What To Do When Your Hanging Baskets Look Terrible

Hanging baskets make excellent additions to any home and garden, but sometimes, they can be tricky to care for. Without spot-on care, your hanging baskets can begin to look terrible. What should you do when this happens?

When your hanging baskets look terrible, you should try to determine what’s causing the problem so you can come up with a solution to revive them. The problem might be over or underwatering, improper feeding habits, inadequate substrate, root binding, pests and disease, and more.

The rest of this article will expand on what you need to do when your hanging baskets look terrible, so you can revive your dying plants and get them back to good health. Read on to learn more information on how to help your suffering hanging baskets.

Reviving Your Hanging Plant: Step-by-Step Guide

At first glance, reviving a dying hanging plant can seem like a daunting and even impossible process. Fortunately, this isn’t always the case, and there are many things you can do to help bring your hanging plants back to life and look attractive again. 

Here are the steps you must take for better chances of reviving your hanging plant:

  1. Determine what’s causing the problem. There are many reasons why plants struggle to survive. More often than not, plants struggle because of a combination of factors. It’s crucial to find the root cause/s so that you can apply the most suitable remedy.
  2. Research your individual plants. This is a vital step because different plants have different care requirements. Researching the plant or mix of plants in your hanging basket is an excellent step in the right direction.
  3. Analyze your plant care. Think about what you’re doing right and what might be slipping your mind. You may be giving too little or too much of something (i.e., underwatering or overwatering).
  4. Come up with a solution. Once you’ve hypothesized the root cause, researched the species, and analyzed your plant care, you can come up with tangible solutions to fix the issue of your dying hanging baskets.

Here are some necessary plant care categories you should consider:

  • Water
  • Soil quality
  • Disease or infection
  • Pots and containers
  • Substrate replacement
  • Fertilizer boost
  • Location and environment
  • Pests

When reviving your dying hanging baskets, it’s important to think critically about your plant care. If you feel your plant is lacking in any of these areas, don’t worry! You can incorporate plenty of easy solutions into your care routine to keep your hanging plants looking as happy and healthy as possible again.

Here are some things you can do when your hanging baskets look terrible:

1. Check Your Watering Routine

Before you think about anything else, the very first thing you should do is check your watering routine.

If you think you’re under or overwatering your hanging baskets, this can be a huge contributor to why it’s looking so bad. I’ll discuss this in more detail below: 

Underwatering Leads to Dehydration

When you don’t give your hanging baskets enough water, your plants will dehydrate, which you definitely don’t want. This is not only unhealthy for the plant, but it can cause it to look terrible as well.

Here are some signs that your hanging basket is dehydrated:

  • The greenery starts to turn yellow or brown.
  • The leaves become crispy and brittle.
  • Flowers die prematurely or stop blooming.
  • The plant droops.

If you notice a hanging basket in your garden with one of these symptoms or more, try watering more frequently to see if that benefits the revival process.

Overwatering Results in Root Rot

Underwatering is a critical issue for plant owners, but overwatering can be worse. When you provide your plants with too much water, this can cause a wide range of health issues like root rot and even drowning.

Here are some signs that your hanging basket is over-hydrated:

  • Your plants are turning yellow.
  • The leaves are mushy, wet, and droopy as opposed to dry and crispy.
  • The flowers look soggy.
  • The plant is wilting.
  • It’s started to grow fungus or mold.
  • It has fungus gnats.

Water Plants More Frequently on Hot Days

A good rule of thumb is to water your hanging baskets every day during the summer and hotter spring days because these seasons are the warmest months of the year, and the water will most likely evaporate pretty quickly.

Depending on your area, you might have to water twice a day if it’s really hot. If so, you should stick to watering once in the morning and once in the evening. If you water when the sun is out, you might risk excess water evaporation, which isn’t healthy for the plant and can lead to dehydration.

During the cooler spring and fall days, it might not be necessary to water your hanging baskets daily. Throughout the colder parts of the year, you might find that your hanging baskets only need to be watered every other day, and sometimes even less than this.

It’s important not to overwater your hanging baskets during the fall because they won’t be exposed to as much sun this time of year. If too much water sits in the soil without evaporating, this can be problematic for your plants, as excess water accumulation can lead to root rot and even drowning.

