Hanging basket flowers are great for creating layers from your garden to the porch. Unfortunately, they tend to look good for a few weeks before they get leggy and the flowers start drooping. Unless you discover why the basket flowers appear to be dying, you’ll end up with dead flowers.
Hanging basket flowers droop when they are rootbound, nutrient-deficient, or overwatered. They will also droop if you underwater them or don’t protect them from seasonal changes. You can fix the problem by fertilizing, repotting, or watering them correctly.
In this article, I’ll discuss why hanging basket flowers droop and recommend some fixes. I’ll also discuss why basket flowers require more attention than other plants.
1. Rootbound Flowers
If your basket flowers start out growing stunningly for a month or two and gradually begin drooping, chances are their roots have grown so much that they become rootbound.
When these hanging basket flowers are rootbound, they become too tangled and displace the soil. They cannot absorb enough water or nutrients in this state.
One telltale sign that your basket flower is rootbound is the water runs through the pot. It doesn’t matter how often you water or fertilize rootbound hanging basket flowers. They will still droop because they are not taking in whatever you give them.
How to Fix It
The only solution to rootbound basket flowers is to remove them from the current pot. When buying hanging basket flowers, it is important to remember that these pots may not sustain the flowers during the entire growing season. This is why the basket flowers start drooping by mid-summer.
Here’s how to repot your rootbound hanging basket flowers:
- Remove as much soil as possible to untangle the roots.
- Thin the roots by cutting off darkened tips with sterile pruning shears.
- Repot the hanging basket flowers in a larger pot. For example, if the current pot is 12 inches (30 cm), you should move the plant to a 14-inch (35 cm) pot. A larger pot has more soil and allows the roots to spread and has more soil. The flowers will now absorb sufficient water and nutrients.
- Water the plant as you normally would.
2. Nutrient Deficiency in Soil
Hanging basket flowers are usually made up of annuals, like begonias, lantana, and petunias. Many gardeners prefer to grow annuals in their hanging baskets because the blooms last a long time.
However, some tender perennials, like fuchsia and impatiens, can also be grown as annuals to encourage their colorful blooms to last longer during the flowering season.
Unfortunately, these eye-catching blooms come at a cost. They utilize a lot of nutrients and usually need to be fertilized often to stay healthy. If you don’t fertilize the hanging basket flowers regularly, they will start to droop.
Besides the blooms being heavy feeders, hanging baskets must be watered daily. You might need to do it twice a day when it gets too hot. Unfortunately, this means some water-soluble nutrients will be washed out of the drainage holes, resulting in drooping leaves and flowers.
How to Fix It
Use slow-release fertilizer to feed the hanging basket flowers consistently. Add slow-release fertilizer once or twice a month when they are actively growing. This gives them the energy to keep producing blooms and sustain them throughout the growing season.
You can also boost the flowers with diluted liquid fertilizer once every couple of weeks. Alternatively, you can add a little liquid fertilizer when watering. You only need a light dose (half or quarter strength) because liquid fertilizer is utilized by the plant instantly.
Using concentrated liquid fertilizer will over-fertilize the basket flowers. Over-fertilized hanging basket flowers will initially have amazing blooms. However, they will grow too fast and end up becoming rootbound.
You’ll also be more likely to see signs of fertilizer burn, wherein the leaves turn yellow or brown and eventually fall off the plant.
Unlike garden or container plants, hanging basket flowers must be watered daily. The basket is made up of multiple plants which consume the water quickly. In addition, the potting mix in hanging baskets is usually lighter and more porous, facilitating rapid moisture loss.
The rule of thumb is to have one plant per inch (2.5 cm) of the basket diameter. So, a 12-inch (30 cm) basket will likely have at least 12 plants.
Some strong plants, like geraniums and fuchsias, will be fewer in the pot. You may have 5-8 plants in a 12-inch (30 cm) pot. Since you have multiple plants growing in one pot, they need more water to sustain their growing roots, shoots, and flowers.
If you experience extremely hot and windy summers, your hanging basket flowers lose water quickly. If you water them with a jug of water once a day, the flowers may still droop because the water is not enough.
