Cultivation of Fuchsias
The following general notes are prepared to assist the new Fuchsia owner with the care and maintenance of their plants. Contrary to a commonly held perception fuchsias are not difficult to grow and, with a little care and attention, are the most rewarding of plants. There are over 20 000 different varieties, all with different colours, flowers, foliage, size, growth habit, and climatic preferences. As a result they could become an absorbing hobby. On the other hand, a well-selected fuchsia can simply be a delightful addition to any garden and patio.
Where can Fuchsias be grown?
Fuchsias may be grown in pots, baskets or in the ground, but they are not indoor plants. All fuchsias must have plenty of light. They must have sun as well as shade and the ideal conditions are under trees where they are in dappled sun and shade all day, or on the east side of your house where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. They will not do well in positions with direct afternoon sun which is generally too hot and dry for them. They prefer cool protected areas of the garden with a touch of humidity. Many dedicated fuchsia enthusiasts have shade houses that provide ideal conditions that are sheltered from the sun and wind.
Description of Flowers
The colour of fuchsias is highly variable and flowers are described as single, semi-double, double or triphylla depending on the number of petals. Fuchsias either grow in an upright (bush) or trailing (basket) manner. Selection for the garden should therefore be upright. The trailing cultivars are usually found already planted in baskets, as the cascading habit tends to cause the flowers to be damaged when planted in the conventional small pots. Large containers on patios can be planted with either upright or trailing varieties depending on the effect required. Can you imagine your fuchsia planted in a large pot surrounded by alyssum, begonias and lobelia!
Growing Rooted Cuttings
Fuchsias, like other plants, rarely grow into perfectly-shaped bushes on their own. They only flower on new growth and, if left with long lanky stems, will not produce many flowers. There are various ways of improving the shape by removing the growth point and forcing division of the branch. Nipping, stopping and pinching are terms used for this process. The more one improves the shape by nipping, the stronger the plant will become, i.e. the increased number of branches brings a bonus in the quantity of flowers that can be carried. However, it must be remembered that flowering only starts about eight weeks after the last stopping. Good quality plants will have been well shaped by the grower and will require little further attention in the first season, so make your selection of plants carefully.
Pruning Established Plants
Pruning is usually done in autumn and new cuttings are grown during the winter. In an area with regular frost, a partial prune is done in autumn with the definitive one being done in early spring, but this does not apply to most South African conditions.
In spring, when the danger of frost is past, fuchsias should be pruned by removing approximately 2/3 of the previous years’ growth. For best results, container plants such as baskets or pots should be taken out, root pruned, and re-potted in fresh potting soil. After that an occasional light pruning (usually in January) to remove straggly branches is all that is required for the rest of the season.
Fuchsias must have plenty of nourishment, so start the plant in good potting soil to which superphosphate or bone meal has been added. Maintaining a regular feeding program during the year will make all the difference to general growth and flowering. During spring use a high nitrogen fertilizer, changing to a more balanced feed in late spring to encourage the plant to begin producing flowers. Never apply a stronger mix than is recommended by the manufacturer.
Watering is important; fuchsias need to be watered regularly but do not like wet feet. Over watering causes as many problems as under watering. A very wet fuchsia will look as limp as a dry one – only the wetness of the soil will give you a clue. The golden rule about watering is to see that the soil in which your fuchsias are planted is moist. In winter they will require less water than in the heat of summer, but as baskets have air all around them, the evaporation is much greater and these should therefore be watered more frequently. Fuchsias in the ground would probably need a good soaking two or three times a week, and those in pots will differ and should be tested for moisture every day. Fuchsias like overhead sprays, especially in the dry heat – a fine nozzle on your hose gives a foliar spray that works wonders on those very hot, dry days.
Pests such as White Fly, Red Spider mite and Aphids are the main problems.
White fly is like a white aphid and when the plant is shaken, clouds of them fly out, thus earning the nickname ‘ghost fly’. They settle on the undersides of the leaves and cause them to look dusty and feel sticky. For the initial treatment, mix together ‘Whitefly insecticide’ (for the larval stages) and ‘Garden Ripcord’ (for the adult fly), plus a wetter – ‘G49’ at the recommended dosage. Spray again three days later using only the ‘Garden Ripcord’ and ‘G49’ so as to catch any flies that may have hatched since the first spray. Once you are rid of the infestation you can use ‘Whitefly Insecticide’ preventatively every 28 days.
Note: White fly proliferate in areas with poor air circulation.
Aphids cause the leaves to curl in a distorted fashion – use ‘Garden Ripcord’. The best results are achieved by alternating between different insecticides.
Red Spider mite can only just be seen with the naked eye; it looks like pepper sprinkled on the undersides of the leaves. Use ‘Red spidercide’ as directed.
‘Rosecare 3’ can be used preventatively against all the above, however for an infestation revert to the above.
Fortunately fuchsias do not suffer from many diseases. If you think your plants have a fungus, then it is almost certainly caused by bad drainage. Correct the drainage and you will cure the fuchsia. There is however a fungus disease called Rust, which looks like a brown spot on the upper surface of the leaf and it is accompanied by pale orange speckles (pustules) on the underside. Remove and burn the affected leaves and spray with ‘Funginex’.
Some marks on leaves could be caused by a diet deficiency. Should this occur, spray the leaves occasionally with a trace element mixture.
Fuchsias are not difficult to grow if you give them the right conditions and, provided they are well pruned, they will flower continuously from October to May.
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