The Q&A Archives: Lavatera

Question: Will lavatera work well in a hanging basket? Does it drape at all or is it more like a hollyhock?

Answer: Lavatera grows 3-6' tall so it wouldn't be a good candidate for a hanging basket. However there are lots of trailing annuals you can use and most can be started from seed. Try Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas): This lovely cascading annual is grown for its foliage and while related to sweet potatoes grown as vegetables, the potatoes from this ornamental plant are small and bitter. The bright foliage of the sweet potato vine is anything but bitter however. Stunning green, dark black or variegated green and pink leaves (different cultivars are available) adorn the 2? trailing stems. Sweet potato vine is especially well suited for containers, hanging baskets, border edges or allow the sprawling annual to twine underneath woody shrubs and larger perennials in a mixed border. Trim as needed by cutting the tips of the sweet potato vine to encourage bushier growth. Sweet potato vines prefer full sun but tolerate part shade and stem cuttings can be taken in the summer for indoor winter propagation.

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum Majus): Unlike the sweet potato vine, nasturtiums are grown not only for their gently cascading foliage, but for the bright and cheerful flowers which also happen to be edible! Nasturtium blooms have long been used as colorful garnish for salads and deserts, and the seeds as a peppery seasoning. Nasturtiums often have a cascading growth habit with trailing stems that are lovely in the garden for containers, mixed borders, or hanging baskets. If you plant nasturtiums in a flower bed they will likely self-sow and come back year after year for low maintenance, long-lasting color. The ?Gleam Series? nasturtiums are the best climbing or trailing varieties and can grow 2-5? long when given lots of sunshine or part shade where summers are very hot. If conditions are too hot in the summer nasturtiums may stop flowering.

Edging Lobelia (Lobelia erinus): This annual variety of lobelia is well suited for adding color and form to any garden spot and is not to be confused with the perennial form of lobelia, the Cardinal Flower. The trailing forms of lobelia grow to a maximum of 2-3? long and produce cheerful blue flowers most of the spring and early summer. Other cultivars may have white, scarlet or yellow flowers but all are attractive to butterflies. Technically a tender perennial lobelia will die anywhere north of zone 11 but often suffers from mid-summer dieback from the heat as well. Ideal for containers or to provide interest before summer blooming perennials take off.

Wave Petunia: The ever expanding group of petunias known as 'Wave Petunias' are excellent cascading or spreading form annuals that perform well not only in raised beds, containers and hanging baskets, but also in mixed flower beds where they are able to quickly fill in gaps between larger perennials. These petunias have large 3? flowers that are brightly colored in pink, purple and red hues of every shade, and grow on trailing, weeping stems about 3? long. These sun loving annual plants are easy to start by seed indoors and more information on saving seeds each year and propagating your own can be found here.

Fragrant Trailing Scandent Begonia (Begonia solananthera): While there are several varieties of annual Begonia that exhibit this trailing ? scandent (climbing) begonia, known as 'Brazilian Heart', is one of the nicest. Fragrant flowers are plentiful all spring, and the glossy heart shaped foliage is beautiful all season as well. The trailing begonias, like most varieties, do best in part shade; if the plant looks leggy with too-long stems it needs more light while if the leaves bleach out the begonia is getting too much sun. Brazilian heart begonia has some popular cultivars such as ?Splotches? with two-toned flowers and ?Fragrant Beauty? with white, heavily scented flowers. Begonias are most easily propagated through cuttings.

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima): A hugely popular flowering annual, common in rock gardens and containers, is known as sweet alyssum because of its sweet fragrance. A low-growing plant, sweet alyssum is highly fragrant and attracts honey bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the sprawling clumps of flowers that almost completely cover the foliage early spring through fall. Sweet alyssum can be started from seeds indoors during the winter, or sown directly in the garden after the ground has thawed in the spring. While sweet alyssum is a sun loving annual that will die each winter, it readily self-sows in the garden. It tolerates part shade so tuck the cascading 4-10? clumps into the garden anywhere. Sweet alyssum is most often seen as white flowering cultivars but some like ?Easter Basket? or ?Violet Queen? have purple flowers but all will spill over the edge of raised beds in beautiful cascades of flowers.

Thunbergia (black-eyed-Susan vine) is another sun loving trailing plant.

Hope these suggestions help you plant some spectacular hanging baskets!

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