When it comes to hanging basket flowers, it is not just about how often you water them but also how much they absorb.
How to Fix It
Get your garden hose, watering can, or jug and water your hanging basket flowers deeply. The best way is to do it slowly to ensure the soil absorbs the water. When you see water trickling from the drainage holes, you can be confident the soil is soaked enough to sustain the hanging flowers.
However, if the water runs through the pot and out of the drainage holes as soon as you water the hanging flowers, it is a sign the soil is too dry, or the plants are rootbound. If it is the latter, you should remove the flowers from the basket, straighten the roots, and re-pot them in a larger pot.
For Dry Soil
If the soil has dried out, you can amend it with coco peat. It is excellent for hanging basket flowers and can significantly improve water retention.
Alternatively, you can water the soil some more to allow it to soak in the water.
You can also bring the hanging basket down and allow it to sit in a tub of water for about thirty minutes. The water will soak slowly through the drainage holes. Over time, the soil will be saturated.
These methods are also ideal if you are going away for a few days and are concerned about your hanging basket flowers drying. They’re better than leaving the soil to go completely dry.
If you are concerned about overwatering the hanging baskets, you can perform a weight test to check if the basket is dry or wet. Hold the lower part of the basket and gently lift it up. Watch the hook and ensure it doesn’t come off without your knowledge; you only need to do it lightly.
If your hanging baskets are heavy, then they have enough water. If they are light, you need to water them. You’ll need to do this regularly, preferably daily, to determine how much water it consumes.
Hanging basket flowers may also droop due to overwatering. As discussed, these plants need more frequent watering than most garden and container plants. However, several factors will influence how much water to use and the frequency.
For example, a hanging basket exposed to full sun and wind will need more water than a hanging basket on a shaded patio. Besides being shielded from direct sunshine, the basket on the patio is also protected from the wind, so it will not dry out quickly.
Moreover, if the potting mix has plenty of moisture-retaining ingredients, such as vermiculite and peat, the hanging basket won’t need very frequent watering.
When hanging basket flowers are overwatered, the roots will be deprived of oxygen, and they will fail to move water and nutrients to the rest of the plant. If left for too long, the roots will start to rot.
How to Fix It
If the flowers in your hanging basket are drooping because of overwatering, you should avoid watering for some time to allow the soil to dry out. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly to avoid overwatering.
You can also move it to a spot where the sun and wind will help it to dry out faster. This way, you keep the roots from staying wet for too long.
You may also remove the plants from the pot and replace the soaked soil with fresh potting mix. You should also cut off soft, rotting roots. This is also a great time to move the plants to a larger pot if they are getting too big for their current pot.
Dig a finger 1-2 knuckles deep to check the soil moisture before watering the hanging basket flowers. If it’s dry, then you’ll have to water again.
5. Seasonal Changes
Spring is usually a great time to buy or plant hanging basket flowers. Several nurseries have sales in spring, Memorial Day, and July 4th. These flowers are usually in full bloom from spring, but by mid-summer, the flowers start to droop.
Higher temperatures cause the hanging baskets to lose water faster. The flowers and leaves will droop if you do not change your watering routine to address the temperature change.
How to Fix It
Since you cannot control seasonal changes, you should focus on changes you can make in your regular plant care routine and maintenance.
Here are some tips:
- Move the hanging plants away from direct sunshine when it gets too hot. A partially shady spot will give plants a reprieve and keep them from losing water too quickly.
- Water your hanging plants more frequently. If necessary, do it twice a day.
- Ensure you water the hanging basket flowers early in the morning. It will allow the soil to absorb enough water before it gets hot. You can water it again lightly late in the afternoon.
- Fertilize weekly. Hanging basket flowers are heavy feeders, especially in summer, when they are growing rapidly. Healthy roots and stems keep the flowers and leaves nourished and healthy to withstand seasonal changes.
Once the hot season is over, you most likely have to move your basket inside and take better care of it.