Adjust the Amount of Water Accordingly

Hanging baskets come in various sizes and the number or size of plants in them can vary greatly. Therefore, it’s crucial to adjust the amount of water accordingly every time you water your plant.

On average, if your hanging basket is about 12 inches (30 cm) deep and wide and has fully established plants, you must water it with about 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water per day

However, if the days are hotter and you’re watering your plants twice a day, you might have to use two gallons (7.6 liters) of water to keep them fully hydrated. You might only need one gallon every other day in the cooler fall months.

Luckily, lots of watering cans come in gallon sizes, so you can easily measure exactly how much water you’re using. This is great for not only your plant’s health but also water conservation, as this ensures you aren’t giving your hanging baskets more water than they actually need.

You can also buy distilled or filtered water in gallon containers if you prefer that watering method, which can help you keep track of how much water you’re using for your hanging baskets.

On the other hand, if you have a smaller or larger basket, you can measure how much water it takes before the excess comes out of the drainage holes. You can then adjust the amount of water next time to ensure you’re not giving the basket too little or too much.

Helpful Watering Tips

Remembering when to water your hanging basket is vital to meeting its care requirements.

Without a consistent watering routine, you can forget when you last watered your plants or fail to water them entirely—which can lead to over and under-watering.

Here are some tips for remembering when to water your hanging baskets:

  • Set alarms on your phone. Setting alarms on your phone is one of the most efficient ways to remember when to water your hanging baskets. Since we usually have our phones on us at all times, alarms can serve as good reminders to water your plants.
  • Keep a plant care journal. This is a really fun, easy, and rewarding way to keep track of all your plant care habits. If you make it a habit to write down the daily things you do for your plants, it can keep you accountable and help you remember to water, among other essential plant care tasks.
  • Mark your watering schedule on a calendar or planner. Mapping out which days you need to water which plants is a great way to keep track of all the things you need to do for your garden.

A huge part of successful plant care—especially for hanging basket lovers—is based on keeping good habits. By sticking to a solid watering routine, you can help revive your dying hanging baskets and keep your plants thriving for a long time to come.

2. ​​Don’t Let the Soil or Potting Mix Dry Out

Letting the soil dry out is one thing you should never do as a hanging basket caretaker.

It’s a good idea to water your hanging baskets when the top few inches of the soil are dry. However, if you allow the entire basket to dry out completely, this can cause it to wilt because it makes it difficult for the roots to access enough water to keep the plants hydrated.

If your hanging baskets look terrible, this might be due to the fact that you’re letting them dry out all the way between waterings.

To fix this problem, try to take active steps to be more frequent and consistent with your watering habits. This will help you provide your hanging baskets with the hydration they need to flourish.

For more drought-tolerant plants, you can wait until the top 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) of the soil is dry before watering again. On the other hand, moisture-loving ferns in hanging baskets need water when the top 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of the soil is dry.

Alternatively, you must also check if you’re using the right kind of soil for the plant. Most hanging plants like well-draining soil or soilless substrates with an excellent balance between drainage and moisture retention.

Loose materials like perlite and bark can drain water quickly, making them excellent materials for hanging plant potting mixes. Meanwhile, you can use coconut coir and vermiculite to improve moisture retention. Adding compost can also add nutrients and hold extra moisture to help revive hanging baskets.

3. Trim Overgrown or Sick Plant Parts

Another thing to do when your hanging baskets look terrible is to give the basket a trim.

This will allow your plants to focus their resources and energy on creating new, healthier growth instead of trying to keep the not-so-good and unhealthy parts alive. It will also rid the plants of any sick, infected, or pest-infested sections.

In addition to benefiting the hanging basket itself, giving the plants a trim can be a great cosmetic upgrade if you need a quick solution to terrible-looking baskets.

The best way to trim your hanging baskets precisely is to use sharp handheld gardening shears. You can also use longer hedge clippers if you prefer those. Even a pair of heavy-duty kitchen scissors should nicely do the trick.

By trimming your hanging basket, you can rid the plants of unhealthy leaves and make room for new growth, allowing your baskets to thrive.

4. Repot Your Plants

If your hanging basket isn’t doing too well, another thing you can do to nurture it back to good health is to repot the plants inside.

If your plants have outgrown their basket, this might be what’s causing their drop in health and terrible appearance. A plant that has grown too big for its container might become root-bound, which happens when the roots grow in circles around the pot. This will cause roots to grow through the drainage holes or over the top of the container.

The reason why root binding is so harmful is that when the root mass gets too tangled and dense, the plant can have a hard time accessing water and nutrients and even strangle to death.

If it’s been a while since you’ve repotted your hanging basket, you should try giving your plants a new container to give them a little more space to grow and revive. I recommend repotting your hanging plants about once every 1-2 years, depending on how quickly they grow.

When repotting your hanging basket plants, it’s really important to choose the right container. The best hanging plant baskets are made from coconut fiber.

It’s best to stay away from rattan baskets, as these can deteriorate over time and won’t drain as well as the coconut fiber ones.

After you repot your hanging basket, ensure to provide it with healthy amounts of water and fertilizer while it settles in its new home.

5. Change the Substrate

Another thing you can do to help revive your dying hanging basket is to change the substrate.

If your hanging plants haven’t outgrown their pot yet, a good soil change (without swapping out the container) might be a step in the right direction. This is because soil changes can help balance out the nutrient levels in the substrate and help rid it of salt buildup.

Moreover, peat moss is a common ingredient in hanging basket potting mixes. It can become hydrophobic when allowed to dry out completely, reducing your hanging plants’ ability to absorb water before it drains out.

When this happens, your plants become thirsty despite watering them frequently. The only way to revive your hanging basket is to replace the soil.

After you complete a soil change for your hanging basket, it’s a good idea to fertilize your plants and give them a little bit of water. Make sure to water slowly after soil changes so you don’t disturb the settling roots.

6. Use the Right Amount of Fertilizer

Another factor that leads to plant death in hanging baskets is using the wrong amount of fertilizer.

While not adding enough fertilizer can lead to nutrient deficiencies, adding too much plant food is just as harmful. This is why it’s critical to measure the amount of fertilizer you use and to only feed your plant when needed.

You can use DIY plant food like compost tea or purchase store-bought plant food to ensure your hanging plants get all the nutrients they need.

For flowering plants, you can add a fast-acting liquid fertilizer as the plants prepare the buds for blooming. When using chemical fertilizers, use only half the dose indicated in the packaging because it’s more complicated to remedy the effects of fertilizer burn.

For other plants, you can use slow-release granular fertilizers or add organic materials like compost during the growing season.

7. Avoid Moving the Basket Around Too Often

Keep in mind that your hanging basket should ideally be kept in one place at all times. With most potted plants, too much moving isn’t good.

If you move the basket around to different locations in your yard and garden frequently, this can be exhausting to the plant, as it will have to constantly adjust to different lighting, humidity, and temperature conditions.

To fix the issue of terrible-looking hanging baskets and help revive your dying plants, try keeping them in the same place for as long as possible. This will help lift some of that strain and keep your plants happy.

However, if the area seems to be the problem, such as having too much sunlight, rain, or wind, then it’s best to relocate your hanging basket to a better place in your home. That’s why it’s crucial to consider the environmental conditions before deciding the most suitable location for your hanging plants.

8. Check for Pests

Another thing you can do when your hanging baskets look terrible is to check for pests.

Pests are often a huge reason why your plants might be unwell. Insects are very common, and when your hanging baskets are dealing with an infestation, this can be really unhealthy for your plants.

I like to use cinnamon as a safe, cheap, and all-natural pesticide. Sprinkling a small amount of cinnamon on top of the soil or mixing it in with the dirt is an effective way to prevent and treat pest infections.

I also like to recommend using a 1:1 apple cider vinegar and water solution to spray onto your plants for the same purpose.

However, you can also use store-bought pesticides—just make sure they’re safe for organic gardening, so you don’t expose yourself to any harmful chemicals. Solutions with neem oil tend to be the most effective.

Checking for pests and treating your plants accordingly is a great way to help revive your dying hanging baskets.

Final Thoughts

Hanging baskets are gorgeous garden companions, but sometimes, they can be a bit challenging to keep alive. Without the right caretaking habits, your hanging baskets can quickly turn bad.

If your hanging baskets aren’t looking so great, you can adjust your watering and feeding routines, give it a trim, repot the plant, 

By following these tips, you can revive your plants and know exactly what to do when your hanging baskets look terrible.

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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