Big Balls of Colour

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Posted by @Joannabanana on
You see them hanging 12 feet up along boulevards, blowing in the wind and totally exposed to the elements. Big beautiful balls of colour! How is this possible for the entire season? You rarely see anyone maintaining them. Ah - but they are. Let's have a look at how you can create and maintain your own big ball of colour in your garden.




These large commercial displays are planted at commercial growing facilities 2 to 3 months prior to being placed outside.  The baskets are typically wrought iron with heavy duty chains,  24" diameter or larger and are over a foot deep. Slow release fertilizer is added to the soil mix at the time of planting. In addition, diluted water soluble fertilizer is added to the water for day to day maintenance. In exposed areas, the baskets are watered daily.  Many of these displays are located on busy streets, so watering schedules are often during the night.  The plant varieties chosen are free flowering (no deadheading required to promote more buds/blooms). Growth habits of specific varieties are key to choosing the best choice for a full display.

In Your Garden


Choosing the location for your hanging basket:

To have large displays, you will need a well secured metal bracket or hook. These pots will be heavy when wet, so it is important that the fixture will be able to support the basket.  If you are mounting the fixture on your house, make sure that you are securing into solid wood. Also, keep in mind the distance that your basket will be hanging from your wall.  Allow for at least 1.5 feet from the wall. Mount your bracket at a height that will allow you to reach the pot to water with a wand.


 Choosing the pot:

Choosing the plants: To have big balls, you will need big baskets, and the deeper the better. Diameters between 18" and 22" with 9" depth work the best.  Plastic hooks will not hold up and may break. Your best bet is to use a heavy duty wire hook and basket. The wind can whip your basket around a lot so you want to make sure that your basket is equipped with strong chains or wire. This pink basket of Supertunia Vista Pink Bubblegum had fallen down because the plastic hook snapped from the weight.



To create a uniform round display, it is best to have the same variety or series of plants.  If you have multiple plant types or different series of a variety, your basket will not have a uniform growth and will appear lopsided, or the more vigorous variety will take over and choke out other plants.   Mono-coloured balls will be the feature you need to act as an anchor to echo colours throughout your garden.  It's easier on the eyes, and even the bees are attracted to colours in big groups.  A big pink ball of petunias will make your pink echinaceas in the flower bed pop. Repeating clumps of the same colour throughout your garden will tie it all together.


The calibrachoas in the photo are all of the MiniFamous series, which will all grow at the same rate and size.  Even though they are different colours, they are of the same series and all have very similar growth habits.  Choose calibrachoa varieties that are described as compact.  Compact does not mean the plant is small, it is referring to a shorter distance between the leaf internodes.  This growth habit will give your ball a tighter, more dense look. This basket was bought as a 12" hanging basket and repotted into a 18" wire basket. 


My favourite petunias are the Supertunia Vista Series for creating a big ball basket. Not all petunias, or even all Supertunias for that matter, will have the same growth habit, so it is important to sick to one series. The best purchase size to plant into your basket is at least 4 or 4.5 inches.   The 2.5" basket stuffer size is a bit small and it will take quite a while for your basket to fill in. I do not side-plant petunias or calibrachoas.


Calibrachoas and petunias are great choices for sunny areas.  To get the plant height, choose petunia varieties that are described as mounding or semi-spreading with a mature size of 24".    Upright petunias will not produce enough side growth and trailing petunias will drape instead of producing the ball look.  For example, a Wave or Easy Wave petunia will not grow in a round form because they are trailing petunias, and you will lose the height in the middle of your display. Photo of Blue Easy Wave.

2012-04-29/Joannabanana/525e27 2012-04-29/Joannabanana/e5a1fa

Impatiens work well for a shaded area.  These plants are quite short, so side-planting them works well.  The photo shows the growth rate of the orange impatiens in a heavily shaded spot in May, June & August.


Potting up and maintaining your basket:


Line your coco/wire baskets with heavy plastic and be sure to punch holes for drainage.  These baskets dry out very quickly, and it will be difficult to maintain a consistent moisture level, so the plastic will help in reducing the moisture loss.  Keep baskets evenly moist, not saturated.  Calibrachoas are unforgiving should they become parched.

Use soil medium for containers.  My favourite is Premier Pro-Mix BX.  Add slow-release fertilizer approximately 1 inch below the soil level.  Keep in mind that slow release fertilizers don't release until temperatures are at least 20 C or 68 F.  If the temperatures are cool for a long period, you may want to supplement with a water-soluble bloom booster fertilizer.  My preferred slow-release fertilizer is Smartcote for Hanging Baskets 14-14-14.  In addition to using the slow-release fertilizer, I use the water-soluble fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks throughout the season.


2012-04-15/Joannabanana/15721d 2012-04-15/Joannabanana/1bd81b

Plant at least 8 plants into a 16-18" basket and 10 plants into a 20-22" basket.  Mulch your basket if you are starting with 4-inch bedding plants.  Mini bark mulch is economical and looks nice. This will protect the soil level from drying out from sun exposure.  If you are repotting a small hanging basket into a larger pot, don't pull apart the different plants.  Plant as one transplant.


Buy healthy plants. Baskets that have crashed (photo) will not recover to form a uniform ball.  If you cut back or shear off the plants, it will take about 6 weeks to 2 months to have a decent size again. This would be a waste of money even if it was 1/2 price.


You may need to water daily if the temperatures are warm and the basket is in full sun. Shade areas may require water 3 or 4 times per week.  The best way to tell is to stick your finger about half an inch into the soil.  If it feels dry, then water until the water drains.

 Big balls of colour are possible for your garden.  Start big and you will finish even bigger!


Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Wonderful info by KyWoods Aug 10, 2015 2:08 PM 42

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