Fuchsia Plant Care

Lest some of you think I am indulging in slang when I suggest Fuchsias are real Cool!, let me assure you… I mean it literally; if they aren’t cool – they’re dead.

So if you want these fabulous beauties in your window garden, first be sure you can supply the very cool conditions they require through fall and winter.

Fuchsias have discouraged more indoor gardeners than any other plant with the possible exception of gardenias, yet they are the “growingest” plants I have ever had.

So if you can keep them cool, here are a few tips to help you the rest of the way. And if you just don’t have a cool spot in your home, porch, patio or breezeway, you might as well quit reading this article right now, because nothing I’ve got to say can help you.

The Ladies Eardrops

Fuchsias, or Ladies’ Eardrops, as they have often been called, were first introduced into Great Britain from Chile about 1788.

At the height of their early popularity less than a hundred years later, there were 541 known species and varieties; today we have between 3,000 to 5,000 species and cultivars.

Most of the ones commonly grown came from Fuchsia magellancia, the original introduction.

These plants are shrubs or small trees, with neat, small foliage, and may be grown in various shapes. The tall sturdy sorts are usually allowed to develop a bushy shape, but many growers train these into standards or pyramid form.

a parade of fuchsia color with hanging flowers

The weaker-stemmed, low-growing types are ideal for trailing from baskets or shelves, and in my opinion display their blossoms to better advantage than the upright plants.

The flowers of all fuchsias are very showy, usually pendulous, and arise singly or in clusters from the leaf-axils.

They are in shades of red and purple or combinations of these, and often have some parts pure white. The long tube terminates in four reflexed or spreading lobes, exposing the petals (four, five, or more), with the stamens and stigma extending out from these.

Fuchsia Varieties

In fuchsias, one can have many color combinations in either single or double form. Don’t start with large, well-established plants if you want them to adjust to your indoor conditions and be amenable to training.

Get small ones no more than five joints tall, and begin at once the business of shaping the plants into the form you prefer.

Shift the plants to larger pots as necessary, using pots two inches larger each shift. Pot in a soil composed of peat moss, vermiculite, potting soil and coarse sand.

When the plants are finally established in the pot size you want them to flower in, use a liquid plant food in place of every third watering, fuchsias are heavy feeders, and soon spindle out unattractively unless kept well fed.

Winter Care

To keep your old plants through the winter, place them in a very cold but frost-free spot, and from October through December give them only enough water to keep the wood from shriveling.

Then in January move them to a minimum temperature of 50 degrees, and give more water. As soon as all the live “eyes” can be located, trim the plants to shape and remove all dead wood.

Next step – turn them out of the pots, wash all the soil from the roots, and repot in the same size pot using fresh soil.

Increase the amount of water given as the plants require it, pinch two or three times before the end of May, and either shift to larger pots when necessary or begin supplemental feeding when roots have filled the soil.

Plants may also be started from seed in January or February, if you have facilities for seed-starting.

If you prefer to start from cuttings, you can take soft green wood ones in February or March or take them in August from plants which have summered outdoors.

The best cuttings are from suckers which start up from the base of the plants, and should be about three inches long.

Add more sand to the potting soil to start them in, give them shade, a temperature no less than 60 degrees, and spray them lightly if they show signs of wilting.

After they are well rooted, handle them as you would newly purchased small plants. Now that you know all about how to start fuchsias, let’s consider how you will keep the plants going.

close up of a fuchsia flower

First, of course, fuchsias need coolness above all else. They prefer that temperatures never go over 65 but they can stand higher ones providing the humidity is high, too.

I once had a plant that inadvertently got set outdoors in early spring and was forgotten until it burst into full bloom. As an experiment I left it where it was all summer, and despite almost full sunlight and hot days, it did remarkably well.

Mostly, I think, because the nights were cool and dewy, and during the daytime I showered it with the hose every time I got near it. However, best culture indoors requires that the plants be protected from hot sunlight.

Fuchsias Like Moisture

In addition to being heavy eaters, fuchsias are also thirsty plants. I usually keep mine in double pots, with sphagnum moss packed between them, by keeping the moss wet, I don’t have to water the plants quite as often.

On bright days, fuchsias enjoy being syringed with tepid water, I use quite a forcible spray in order to jar loose any insects that might be trying to get a foothold, because fuchsias are a favorite of all the more pesky pests, such as white fly and red spidermite.

It’s fairly easy to treat plants when they are defoliated, in late fall, but an ounce of prevention is worth any cure while the leaves are present.

If you provide your plants with ample root-room in rich, rough soil, feed and water them liberally, and keep them as cool as possible, your fuchsias will live for years and years, increasing all the time in – beauty as well as size.

As you learn to grow them successfully, you’ll want to have more and more of them.

Much as I like heat, and grateful as I am to the man who made central heating possible, I often wish I had a few more cool corners in my home… you can bet they’d be filled with pink and white fuchsias!

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