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Saving Hanging Baskets – How To Give New Life To Worn Out Plants!

Looking for a way to save the flowering plants in your tired, worn out, struggling hanging baskets?

As summer arrives in full force, many gardeners find the once thriving plants growing in their hanging basket plants looking less than ideal. Baskets that were overflowing with healthy foliage have suddenly become weak and feeble – with blooms becoming more scarce by the day.

Is it a lack of water? Perhaps too much water? Or could it be they just need a dose of fertilizer? Although all of the above can certainly play a role in the performance of hanging baskets – more often than not, when hanging baskets begin to fail in the summer, it’s more likely they have simply outgrown their basket!

saving hanging baskets
When the roots of hanging basket plants become overgrown, they become unable to take in water and nutrients. And without both, they simply can’t power healthy foliage and blooms.

The plants in hanging baskets have a limited amount of soil in which to grow their roots. And when that space runs out, no matter how much water or fertilizer they receive, they are going to struggle. And if left to their own accord, they will slowly die off as the season progresses.

Dealing With Root Bound Plants – How To Save Struggling Hanging Baskets

Plants becoming root bound in early to mid-summer is a very common occurrence. When purchasing flowering baskets in early spring, many gardeners select the biggest, most heavily flowering plants they can find.

Many greenhouses and nurseries start hanging basket plants from seed as early as November & December. They do this in order to have the plants blooming in time for early spring. By the time the plant is brought home, they can already be four months old.

Unfortunately, at that point in early spring, the plants are most likely already at full maturity. And because of that, especially if selecting smaller 10 to 12 inch hanging basket containers, the roots are already starting to become cramped in their container.

Once roots become tangled and overcrowded, all kinds of bad things start to happen. For starters, the soil in which they grow becomes almost non-existent. It can be nearly swallowed up by the ever expanding root system of the plant.

root bound plant
A classic example of a root bound hanging basket. The roots of this plant have tangled together and grown to fill the pot. Notice how there is hardly any soil left to hold water or nutrients.

In addition, any soil left around the tangled roots is completely void of nutrients. As for moisture, because the roots have completely filled the container space, any time you water the baskets, it simply runs right out the bottom. And the same goes for any type of fertilizer you try to give the plant as well.

But just because your plant is root bound doesn’t mean you have to toss it to the curb. In fact, there happen to be two great ways to give them a gorgeous second life. And it’s easier than you could ever imagine!

2 Great Ways To Save Worn Out Hanging Baskets

#1 Transplanting Into Larger Containers

Although your plants may look weak and feeble, by simply transplanting them into a larger container and freeing the roots a bit, you can bounce them back to life quite fast.

When transplanting hanging baskets, the key to success is to select a new container that is at least 25% larger in diameter. If you can go larger, that is even better. Start by removing your existing plant from it’s old container. This is usually quite easy with root bound plants. They often simply fall right out of the basket when turned over.

Next, fill the bottom of the new pot with a high quality potting soil. This is a perfect time to mix in a cup of worm castings along with the soil. Worm castings not only enrich the potting soil, they will help to re-energize your tired plants fast with their easy to absorb nutrients. Product Affiliate Link : Pure Worm Castings

saving hanging baskets - breaking apart roots
Before transplanting, take time to gently break the roots free at the bottom of the root ball. This will help them grow into the new soil more easily.
Placing The Plant Into Its New Container – How To Save Worn Out Hanging Baskets

Before sitting your root ball into the new container, take your hands and gently break apart the roots around the ball. This will allow the roots to find new life in the new soil. Don’t overdo it, but by gently pulling the roots free a bit, it will do the trick.

Once you sit the plant into the new container, water the roots thoroughly. Allow the plant to drip off excess water, and then fill in the edges with new potting soil. By watering first, you get the roots wet and hydrated. Then, the new soil around will help hold it in.

All that is left is to water them one more time – but with a liquid fertilizer! This will provide instant nutrients through the leaves and roots. Use a good quality liquid fertilizer high in phosphorous and potassium to spur on new blooms. (Product Affiliate Link: Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster 1.5 lbs, 10-30-20)

#2 Planting Directly Into Flowerbeds – How To Save Worn Out Hanging Baskets

Although you can always replant baskets and potted plants into larger containers, sometimes it’s simply not feasible or practical. If a plant is already large, it can be difficult finding containers large enough to work. Even if you do, it can expensive and time consuming to fill with all of that potting soil.

But there is a simple, low-cost solution to getting more life from your worn out hanging baskets and overgrown container plants. And it’s one we have been using at our own farm for years to add extra color into the landscape – all for free!

Instead of throwing those worn out baskets to the compost heap, give them new life by re-planting them directly into your flowerbeds and landscape. Not only will the new space and soil rejuvenate your worn out plants, it will provide a huge splash of color to perennial bed spaces for the rest of the growing season.

And you will be amazed at how big and beautiful those potted plants can become once again!

The Secret To Transplanting Success – How To Save Worn Out Hanging Baskets

By replanting directly into the ground, worn out root-bound baskets and planters can find the space and nutrients they need to grow strong again. Begin by digging a hole about 50% larger than the existing root ball of the potted plant. Remove the plant from the original basket, taking care to lightly break apart the root bound edges.

This will help the plant’s roots to quickly search out into the new soil and replenish nutrients. Before planting, soak the roots with a good dose of water to re-hydrate.

marigolds - repotting
Replanting a dying hanging basket into your flowerbeds can rejuvenate them – and fill your bed with big color!

When re-planting into the new hole, fill the bottom with compost, and mix equal amounts of soil and compost around the edges. The loose, nutrient-filled soil will give the worn out hanging basket plants an easy path to set new roots.

Finally, finish by applying a healthy dose of liquid fertilizer to the plant. Because it is mature and established, it will quickly soak up the nutrients to come back to life.

Water daily or even twice daily for the first week, until the roots have had a chance to become re-established. In no time at all, your old hanging basket will bounce back to life in a beautiful display of color.

To keep the annuals flowering, apply a light granular or liquid fertilizer once a week. Your plants will thank you with rejuvenated blooms!

Here is to getting a second life out of those worn out hanging baskets and planters this summer! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary