Tuberous begonias and fuchsias, with their fine fibrous roots, should not be allowed to dry out. Generally, they will need watering twice, perhaps three times, a day in very hot weather. If possible, arrange baskets on pulleys so they can be lowered easily for you to touch the soil and determine how much to water. Or keep a small ladder handy for this purpose.
For plants exposed to constant sun and wind, the pot-in-basket technique is helpful. This consists of placing a potted plant in a basket and surrounding it with peatmoss, which can be readily kept moist. You can do the same with clay or other solid-type baskets. Plants will remain moist much longer with this method.
Trailing house plants can be grown in hanging baskets, but most popular are the hanging types of geraniums, fuchsias, and tuberous begonias, which are discussed here in separate chapters.
The Graceful Achimenes
A favorite basket plant in the South is the delicate achimenes. With attractive, oval-shaped leaves and tubular flowers in violet, blue, pink, scarlet, and white, this relative of the gloxinias and African violets thrives through long, hot, humid summers. Some good varieties are the large-flowering Mauve Queen, the pale blue Adelaide and Cattleya, Pink Beauty, Purple King, and the white Jaureguina Maxima and Margaritae, also called Purity.
Achimenes is also well adapted to hanging baskets in the North, where it grows rapidly during the hot days of a shorter summer. Plants need an indoor start to insure early bloom. Start small, scaly, sprouting tubers in large pots or trays in March or April. If no growth is visible, spread the tubers on moist Vermiculite, sawdust, sphagnum moss, or screened peatmoss, and keep at 70 to 90 degrees F. until sprouts appear.
For a good starting medium, mix equal thirds of leaf-mold, peatmoss, and sharp sand. Scatter tubers over this and cover with one-quarter-inch of the mixture. Tubers thus started in flats or pots can be moved to permanent quarters when plants are one-half to two inches high.
Through this early growing period, keep moist but not wet at 70 to 75 degrees if possible.
You can also start achimenes in the baskets in which they will grow. Plant the sprouted tubers in a mixture of two parts leafmold, one part soil, one part peat, one-half part sharp sand and one quarter part sifted sphagnum. For each bushel of mixture, add a three-inch pot of dry manure and half this amount of bonemeal, and be certain you have sufficient drainage material at the bottom of the container. Plant five to six tubers in a six-inch hanging basket and ten to twelve in a twelve-inch basket or twenty to twenty-five in a sixteen-inch basket. A four-inch basket can accommodate three to five bulbs. When planting, keep tips pointed outward and cover with three-quarter-inch of soil.