Greenhouse Plants for Hanging Baskets
Hanging baskets, suspended from the roof of your greenhouse, are an excellent answer to the eternal roblem of drindling shelf space in the greenhouse. And, in fact, many plants are seen at their best displayed in this way.
Do make sure, first of all, that your greenhouse roof will support the weight of your hanging baskets; remember that, after watering, a container may be very heavy. Hanging containers, and the type of plants put in them, should also be chosen in proportion to the size of the greenhouse and the height of the roof. Baskets over 25cm (10 in) in diameter are rarely suitable for the average 3 x 2.4m (10 x 8 ft) home greenhouse, especially when the roof is rather low.
Plastic-covered wire baskets are now readily available, also some non-drip designs. And for some plants, particularly orchids, wooden baskets made from hardwood timber slats (usually teak) make pleasing containers.
Be sure to hang them where you can water and tend to them easily, and where the drips will not fall on other plants.
Preparing the basket
Mesh baskets look much more attractive if lined with sphagnum moss with the mossy side facing out. Over this place a few pieces of polythene before filling up with potting compost. The polythene will prevent water draining too fast and compost drying out rapidly; but make a few slits in it to prevent waterlogging. In some cases a plastic lining should not be used — as with plants liking well-aerated compost (such as orchids and columneas) or when you want plants (usually bulbs) to grow out of the basket side through the moss itself.
Plants from seed
When it comes to filling the basket there are, for a start, several suitable plants that can be raised successfully from seed. Red or blue pendulous lobelias and Thunbergia alata (black-eyed Susan) are quick, easy and inexpensive to raise this way.
Thunbergia alata is really a climber, but you can use it effectively in baskets if you encourage the stems downwards by stapling them to the underneath of the basket as they grow. Easy from seed, too, is the lovely Campanula fragilis (not to be confused with the well-known C. isophylla that is similar but can only be grown from cuttings). However, C. fragilis will take about two years from seed to reach a size that will give a good display.
A little-known exotic lobelia with very largethat are a delightful shade of blue is Lobelia tenuior. It is, however, a little tender and is best not used for baskets that will be put outside during summer.
A charming foliage plant to grow from seed as an annual is Cardiospermum halicacabum (balloon vine). This, like thunbergia, is a climber, but it hangs well from suspended containers. Its small, graceful, vine-like leaves make an interesting change from the often-used Asparagus sprengeri. An additional attraction of the balloon vine is that it produces dainty, pale green, inflated seed capsules like those of physalis (Chinese lantern).
Striking flowers and foliage
One of the most impressive foliage plants for baskets is Cissus discolor, but it has the disadvantage of being deciduous in the average cool greenhouse. The foliage is gloriously coloured and marked and the plant should be given a container of its own. Well grown, it will hang down almost to the floor. In a cool greenhouse be careful to keep it on the dry side over winter.
Another good choice for baskets are columneas, although they need a winter minimum temperature of 10°C (50°F). According to species, columneas may have velvety or shiny foliage; but the flowers are all usually tubular and in showy shades of orange. Columneas are often a little ‘difficult’ since they demand a high humidity combined with a congenial temperature all year round. They also need an open compost made from fibrous peat and moss.
Among the best and (deservedly) most popular of basket plants are the ivy-leaved pelargoniums. As well as interesting foliage these plants have long-lasting flowers; these are produced freely from early summer (May) in the greenhouse, often continuing into the winter in frost-free conditions. There are many named varieties with single and double flowers in a wide range of colours. It is best to plant about three well-rooted cuttings to each 25cm (10 in) basket, but if plants have been saved and grown on from previous years only one may be needed.
Of similar merit are, although the flowers tend to come periodically or may be delayed, and the blossoms can be spoiled by bad weather if put outside. When choosing fuchsias try to get varieties especially suited to hanging; you will usually find this information in the growers’ catalogues. Varieties with extra long and large blooms, like Pink Flamingo and Mrs Rundle, and those derived from triphylla that have cascading clusters of long, tubular flowers usually in shades of rich salmon pink, look especially pleasing when viewed from below.
A similar effect is given by the pendulous begonias. These have quaint, tassel-like flowers in a selection of colours. Some bear masses of flowers shaped like their large-flowered counterparts, only these are small and pendulous. Various types can be found described in the back pages of ‘major’ seed catalogues where bulbs and other storage organs are listed. Although you get much quicker results from tubers, you can also grow them from seed, but this must be sown early in the year if you are to enjoy a long display throughout the summer.
Bulbs and tubers
Attractive bulbs for planting from early to mid autumn (August to September) are lachenalia (Cape cowslip) of which the best for baskets is Lachenalia bulbifera, usually listed in catalogues as Lachenalia pendula. Plant the bulbs through the sphagnum moss of the basket, omitting any plastic lining. You will need about 8cm (3 in) of space between each bulb; plant a few in the top of the basket as well. In the cool greenhouse a basket so planted will become a ‘ball’ of tubular flowers coloured red, yellow and purple, from mid winter (December) onwards.
An excitingto plant from (March) onwards is Gloriosa rothschildiana (glory lily). This is a climber, but can be most impressive if encouraged to hang over a suspended basket. Three tubers to each 25cm (10 in) basket give the best effect. The brilliant red and yellow flowers are like reflexed . This is a plant best confined to the greenhouse since it is liable to damage if put outside.
Plants for small baskets
Excellent for small baskets or similar hanging containers, and easy for the cool greenhouse is Rhipsalidopsis ( Schlumbergera) gaertneri (Easter cactus) that flowers in spring. Flowering from about mid winter to early spring (December to February) is the Christmas cactus Schlumbergera x buckleyi with magenta-coloured flowers. Schlumbergera truncata (crab cactus) comes in several colours, and is also winter flowering. All have a pendulous habit and quaint flowers shaped like Chinese pagodas. Cuttings root very rapidly and are often easy to beg from friends.
Good for small containers, too, is the dainty Streptocarpus saxorum (Cape primrose) with small velvety foliage and flowers like a miniature form of the giant-flowered, well-known hybrids. The stems are reddish and the blooms a violet colour. A winter minimum temperature of about 10°C (50°F) is needed.