What's Wrong with My Hanging Basket?

Healthy hanging baskets grow slowly after being treated with compost at Bluebird Gardens.

Healthy hanging baskets grow slowly after being treated with compost at Bluebird Gardens.

"I bought the most amazing hanging baskets last week and they are now both dead. What happened?" -- Lisa

What's Wrong with My Hanging Basket

Hi Lisa, it's easy to over-fertilize plants, especially those in hanging baskets. They do grow quickly with fertilizers but once the fertilizer moves through the soil, nothing is left to sustain the plants and they die.

The hanging basket in the photo is the standard 12-inch hanging pot that gets treated with a good addition of compost before I add anything. The little limp start at the front will root in a couple of days and, with the help of rain water showers, this little hanging basket will have a  happy summer.

Growth, however, will be slow, keeping pace with the available space in the hanging basket. When the baskets get too full, I will trim them back and give them another amendment of compost.

Actually, this hanging basket spends all four seasons with me, wintering over inside and then getting placed outdoors for most of the growing season. I think I have had this hanging basket a good 5-6 years so keeping the soil happy is the key to successfully keeping hanging baskets alive.

When these hanging baskets get over-stimulated with too much fertilizer, especially the soluble blue kind, these baskets don't have enough nutrients in their limited soil to sustain growth. My advice is only to buy hanging baskets with plant starts and allow them to grow into the available space.

If you want a full hanging basket, know that they got that way by growing fast. Buy it for your event, then afterwards if you want to try to salvage it, remove the plants and soil; add new soil with compost and hope the plants establish themselves in their new growing medium.

Good luck!