Time to check on those hanging baskets and container gardens | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

Near the end of July you may notice your hanging baskets and container gardens fading a bit. This could be because the roots have filled up all the space in the container so the pots now need a lot more water.

Most hanging baskets will need water every day by mid-summer, sometimes twice a day if the weather is very warm.

You should also dead head and remove all the faded blooms and if you have not been fertilizing every few weeks, now is the time to mix up a water soluble plant food and give your bloomers a shot of nutrients.

Q. I love your show Dig In Seattle on TV. You showed a really interesting plant with long strands of red flowers and it had a very unusual name that I have somehow forgotten. Do you know what plant I am asking about? L.M., Enumclaw

A. First, thanks for watching the show. That plant was the romantically inspired “Love Lies Bleeding” because those unusual flower clusters drip down from the center of the plant. It is also called the “chenille plant” because of the fuzzy texture and “summer poinsettia” due to the deep red color.

Some plants have many different common names so this is why you should look for the seeds by using the Latin name Amaranthus.  Follow the instructions on the seed pack and you’ll be able to grow this ancient edible plant in your own garden with little problems.

Q. I know I am supposed to dead head or remove the faded blooms from my hanging basket but what about the tiny flowers from plants like lobelia? Do I really have to cut off all those spent flowers? J.P., Buckley

A. No worries, most plants with small blooms will be self-cleaning and the faded petals will fall on their own. Fuchsias are an example of a plant that will produce more blooms if you remove the flower and the fat green seed pot just behind the bloom.

If you leave these pods on the plant they will darken as they begin to ripen the seed inside and this saps the energy of the plant so that flower production slows down. Fuchsias prefer a balanced plant food with the numbers 20-20-20 on the label to keep pumping out maximum flowers.

Q. Is it true that you should never fertilize a plant with dry soil? I am supposed to water the plants for my neighbors while they are on vacation. W.H., Enumclaw

A. Drink before food is the general rule of green thumb because a plant suffering from drought and looking a bit wilted can suck in the fertilizer water so fast that the tips of the leaves can turn brown or burn. To really pamper your potted plants give them just a tiny pinch of plant food mixed into a watering can every time you water. The easy way to keep nutrient levels constant for potted plants is to use a slow-release plant food.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from WSU, is the author of a dozen garden books and the host of Dig In Seattle TV show about gardening and cooking. She can be reached at

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