Keeping Flowers Summer
Garden Clippings for July 18, 2020
The hanging baskets were a lovely Mother’s Day gift but are beginning to lose their luster. It has been two months and the foliage is not lush and flowers are stretching.
No wonder. Prior to Mother’s Day, in the climate-controlled greenhouse annual flowers are pumped with fertilizer and precisely given the right quantity of light and water. Flowers are grown in 8- or 10-inch diameter plastic pots to keep costs down and make shipping and handling easier.
Two months later, the flowers have outgrown their small pots and the larger plants cannot get enough moisture and nutrients. Summer’s heat is putting stress on plants and even daily watering is not enough.
The best way to keep hanging baskets looking amazing for the next 3 months is put them in larger containers. The additional soil will give more opportunity for growth and will give the gardener a little more forgiveness in the watering schedule.
Transplanting flowers into larger containers will give the opportunity to prune, edit and perhaps even add a few more flowers. For 8 inch diameter pots, I’d suggest going to a minimum of 12 inch diameter. Large hanging baskets are difficult to find, so you will likely need to transplant into regular patio pots.
If your hanging baskets look horrible because you have missed a day or two of watering, go ahead and cut them way back. Most plants, especially Petunias will appreciate the pruning and will respond with healthy new growth within a few short weeks.
The other ticket to success with annual flowers is fertilizer. Every gardener has their favorite plant food that works for them, and the formula we use in our flowers is simple.
At planting time, we add controlled release plant food and put it on the soil surface according to label directions. These small kernels are designed to work slowly, releasing fertilizer slowly over 2 months. At the end of July, we will add a second application of the same plant food. Timed release plant food is not cheap but gives very good results.
In addition to the slow release plant food, we give an application of water-soluble plant food every two weeks. The formulation we use is 20-20-20, but any similar ratio will do the trick just fine. Water soluble plant food is inexpensive, easy to use, and gives instant results. It can be applied using a handy hose end sprayer or simply added to a 2-gallon watering can.
Fertilizing flowers needs to be coupled with faithful watering, because without moisture, fertilizer will do more harm than good. Make sure your container has adequate drainage holes and water thoroughly until the water drains through the bottom.