In the Garden:
Lower South
July, 2012
Regional Report

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Mixed container baskets of colorful flowers add beauty and appeal to this porch area.

Get Instant Results With Hanging Containers

When it comes to decorating a porch, patio or landscape area with a splash of interest and color, hanging containers offer instant results. Do you have a rather bleak section of privacy fence or a wall that is rather bland looking? Is your porch missing some living color? Perhaps the hardscape and furniture of an outdoor sitting area leaves it somewhat sterile and uninviting.

Hanging containers are a quick fix for all these settings and more. These containers are well suited to foliage plants, blooming plants or a combination of the two. Summer is a great time to use hanging containers in the landscape as we can choose from an especially wide palate of plants.

I'll get to the plants in a moment but first let's consider our container options. Most gardeners are familiar with hanging planters made from moss lined wire baskets or plastic containers. The marketplace is now filled with various types of wire and metal baskets of all sizes. Coconut coir fiber inserts have become a liner of choice as they are attractive and allow the many types of decorative metal container frames to really show off. Some are quite ornate.

The standard plastic containers are very economical and work fine especially when you use trailing plants, which spill over the sides and hide the container itself. Baskets can be suspended by the traditional three-wire hangers, decorative chains, and a variety of natural and synthetic woven materials including various macrame designs. Some hanging containers are multilevel with one basket suspended above another.

Hanging baskets are great suspended beneath a porch or tree branch but if such a support is not available there are numerous attractive free standing structures, often made of ornate black metal from which to suspend the baskets. Bracket hangers work well to hang baskets near a fence, wall or post.

I'm a big fan of containers designed for attaching to a wall or fence. The long "trough" planters can turn an uninspiring fence or deck railing into a riot of color and foliage. Special "half containers" made of plastic, wire or pottery are designed for attaching to a wall or fence. Arranged creatively these can really make an otherwise ignored wall space a featured point of interest.

Remember that our options are not limited to containers made for plants. You can use just about any container for plants as longs as it holds a sufficient amount of soil and you make some holes in the bottom to drain away excess water. One of my favorites is an old galvanized bucket. When they develop some rust holes in the bottom they are not useful as a bucket but are perfect for a hanging plant container. I should also mention that I've old pots, old boots and other such "repurposed" materials repurposed to make hanging containers that are real conversation starters!

When choosing ornamental plants for a container we have a lot of options for the lower south. Single species planters are great whether they be flowering or foliage plants. However mixed containers can be very attractive, especially when viewed up close.

Mixing upright plants with trailing plants adds multilevel interest and a wider variety of color and texture. Trailing or cascading plants include trailing petunias, moss rose, purslane, verbena, calibrachoa, narrow leaf zinnia, and pothos. In addition to mixing upright and trailing plants mixing plant foliage texture can add appeal. For example , you can include plants with broad foliage, strappy foliage and finely cut foliage.

Foliage plants such as caladiums, asparagus fern, coleus, dwarf types of ornamental sweet potato, purple heart, dwarf ivy, and "houseplants" such as pothos and young dracaena plants are attractive in attractive hanging containers. Ferns are another group of foliage plants that offer dozens of species well suited to growing in outdoor hanging baskets in the lower south. Dwarf types of ornamental grass including dwarf fountain grass and Mexican feather grass can be a nice addition to a very large container.

Select a planter with adequate size for the plants and location in the landscape. Our southern summers really heat up and plants dry our quickly. A diminutive plant such as thyme, Dahlberg daisy, or a small succulent would be okay in a container that holds a gallon of soil or a little less. Slightly larger plant species such as wishbone flower, dwarf zinnia, ornamental peppers, dwarf pentas, impatiens, begonias, and need at least a gallon and do best in a larger container. For larger plants including coleus, geranium, Madagascar periwinkle a minimum of two and a half gallons of growing medium is best. The larger the volume of growing mix the less often you will need to water to keep the plants healthy.

If the planters are in a sunny location it is best choose a larger container size to minimize the need to water more than once a day. Self-watering containers are available that hold a reserve of water inside that moves up into the growing media by a wick to maintain soil moisture over a longer time without keeping the soil too wet.

There are many other hanging container plants for the southern spring to fall season. Visit my blog and share your favorites, along with any unique containers you like to use.

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