Hanging Baskets

An ideal basket cultivar like Katie Elizabeth Ann (above) is one that drips with flowers and the leaf cover is so dense that it hides the basket completely. Most fuchsia blooms hang down like a bell flower and hanging baskets at eyelevel make a striking display. Fuchsias are long-flowering and are ideal for patios, balconies and under trees. Sixty-five per-cent of the fuchsias are either trailers or semi-lax: for show purposes the branches must trail over the edge to cover 2/3rd of the basket.

Baskets: 15, 20 and 25cm plastic baskets. 15cm baskets dry out fast and even miniature fuchsias soon grow too big. A 20 cm basket is OK and may be transferred to a 25cm as the plants grow bigger. Galvanized or plastic-covered wire baskets 30-40 cm with coconut fibre lining are more expensive and require an additional lining of felt or plastic (with holes in the bottom) to prevent too rapid drying out. They also provide favourite nesting material! The 30cm basket with a flat bottom is ideal.

Half-baskets affixed to the wall and hanging pots have solid sides and clip-on saucers.

Cultivars: Use trailing (lax) or semi-trailing cultivars – some popular ones are:

 The ideal cultivar is self-branching, trailing, has short internodes, and is floriferous. Single trailers usually have more flowers than doubles. Many semi-lax cultivars with large flowers are suitable, as the weight of the flowers will weigh down and trail the branches.

Different cultivars grow at different rates and flower at different times, so it is best to use only one cultivar per basket. Fuchsias also combine well with blue lobelias, white alyssum, begonias, pelargoniums, impatiens and variegated foliage plants.

Position: early morning sun or dappled shade are best for most fuchsias, so they can be grown on patios, balconies, under trees or eaves, and in shade houses. Turn baskets towards the light at weekly intervals. Baskets can be suspended from 2 key rings joined by a fishing tackle swivel; this allows free movement in the wind and easy turning towards the sun and for cleaning.

Compost: should be lightweight, well-aerated and well-draining: use 2 parts compost, 1 part kraal manure, 1 part potting soil and 1 part vermiculite or perlite – latter two to ensure good drainage and aeration as well improved water holding properties. You could also use a good commercially produced potting soil such as Culterra or Earth to Earth.  Add one handful (per bucket) each of Hoof and Horn (slow release N) and Bone Meal (P and Ca source). 

You can also add Polyacrylamate crystals like Shockogo and Terrasorb, which absorb water (stored in gel from) and make it available when needed, without drowning the roots.

A slow-release high N fertiliser like Osmocote, Phostrogen, and Polyon can provide food for between three and 12 months.

Some growers like to include Saturaid, a wetting agent that reduces the water’s surface tension and thus facilitates its even distribution throughout basket.

Use small plants (not rooted cuttings): Multi-Rooted cuttings (2-3 cuttings rooted together) must first be grown on to fist size in a 7-8cm pot for starting baskets. Start rooting cuttings early in the year (Feb-April). Small plants that have had two ore or more pinchings must be ready for planting out by June-July to fill 30cm+ baskets; and 20cm baskets not later than August. Baskets are at their best when they are one or two years old.

Planting: Fill the basket near-full with compost, and use a pot the same size as the ones in which the plants are growing to make moulds into which the plants are placed without disturbing the roots - for a 25cm basket, use 5 or more small plants, 3 plants for 20cm basket – more plants will fill the basket quicker; bigger baskets require more plants. Bounce the basket a few times to settle the compost. Place the largest plant in the center and the other four slightly angled towards the edge (25cm basket) - this is done to provide support for the trailing branches.

Pinching: If the internodes are long, pinch at every node, while if they are short, pinch at or every 2nd or 3rd set of leaves at about three week intervals: the more you are able to pinch the more branches and therefore the more flowers you will have. Vigorous cultivar require more pinching. The date to stop pinching is dependent on the cultivar: singles 6-8 weeks, doubles 10-12 weeks before the show date.

In general it is wiser to stop pinching too early rather than trying to fit in the last pinch too late and have only buds to show.
The centre plant is pinched harder in order to fill the centre of the head, whereas the outer branches are grown longer to cover 2/3rd of the sides of the basket. You can ‘stroke’ the branches gently to get them to cover the sides. Another method is to use washing pegs to weigh down branches, while kebab sticks or florist wire are useful to position branches to cover empty gapsa; these can be removed when the wood hardens.

Feeding: Water in dissolved fertiliser and spray the leaves (fertigate) once or twice a week (always follow instructions on container). High Nitrogen feed (NPK 6:1:3) stimulate green growth; high Potassium (K) (NPK 3:1:6) feed is used as soon as buds are visible, and high K strengthens the branches to carry the weight, and improves the colour of flowers.

Watering: The several plants in a relatively small container require frequent watering: in summer it may be daily. Adding water-storing polyacrylamate and Saturaid (for better water distribution) to the compost helps. Lift the basket with your hand to assess the need for watering - watering is best done by a showerhead attachment to the hose. Do not over water.

Flowering: Some cultivars flower in flushes, others continuously i.e. they have buds and flowers in all stages all the time. Cultivars with more than one flower per axil and short internodes are the most floriferous. Remove old flowers and seedpods (deadheading) regularly to promote long flowering.

NB Some cultivars are self-cleaning!

Pruning: This is done by cutting just distal to a node close the edge of the basket (leave one node of the current year’s growth) and removing any dead or weak branches. Root pruning may be done if the plants have become root bound; i.e. when roots are visible all around the root ball. Tip the plants out and cut off the bottom 1/4 with a breadknife and remove some from the side of the compost, and replace with fresh compost OR pot up to a bigger basket. NB Baskets should last at least two to three years.