Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
June, 2011
Regional Report

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I love the contrasting colors of the plants in this moss basket.

Create a Moss Basket

Moss baskets are beautiful, and while you can purchase them already planted, I think it's much more fun to create them from scratch. When you assemble your own, you can choose the plants that you like best. Here are a few suggestions for creating a personalized and spectacular moss basket:

First, choose a wire basket frame. These are generally available in sizes from 8 - 14 inches across, but you'll also find half baskets for hanging against walls. I've discovered that the larger the basket, the less often it requires watering.

Once you've chosen your frame, line it with a layer of burlap, coco-fiber or sphagnum moss. Place your liner in the bottom and up the sides of the basket, all the way to the rim. To help retain moisture you can cut a circle of plastic and place it over the liner in the bottom of the container, or you can attach a plastic tray to the outside bottom of the wire basket before you begin assembly.

I use moisture-control potting soil to fill my hanging baskets. These potting soils contain water retaining polymers which will swell up with water and release it slowly, helping hold moisture in the basket for long periods of time. This helps keep the basket from drying out too quickly in the hot summer sunshine.

Once the basket is ready to receive your plants, water the plants well to make sure the roots are well hydrated. This step will reduce transplant shock. When you're ready to plant, gently pull the wires apart, cut a hole in the liner, and poke the roots of the plant through the hole. Firm the potting soil around the roots and replace the liner, then bend the wires back the way they were.

As you work your way up the basket, add more lining and potting soil to the basket as necessary. You'll have room in the top of the container to plant a few more plants. I use trailing plants so they'll cascade down toward the ground, plus an upright plant or two to help add height and interest to the basket.

After planting, water the basket well to help the plants settle in. Be sure to water as often as necessary during the growing season.

Great Companion Plants
Before you purchase plants, decide where you'll be placing your moss basket. Is it sunny, shady, or a little of both? A sunny area is generally defined as one receiving 6 or more hours of direct sunshine. Afternoon sun is more intense than morning sunshine. If this describes your site, choose heat-loving, sun loving plants such as geraniums, petunias, or portulaca (trailing moss rose). For morning sun but afternoon shade, fuchsias or trailing begonias are good choices. A shady site is one without direct sunlight. For these sites you can include trailing campanula, polka dot plant, and dracaena in your basket.

A plant combination I especially like includes an upright geranium placed in the top center of the basket, two ivy geraniums in opposite corners and two trailing licorice plants (Helichrysum petiolare) in the remaining corners. Along the sides of the basket I plant trailing lobelia, Kenilworth ivy and bacopa. This combination of leaf shapes and sizes, along with contrasting flower colors with different bloom times makes it an outstanding focal point on my front porch.

On-Going Care
There are only three steps to maintaining your hanging basket; watering, feeding, and deadheading. A hanging basket can require daily watering, depending upon weather, so be sure to check the soil moisture by sticking your finger down into the potting soil. The first inch should feel dry to the touch and the rest should feel moist. If the soil is dry, water thoroughly until the water runs out the bottom of the basket.

I feed the plants in my hanging baskets every other week with a water-soluble liquid fertilizer. I mix two tablespoons of fertilizer into a gallon of water and use this to water my baskets. While I'm feeding I gently pinch off any faded flowers to promote more blooms.

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