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Make Hanging Baskets More Drought Tolerant

By: Maureen Gilmer

Hanging Baskets - Petunias - Maureen Gilmer

Moisture-rich potting mix makes hanging baskets shine and supplies more water in hot summer weather.

Moss baskets make it next to impossible to over water plants, and that’s why they’re different from any other hanging pot. Each basket is composed of a suspended wire framework lined with fibrous material and filled with potting soil. The reason for fiber lining is to allow optimal drainage throughout the whole container, not just where there are drain holes. It also allows you to water daily without guilt, so the soil remains evenly moist without the risk of saturation.

Hanging Basket Liners

Hanging baskets have changed in the last few years. Many are available with coarse Sphagnum moss that is permeable and holds water. Planting through the sides is now standard, making every basket a potential living ball of flowers. These baskets are now standard fare for growers of fuchsias, hanging ferns and begonias.

Hanging Baskets - Mixed Flowers - Maureen Gilmer

Stuffed containers must have water-holding mix to perform well.

Baskets pre-lined with coco fiber are also popular and eliminate the time-consuming process of manually lining baskets with coarse, wet Sphagnum moss. This coco fiber is thinner and just as porous, but there’s a down side. The potting soil inside will often dry out more quickly. The dehydration rate increases exponentially in arid climates, particularly during windy or hot weather.

To create baskets that are more weather resilient, select containers at least 14 inches in diameter. This creates a soil mass that is large enough to support a more expansive root zone of long-lived plants, and it reduces moisture loss through the coco fiber. The next step is to select the right potting soil for your local climate.

Hanging Basket Potting Mix

Black Gold Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Soil is ideal for hanging baskets in dry climates. It is formulated for increased water holding ability without compromising drainage. To do so it contains coir, a byproduct of the coconut processing industry that is highly absorptive and able to retain moisture better than ordinary potting soils. It’s OMRI Listed too, so you can use it for organically grown edible flowers, vegetables and herbs.

Hanging Baskets - Chard- Maureen Gilmer

Vegetable baskets need a lot of space as well as the right mix!

What really makes coir desirable is the speed at which it absorbs water. While dry peat can be a little slow on the uptake, coir literally sucks up every drop you apply. In a hanging basket this means less immediate drainage and more water holding capacity over time. When the dry winds of summer kick in, baskets with this coir blend soil will fare far better.

For those who live in humid, rainy summer climates, over-saturation can be a problem after daily rain or heavy downpours. Potting soil can become super saturated, which limits oxygen availability to the roots until conditions dry out. Black Gold® Moisture Supreme Container Mix was designed for solving this very problem by maximizing oxygenation of the root zone. When you use this blend in your hanging baskets, you are less likely to see fungal diseases and rotting that can occur despite the porosity of the basket liner.

Make this year’s new baskets with Black Gold potting soils formulated for your climatic challenges. Then replace the potting soil in your older baskets to eliminate over-compaction. Once you discover how a climatically formulated potting soil improves your hanging baskets, you’ll never settle for anything else.

About Maureen Gilmer


Maureen Gilmer is celebrating her 40th year in California horticulture and photojournalism as the most widely published professional in the state. She is the author of 21 books on gardening, design and the environment, is a widely published photographer, and syndicated with Tribune Content Agency. She is the weekly horticultural columnist for the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs and contributes to Desert Magazine, specializing on arid zone plants and practices for a changing climate. She works and lives in the remote high desert for firsthand observations of native species. Her latest book is The Colorful Dry Garden published by Sasquatch Books. When not writing or photographing she is out exploring the desert on her Arabian horse. She lives in Morongo Valley with her husband Jim and two rescue pit bulls. When not writing or photographing she is usually out riding her quarter horse.

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