The Fuchsia is a very rewarding plant to grow. It flowers for a long period and grows in a wide range of positions. When choosing a plant, look for a bushy compact plant with healthy leaves and a strong root system.
Potting on from smaller containers.
A very small pot is a ‘throw away pot’ and as such the plant should be potted on as soon as possible. A basket variety needs a basket 350mm (14”) or bigger and an upright Fuchsia needs at least a pot of 250mm (10”).
A wire basket lined with coconut fibre is preferable to plastic as it keeps the root system cooler in the summer months and warmer in the winter, and pots with good drainage, either cement, terracotta or plastic, are best.
If you are planning to grow Fuchsias in the garden, autumn is the best time to be planting out as the weather is milder and the plant establishes itself well before the next summer.
To achieve the best results, Fuchsias need strong filtered light and plenty of fresh air, but protection from any harsh hot winds. An ideal area for Fuchsias can be created under a structure with medium grade shade-cloth. In an area with additional shade from trees or buildings use a light grade or light coloured shade-cloth
In the garden, Fuchsias can tolerate more light. The ideal position is where the plant enjoys morning sun and protection from strong afternoon sun.
Some Fuchsias, if established properly in the ground, will grow in full sun!
For basket varieties always use a premium potting mix that meets the Australian standards. For tubs, choose a free draining potting mix to prevent root rot. If you intent to plant in the garden, check that the area drains well and if needed, build up the area with a free draining compost based soil. Mulching the garden bed, especially in the summer months, helps to make clay soils more friable and free draining soils retain moisture.
Fuchsias require a constant supply of nutrient to grow healthy plants that flower for long periods. In containers, a well balanced controlled release fertiliser that lasts for at least six months is the most convenient way to ensure strong healthy growth. A supplement feed during the flowering period of complete fertilisers with higher potassium levels will help to improve the quality and quantity of blooms. In the garden, complete organic fertilisers used every three months provide adequate levels of nutrient.
Fuchsias can be trained to achieve a number of shapes and styles. When the plant is small, pinching out the growth tips after two sets of leaves will produce a bushy plant and in turn more flowers. Flowers will develop, depending on the variety and the time of year, 8 to 16 weeks after the last pinching.
Standards can be developed from a plant with one strong stem and removal of the side shoots as they develop. Do not remove the leaves from the main stem as the plant needs these to continue growing. When the desired height is reached, pinch out the growing tip, leaving up to 4 sets of side shoots below the pinch intact, and continue pruning the tips off the side shoots until a well shaped head is developed. Only remove the leaves from the stem when there are plenty of leaves on the head of the plant.
It is essential that Fuchsias not be allowed to dry out. Baskets tend to dry out quickly, so on hot windy days, water in the morning and place the basket in a cool position. If there are several days of hot weather, leave the baskets on the ground and hang up when the temperature cools down. Water baskets and pots before they dry out, this may be twice daily in very hot conditions, especially when the fuchsia is in full flower. Pruning the flowering portion of the fuchsia before the hottest weather will drastically reduce its water needs during this period.
Garden plants, once established in the ground will make use of ground water and need less additional water. Deep watering, more frequently in the summer, is sufficient.
A hard prune should always be done in July or August to maintain healthy growth. Take the plant back to just above the hard wood and remove straggly and weak growth. This is also the time to re-pot if the plant has outgrown its container. Pot into a larger container or root prune and re-pot into the same container, replenishing the soil.
A light trim prune in early January, or before the hottest weather, is ideal in areas with hot dry summers. The advantage of this trim is to have a smaller plant without flowers through the hottest months. Trim back behind the flowers to healthy leaves and shoots, making sure there are still plenty of leaves on the plant. The plant will only be out of flower for 4-6 weeks and will then flower through the autumn and winter.
In frost prone areas, be careful not to prune during the heaviest frost period as new shoots are tender and will burn. If plants are affected by frost, wait until the frosts are over before doing any pruning.
Pruning is also the time to fertilise as pruning encourages new growth and feeding is important for healthy plants.
Growing Fuchsias as winter annuals.
There are a number of large flowered Fuchsias that perform exceptionally well through the cooler months of the year but suffer in the hot weather. One way to grow these Fuchsias successfully is as annuals. A plant purchased in mid March will flower well, given a bright warm position through autumn, winter and spring. A suitable position for pots and baskets is in full morning sun or under polycarbonate sheeting.
There are several advantages of winter annual growing such as the use of smaller cheaper containers of any material; no need to do any pruning, little need to spray to control pests and watering is substantially reduced. Flowering is also better with larger flowers staying on the plant longer.