Finding out what a basket needs to thrive can take time and energy, but it's worth the effort.

Every summer we occasionally questions regarding hanging baskets and containers that have not lived up to expectations. Depending on the time of year, there are a number of factors that could be involved. For the experienced gardener, many of these factors are intuitive; however, for those just starting out, it can be a very frustrating experience.

Take a look at the picture above. On the left is a scraggly geranium combination basket with very little foliage and no color. On the right is a lush, full, and colorful basket ready for a plant show. Here’s the crazy part: these are the same basket!

Last June, a basket was brought back after only about six weeks at its new home. The flowers were gone, many of the leaves had disappeared, and there was an aura of gloom surrounding the basket. Jared (one of our growers), ever the optimist, saw the possibilities rather than the limitations and decided to give the basket another chance. He put it on a constant feed drip line in one of the greenhouses and kept tabs on it every day. The results were astounding! Within one month, the geraniums were lush and green and all the filler plants were growing like crazy and flowers once again covered the basket.

There are a few takeaways from this. First, giving your annuals the care they need is critical. This involves proper amounts of light, water, and food, and could include temperatures (depending on how early in spring they are purchased. Plants that have full sun requirements should be getting 6-8 hours of sun per day (this is the 10-4 middle-of-the-day sunlight). Sun-loving baskets and containers should be fertilized 2-3 times per week in the summer. It is better to give a milder dose of fertilizer more often than concentrated a dose less frequently. Shade annuals need to be fed less often. Keep in mind that these containers get very rootbound and hold very little nutrients; therefore, they need to be fed often. If you are watering them every day, you will need to add a water-soluble fertilizer a minimum of twice per week. Remembering which day you fertilized and be tricky, so using a siphon mixer could be a better option. Second, as long as the plants are still green, with proper care, they can be restored to their original beauty. Don’t give up on them! Third, when there is a problem, please let us know. We are more than happy to share our experiences with caring for your plant. Finally, geranium baskets need to be in full sun to thrive. When they are in partial sun, they will start stretching and dropping leaves.

I pass this tale along to you in hopes that you are encouraged not to give up on a plant. Plants need the right amount of nutrients, water, and sunlight to thrive. Achieving this balance takes time and experimentation, but the results are worth it. We welcome questions on care. Plants don’t always grow the way we wish they would. That’s ok, part of what we love to do is educate everyone on how to care for plants in the most effective way possible.

Have a fabulous day!