Root Rot or Damping Off
Most fuchsia growers will have been distressed to find a once-thriving plant suddenly looking wilted in a heavy well-watered pot. If the plant is taken out of the pot the roots will look sick and brownish black, and the fine root hairs have died – root rot! At times only one or more branches are affected.
The cause is far from clear – overwatering over a period of time with consequent drowning of the roots is common; roots do require oxygen. The statement that more fuchsias die of overwatering than under watering is true.
A small plant in a large pot is at greater risk, as it is unable to take up all the water given – always water for the size of the plant and NOT the size of the pot! Rooted cuttings potted up into their first small pot are most vulnerable.
A variety of scavenger fungi normally present in soil may play a role. The damage done is often irreversible – taking the root ball out of the pot and placing it on newspaper to dry it out may help, but usually the plant does not survive.
Preventive measures include ensuring a good root system before potting up cuttings, using well-draining compost (with coarse river sand or vermiculite/perlite) and NOT overwatering!
It is often best to take cuttings immediately and let them recover by soaking in water for a few hours before rooting. Fungicides are not effective.