6. Abundance of Offshoots
Fertilizer helps hanging baskets produce lots of blooms and sustain them when growing actively. Unfortunately, a heavily fed hanging basket will also have many offshoots. Since they will compete for food with the main branch and flowers, the offshoots tend to be leggy.
The leaves and flowers on the leggy offshoots tend to be smaller. They also droop when they don’t get enough nutrients and water.
How to Fix It
It is natural for hanging baskets to grow offshoots. However, you’ll need to prune them to make your hanging basket flowers fuller and the blooms radiant.
When pruning the shots, avoid tampering with the main branch. Instead, cut back about two-thirds of the offshoots, including the flowers.
In a few weeks, you’ll see more blooms on your basket, and the plant will appear fuller with healthy leaves.
7. Overlooked Seed Pods
It is easy to overlook the seed pods growing within the hanging basket flowers because they are so tiny and tend to look like new growth for the blooms. You may even miss them if you are not keen.
These pods are common in many annuals, especially for baskets made up of petunias. However, the seed pods are different from emerging blooms. The seed pods are tiny, hard, and usually sealed.
When they dry, they will split open, and the seeds within become visible. On the other hand, new flower pods are open. Even though the petals are still relatively small, you can easily identify them.
It’s normal for annual flowers to go to seed by the end of the growing season or if the conditions are unfavorable. This is their natural way to ensure the species will survive the following year. However, having too many seed pods is bad for your hanging basket because the plants utilize a lot of energy to produce them. They deprive the flowers of nutrients, resulting in drooping, sad-looking flowers.
How to Fix It
Get rid of the seed pods as soon as you spot them. Some pods break easily, so you can pluck them off with your fingers. You can also cut them off when pruning your hanging basket flowers.
This video shows what you should do to improve the appearance of your hanging baskets. It also illustrates how you can cut back the hanging basket to encourage it to produce more blooms:
8. Too Many Dead Heads
Like the flowers in your garden, the blooms in your hanging basket will age and die. New blooms will emerge, and it is easy to forget the dead heads. However, if you leave them on the plant, you’ll notice a decline in the quality and number of blooms.
This is because the plants in the hanging basket will prepare to go into seed. It will focus all its energy on producing seeds, depriving the new flowers of nutrients. The result will be drooping flowers and leaves.
How to Fix It
Annuals and tender perennials will continue blooming if you keep removing dead flowers. You can pinch the dead heads or use pruning shears to cut them off. It would be best if you also deadheaded weak flowers.
When you do this regularly, the hanging baskets will keep producing flowers, blooming all season long.
9. Aging Plants
Even the perennial plants in hanging baskets have a shelf life. As they get older, they produce fewer blooms.
The blooms also don’t last as long as they did when the plant was younger. Since the hanging basket is made up of multiple plants, some may age faster than others.
You should observe the plants to see those still producing healthy blooms and those with drooping flowers and leaves. Since they receive the same care, if one side of the basket appears to be in poor shape, the plants on that side are probably at the end of their lifespan.
How to Fix It
You can still save your younger hanging basket flowers by keeping the following tips in mind:
- Remove the old plants and replace them with new ones. You must be careful when doing this because you don’t want to damage the remaining plants.
- If they are rootbound, you can remove all the plants from the basket and loosen the roots before getting rid of the old plants.
- You can also remove the old plants and fill the space it leaves behind with soil. The remaining plants will fill this space. The fresh soil will also give them a new lease on life, and they’ll thrive.
These are only some of the things you can do to revive a dying basket. I’ve listed more tips in my full guide on the topic. Don’t miss it: What to Do When Your Hanging Baskets Look Terrible
Hanging basket flowers are great for layering your garden. You can also bring your garden closer by hanging the flowers on your patio. Unfortunately, these flowers are high maintenance. It would be best if you committed to watering and fertilizing them regularly.
You also have to cut them back often to encourage new growth and keep the branches from getting too leggy. Hanging basket flowers usually droop due to a shortfall in maintenance. When you follow the recommended maintenance routine, you will enjoy having full blooms throughout the growing season.