HOW TO PLANT A TRADITIONAL MOSS HANGING BASKET
Wire Hanging Basket - Try to get one at least 14" or 16" diameter. I find that anything smaller than 14" dries out too quickly and over 18" gets pretty heavy to hang. Galvanized wire is the standard while plastic-coated galvanized will last longer. Some baskets have a curved bottom while others have a flat one. The flat ones have the added advantage of being usable on the deck to hold spring bulbs or flowers set in sheet moss.
Fertilizer - I use a slow release 14-14-14 that is mixed in with the soil and feeds the plants all summer. Because there is very little soil compared to roots in hanging baskets, it is important to ensure that plants are nourished all season.
Soil Moist Water Retention Beads - These are not strictly necessary but from my experience these little granules really help reduce watering. Hanging baskets dry out very quickly because they are exposed on all sides to drying winds. In the heat of the summer it is not uncommon to water moss baskets twice a day. The soil retention beads soak up water and then slowly release it into the soil as it dries out. I find that often we can go 2-3 days between watering and this is a huge saving in the summer when you want to get away for a weekend but are afraid to leave your plants. (They're also good in any pots or containers)
Plants - When choosing plants considerations to keep in mind are wind, sun and colour schemes. Some suggestions for good hanging basket plants are: silver licorice (heliochrysum petiolatum), variegated ivy, trailing lobelia, sweet alyssum, verbena (the new Tapiens series are excellent), trailing petunias (Supertunias and Superfinias are great because they fill in beautifully and don't get scraggly), hanging begonias, trailing fuchsias, bacopa (hugs the side of the basket nicely), dwarf heliotrope.
TIPS: I like to set a day in early June aside to build our moss baskets. Having all of the equipment handy allows for a relaxing and productive day.
Design: Hanging baskets are viewed from below so be sure to use the sides and bottom of your basket rather than placing everything in the top. Nothing is worse than the hanging potted plants that every corner store carries in May. These plants are gorgeous when viewed from the top in the store and then they get hung 6' in the air so that mostly just white plastic pot is viewed. Mix your colours for balance. For example, don't use all the white plants on one side. Remember that you are making a 3 dimensional arrangement that will be viewed from all sides. Ivy foliage helps to add balance and highlight the brighter flowers. Think of smell when you plant your basket. Quite often we hang moss baskets on the front porch. What could be nicer than the lovely scent of sweet alyssum or vanilla scented heliotrope to greet our guests?
Watering is the single most important factor is successful hanging baskets. Check the soil every day by sticking your finger up to the first knuckle into the soil. If you can't reach the plant to do this easily, assume that the basket needs watering every day. It is difficult to over water a moss basket since water easily escapes out the basket. Use a watering wand to reach the top and soak the sides of the basket as well. Drench the basket until it drips. Don't worry if clumps of moss fall off, this is normal. Soon the roots will tie the moss to the frame and the soil. You can use a turning hook to hang the basket so that it can be moved to allow sun to reach all sides.
Step 1 Mix soil, Soil Moist (7-10 g), fertilizer (30-40 ml) together. Moisten mixture and set aside. Soak the moss in a bucket of water and set aside. Stand the wire frame up on a flowerpot so that it is at a comfortable height to see and work at. This also allows you to have both hands free to work on the insides. Try to work in an area where you can move around the basket to view it from all sides.
Step 2 Take a handful of moss and wring it out like a damp cloth. Hold it in both hands. Beginning on the bottom, press the moss against the frame from the inside, using one hand on each side. Continue to build the moss wall, one handful of moss at a time so that you have an even layer approximately 1 ½" thick. If you make the wall too thin the soil won't be held into the baskets; too thick and there won't be enough room for soil and roots. Put 3 small ivy plugs (or any other hanging plant) in the bottom so that the roots are in the frame. This makes the basket look green when viewed from below. A note here about plastic liners. Although a lot of experts advise using a plastic sheet liner, I find that this doesn't help the moss basket. The moss will never be held to the rest of the contents since the roots of the plants can't make contact and tie the moss in, hence the moss drops from the sides all summer. Also the plastic tends to look unsightly if it spills over the edges. Finally, although the purpose is to retain water, the basket does quite well with the moss being soaked with the contents. The water retention beads are a better way to retain moisture in my opinion.
Step 3 Continue to line the moss along the bottom and then up the sides of the basket about an inch or so. Add a "row" of plants in the lower 1/3rd of the basket. Aim for balance - for example 3 lobelia alternating with 3 fuchsias. Make sure the roots are well inside the basket so that they will make contact with the soil. Add the soil mixture to the lower part of the basket. Repeat this process for the next 1/3rd of the basket, staggering the position of the plants so they don't overlap the ones in the next row.
Step 4 Continue edging the moss up to the upper rim of the basket. Use trailing plants, such as begonias, fuchsias, bacopa etc. to drip over the edges. Place larger, more upright plants in the centre. Add soil mixture to about ¾ inch of the rim. Cut off any blooms so that the plants will grow bushier. Place the basket in its final place immediately so that it doesn't get crushed in the flower pot stand. Water very well.
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