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Updated : 21/9/2014

Fuschias

Fuchsias - growing successfully

Fuchsias come from South and Central America and a few from New Zealand. They were discovered by Father Charles Plumier early in the 18th century and named after Leonard Fuchs, a herbalist and holder of the chair of Medicine at Tubingen University in the 16th Century.

Fuchsias are easy to grow, give colour most of the year; very few diseases attack them and they have tremendous variety of colour and form.
They are outdoor plants and should not be kept indoors for more than three days. They need protection from hot direct mid-day sun and strong hot or cold winds. They grow in various shapes and forms and can be used in hanging baskets, in pots, as shrubs and standards; as climbers or espaliers on your patio or in your garden. They are ideal for shady gardens, and under trees.

Basic requirements

Air, light, water, food and growing medium.

  1.  Air circulation is important as a stuffy atmosphere can cause a heavy infestation of ghost fly.
  2.  Light is needed for them to flower well. Certain varieties will tolerate far more light than others and some like Fuchsias fulgens, Megalanika and Golden Treasure can even take full sun. Generally the smaller the blooms the more light tolerant.
  3. Water is most critical when growing fuchsias. They need to be kept moist and their water requirements increase in hot weather and during active growth. In winter and on cold days you should restrict the amount of water as over-watering at these times will cause defoliation. They dislike "wet feet" and need good drainage at all times. Roughly one should water daily in summer and weekly or less in winter.
  4. Feeding of fuchsias is most important and the response is an almost instantaeous spurt of growth and flowers. In the garden give a mulch of well-rotted kraal manure every three months and at the same time a dressing of 3:2:1 slow-release fertiliser. Give a weekly foliar feed spray during the growing season to fuchsias in the garden and in containers. 3:2:1 slow-release can also be applied to fuchsias in containers. They also benefit from a spring dressing of superphosphate mixed with compost.
  5. Growing medium must be rich, loose and well drained. If your soil is heavy add some coarse sand to lighten it and improve drainage. In the garden dig a hole 60cm x 60cm. Discard the sub-soil and mix the topsoil with equal amount of good pot-ting soil, adding 1/2 cup of superphosphate. You can also add some well-rotted kraal manure. Plant the fuchsias at the same height as it was in the container. Use a good potting soil with a bit of added superphosphate for planting fuchsias in containers and hanging baskets. Water well after planting.

Fuchsias need tender loving care

  1. Keep fuchsias neat and tidy. Remove all seed pods, faded blooms and yellow or damaged leaves, which would rot and cause disease. Removing seed pods will ensure that the plant keeps on flowering.
  2. In spring prune the plant back 2/3rds of the previous year's growth, in the first year and to within three nodes of the previous year's growth in the second year. The object is to create a strong framework and a good shape. Root pruning is also beneficial for older fuchsias. This is done by drawing a line round the drip line of the plant and inserting a spade to sever the roots. Thereafter prune the top.
  3. As soon as fuchsias start to shoot pinch out the growing tips when shoots are approximately 10 to 15cm long. This will cause them to branch and these branches in turn can also be pinched out. One can pinch out four or five times from the start of the growing season until approximately the middle of October when one should have a good compact shape. Then the shoots are left to grow out and flower, six to eight weeks after the last pinching. After flowering trim the tips to encourage another set of flowers.
  4. Fuchsias in containers and hanging baskets should be re-potted every two to three years and the roots trimmed at the same time, and the top pruned. Do this in spring.
  5. White fly or ghost fly can be troublesome with fuchsias. This is more prevalent in areas with poor circulation. Spray with an insecticide such as Garden Gun or Garden Ripcord making sure to spray the underside of the leaves. Repeat the spray after five days to catch any others that might have hatched and follow up with another two sprays.
  6. Red spider mite also appears on the underside of the leaves. A couple of good drenchings with a strong jet of water will generally drown them, otherwise use a spray such as Dursban, Redspiderspray and Redspidercide or Garden Gun.
  7. Fuchsia rust looks like a sprinkling of Cayenne pepper on the leaves and occurs in winter when humidity is high. Keep plants on the dry side in cold weather and spray with a fungicide (Bravo).
  8. Protect fuchsias in winter from severe cold and wind. This can be done with a grass wigwam with the north side left open for light and air. Move fuchsias in containers into a protected spot away from early morning sun and icy winds.

There are more than 5 000 varieties of fuchsias and more are being developed all the time. Nurseries usually have a good selection available from November onwards and then you can choose your plants and see them in full flower. They are such beautiful and versatile plants that the choice is not difficult, and one rarely has enough space for all the varieties one would like. In Portugal fuchsias are known as the "Queen's Earrings" and this is an excellent description.

PRUNING FUCHSIAS

Fuchsias should be pruned late in winter when all danger of frost is past. In warmer parts of the country, vigorous cultivars can be pruned more heavily.

First remove dead branches. They bore lots of flowers last season, but are now useless to the plant. Take out dead, wispy growth.
When the centre of the plant has been cleared out, remove badly crossing branches.
Now cut just above new, shooting buds. These shoots will quickly grow out when the plant is fed and watered. Fuchsia's only bear flowers on new, vigorous growth. 
Some branches have no visible new growth, but there are lots or dormant eyes.
Sap always pushes up to the topmost buds, so they'll grow out quickly to produce lots of flowers. Buds lower down the stem are backups..... if the top buds are damaged, the secondary buds take over.

It's important to look after the basal shoots. The pruning will encourage them to grow out, producing lots of strong healthy wood.

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