GARDENING: Happy Mother’s Day

A little effort will keep your plant gifts looking beautiful.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms. Perhaps your children are celebrating the day with you and bought you a hanging basket or a beautiful container of flowers. Do you know how to take care of them?

When I teach about this topic, I always ask this question. I follow it up with the question, “What does this basket or container look like by July?” The audience always follows up with a chuckle or a head shake because most know that these gifts usually don’t look that great by the middle of the summer.

Let’s assume you got a beautiful basket or container, and you want to keep it looking good all season. Let’s also assume that the container has good drainage, and you don’t have to worry about water pooling in the container.

The soil that is in these containers is usually a soilless mix. This mix doesn’t have sand, silt and clay, the mineral elements that make up our soil. It contains a variety of organic matter such as peat moss, vermiculite, rice hulls, etc.

The purpose of this soilless mix is to provide a growing medium that is porous, allowing for good drainage and air space for plant root growth. It is lightweight so that it ships easily and can hang on a hook without bringing the house down!

However, it does not hold necessary plant nutrients to sustain plant growth all season. You need to add these nutrients periodically to keep the plants looking their best. And this doesn’t have to be difficult.

There are a variety of products on the market that can be used to fertilize your containers. There are slow-release granular products that you can apply once and it will last all season. There are liquids that can be used every time you water.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The most important item with fertilizer is to follow label instructions! Apply as recommended. On a side note, I usually cut back by half on fertilizer once we hit mid-summer when the plants look their best and I am not interested in pushing more growth. This keeps the plants looking good the rest of the season without encouraging a lot of growth.

Watering is also critical. I can’t tell you how often to water. That depends on where your container is in your landscape. If it’s hanging in the hot sun with wind exposure it will need watered more often, sometimes twice a day as the roots fill up the container. If it’s in the shade, it may not need watered as often.

Check often for pest problems. It’s a lot easier to manage a problem when you catch it early in the life cycle as opposed to a major outbreak.

Finally, as the plants grow, they may get a little leggy or need a little pruning. Don’t hesitate to cut plants back to encourage new growth.

Enjoy your new plants by keeping them healthy during the growing season.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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