Enjoy!

Hanging Basket – Other Important Notes

If you’re really worried that an disease of any sort is going to come back, you can scoop out the surviving plants and quarantine them in a smaller container before hitting the reset button on the entire basket. This would obviously mean emptying out the dirt, washing the pot in a disinfectant solution, and redoing the basket completely. However, I’d only do this if the problem was serious and soil related.

In my experience moving ailing plants around is one of the quickest ways to kill them. I also view powdery mildew as a low level problem. It’s annoying because it tends to take out the occasional annual but it’s not a serious threat to garden safety. It often goes away without any treatment when the perennials that do catch it (mostly mints) go dormant in the fall. Just be aware that you could lose the new transplants if you have a similar problem.

Lastly, make sure that the plants you put together have similar moisture needs, unless you want to be very careful about watering your containers or you don’t mind making additional replacements later. I bought the drought-tolerant sedums because they fulfilled all my requirements. However, they may not have been the best choice to pair with the snapdragons that were already in the container. I’m pretty sure snaps like to be watered a bit more regularly. Hopefully, they’ll play nice anyway. (I can always hope, right?)

As always, happy gardening!

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About Lauren

Lauren Purcell is a freelance writer from Savannah, Georgia. She is the proud owner of two spoiled little dogs. Her hobbies include gardening (in case you hadn't noticed), cooking, traveling when she has money, and waiting on her key lime tree to produce fruit.

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