COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Check these “threes” during April’s end

By Marianne Binetti

The fourth week of April means color, color, everywhere. This is the time when nurseries and garden centers load up on hanging baskets and container gardens, geraniums and bedding plants. Buy now while the selection is at its best but only if you can cover or bring your hanging beauties indoors if a cold night threatens.

Now stop and think before you adopt a colorful container garden or lush hanging basket. Where will it go? Some plants like ivy geraniums need a lot of sun and heat to bloom at their best. Others, like shade-loving fuchsias, will burn and fade in anything but gentle morning sun. You don’t need to take notes or trust your memory about what grows best where. Just read the label that now comes with every hanging basket. It will tell you if the plants prefer sun or shade.

Three Rules for Happy Hanging Baskets

1 – Water when the top inch of soil feels dry. This means maybe twice a week when it is cool but twice a day when the weather is hot. There is no set rule. Feel the soil.

2 – Fertilize at least once a month. I add Osmocote, a slow-release fertilizer, to all my potted plants but then I give hanging baskets an extra shot of MiracleGro or similar liquid plant food once a month all summer long. Hanging baskets are hungry.

3 – Get picky and deadhead. This means you need to occasionally remove the faded blooms and seed pods from the plants that have already bloomed. Once you let an annual plant make seeds it figures its work is done and stops making new flowers. Pick off faded flowers, get snippy with leggy growth and prune away any dead or broken branches.

Three New Plants to Look For Now

Superbells Calibrachoa: This new variety comes in different colors including yellow, lavender, apricot and red. Calibrachoa look like mini-petunias and the flowers cover the plants, forming masses of blooming color. The compact growth habit means you won’t need to pinch and prune these hanging baskets to keep them tidy. They like full sun.

Garden Gossip: In my garden the calibrachoas bloom from April until October but tend to rot if planted into the damp ground. They all do great in containers and hanging baskets but don‘t let them dry out or forget to fertilize.

Diascia “Flirtation”: Fall in love with “Flirtation” in either the bright orange or soft pink and you’ll have constant color all summer long and into the fall. These new plants are perfect for our cool summer weather as they actually bloom better when the nights are cool. If you can find individual potted plants, put them into mixed containers now as they can handle cool nights. Diascias also come in red, coral and deep lavender under the name “Flying Colors.”

Garden Gossip: The old-fashion common name for this plant was “twin spurs’ and if you look behind each little flower you’ll see why. There are two tiny “spurs” sticking out the backside of each bloom.

Diamond Frost Euphorbia: A true original and the most exciting new development for lazy gardeners since drip irrigation. The plant forms a mass of airy, white blooms that look like baby’s breath but survive hot days, rain storms, wind storms and forgetful gardeners that occasionally skip a watering. Just three plants of Diamond Frost will fill a pot to overflowing and you never need to pinch or deadhead this hardy annual to keep it pumping out the blooms. Diamond Frost is the perfect companion plant for mixed baskets as the delicate white flowers act like a lace curtain to complement all other plants. Use it at the base of evergreen shrubs and you’ll give a boring evergreen a pretty petticoat of white blooms. Highlight a fancy pot with just one plant and you’ll make a classy statement. You can even plant a row of Diamond Frost Euphorbia in the front of a border for a blooming white hedge of color all summer long.

Garden Gossip: I can’t think of anything nasty to say about this hard-working, heavy-blooming new plant. Dirt cheap gardeners can even break off pieces of this euphorbia, remove the lowest leaves and poke the stem into moist soil. The new cutting will root and make another plant. Euphorbia Diamond Frost does need some sun to perform best but I grew this little jewel in partial shade last summer and had wonderful results. Diamond Frost is a gardener’s best friend.

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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

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