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Fuchsia Flair (page 2 of 3)

by Joseph F. Williamson

Care During the Flowering Season

Throughout the five- to six-month blooming season, care for fuchsia plants intensively, and if the growing conditions are right, they'll repay you with abundant blooms.

  • Keep plants in a fairly shaded place (full shade for half the day or dappled shade all day).
  • Water daily if it's hot, every other day if it's not. The watering should moisten the roots as well as mist the environment.
  • Feed with a complete fertilizer every two to four weeks, or as frequently as the fertilizer label indicates.
  • Pinch off stem tips regularly to force side branching and keep the plant dense and bushy. After flowers fall, they usually leave fat reddish or brownish berries. Pick those regularly to encourage continuing bloom, but leave them on the plant if you'd like to sow fuchsia seeds (see next section).
  • Pests are usually not much of a problem. Nevertheless, keep an eye out for fuchsia gall mites, fuchsia rust (Pucciniastrum epilobii), whiteflies, and aphids. Spray with pesticide as needed. Overhead sprinkling can discourage pests.

How to Multiply Fuchsias

When fuchsia plants are growing well and you want more, they're easy to propagate. The most common method is to take tip cuttings (do it in October in mild climates, in late August in cold-winter climates). Cut off stem tips with four or five pairs of leaves, removing the bottom two pairs. Bury the stripped part in a mix of sand and peat moss. Put cuttings in light shade, and keep the growing medium damp.

In about six weeks, when roots have developed, move the cuttings into small pots. Pinch tips as they grow. Keep them in a freeze-protected place over the winter. Plant out the next year when danger of frost has passed.

The more difficult and more adventurous route (you get your own new varieties) is to sow seeds. Pick the ripe fruits that form at the bases of the fallen flowers. Cut them open, pick out the larger seeds, and sow them on the surface of a propagation mix. Then, follow instructions in any book on seed propagation of shrubs and trees. Collect seeds in the fall. Sow and grow in a heated greenhouse or just keep the seeds in a protected, not-too-dry place over the winter. Sow them in March (in California) or April (elsewhere) on a regular seed-starting mixture. You'll probably get vegetative growth (leaves and stems) the first year and flowering the second year.

Dormant-Season Pruning

If you keep a fuchsia over the winter, you should cut it back pretty hard in late winter or early spring. First, cut out all dead, broken, or weak growth. Then remove about as much growth on the remaining branches as formed the previous year. Cut back far enough to leave two or three pairs of buds on each branch base. (Fuchsia leaf stems and accompanying bud pairs always form in pairs.)

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