The Q&A Archives: Overwintering a Spindly Fuschia

Question: I bought a small fuschia this spring. It bloomed all summer, but never did get much bigger than when I bought it. I brought it in for the winter, but it looks so scrawny and spindly. I don't note any parasites.

Answer: You didn't say whether or not you fertilized the plant. Container plants need regular feedings since their roots can spread out to seek nutrients and frequent watering washes away some of the nutrients in the soil. Here?s some basic info on fertilizer and nutrients that plants require. The numbers on a fertilizer bag refer to the percentage of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorous), and K (potassium) in the bag. There are different formulations for different purposes. In general terms, nitrogen produces lush green growth, phosphorous helps strengthen stems and produce flowers, and potassium keeps the root system healthy. If you're applying fertilizer fruiting (e.g., tomatoes) or flowering plants, you're not as interested in the plant developing leaves as you are in it flowers and fruit, so you'd use a formulation lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous and potassium, such as a 5-10-10. Miracle-Gro's Plant Food at 15-30-15 is another example.

Also, spindly growth is often a sign of lack of light, as the plant is "reaching" towards the sun. Even though they're shade-loving plants, yours might benefit from some bright light (not direct sun). Fuschia will winter over indoors but probably won't bloom until spring. I hope this info helps!

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