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Fuchsia: A Shade Lover

From spring to fall, fuchsias produce dozens of brightly colored dangling, teardrop-shaped, single or double flowers from trailing stems, and they do so in the kind of shady conditions where most plants struggle. Fuchsias are a fabulous staple for hanging baskets with their elegant, drooping flowers hanging down like so many crystals on a fancy chandelier. Whether planting a fuchsia in outdoor containers or directly in the garden, wait until the weather is consistently above 50 degrees F all night before planting—these plants are very sensitive to cold. They have a moderate growth rate of one to two feet in a year.

A welcome benefit to growing fuchsia is their attraction to hummingbirds; install a hanging basket filled with fuchsia and keep watch for hummingbirds to arrive.

Care
The Fuchsia genus contains more than 100 woody shrubs and trees, but the familiar garden fuchsia widely available in garden centers are mostly hybrids ideal for hanging baskets and other containers. While these plants can be perennial garden plants in warm climates, fuchsias are usually grown as outdoor container plants, either planted as annuals and discarded as the weather turns cold or brought indoors and nursed in bright light and controlled conditions over the winter.

Though slightly fussy about moisture and temperature, fuchsias are still considered an easy plant to grow in container gardens. Most will thrive in part shade to full shade. They don’t like to be too hot, and they especially hate dry heat. With the right watering regimen and humidity levels, these plants become fairly easy to care for.

Light
These plants thrive in part shade to deep shade conditions. When growing indoors, they enjoy a bit more light—bright indirect light rather than direct sunlight.

Soil
Fuchsia plants prefer consistently moist (but not soggy) soil with a good ratio of organic matter. At the same time, the soil should be well-draining. For in-ground plants, amending with peat moss or compost before planting is a good idea. Container plants do fine in an ordinary peat-based potting mix, provided the pot has good drainage.

Water
Fuchsias like to be moist but not soggy. They thrive in humidity, so if you live somewhere dry, they are a little more challenging to grow and keep hydrated.

Temperature & Humidity
Fuchsias are happiest with temperatures between 55 and 80 degrees F, though some heat-tolerant cultivars will keep their blooms up to 90 degrees F. There are also a few shrub-like varieties that are hardy in freezing temperatures.

Fuchsias thrive in humidity, so if you live in a dry climate, you might have to mist your plants to keep them sufficiently moist. Keeping these plants happy indoors through the dry months of winter can be challenging because you’ll need to run a humidifier to keep the space from becoming overly dry.

Fertilizer
During the blooming season, fuchsias have a huge appetite, so you have to feed them regularly with diluted liquid fertilizer. A combination of fish emulsion and seaweed can work well.

Types of Fuchsia
The fuchsia cultivars most often used for garden containers are divided into those that have upright growth habits, which are best for large containers and those with trailing habits, which are best for hanging baskets. Many dozens of different cultivars are available, and your choice depends on what you prefer for flower color and growth habits. Consider these good choices:

  • ‘Swingtime’ is a trailing variety with ruffled white inner petals surrounded by bright red outer sepals.
  • ‘Army Nurse’ is a shrubby, upright variety with purple flower petals surrounded by red sepals. It works well in large pots or as a garden plant.
  • ‘Rapunzel’ is a trailing variety with purple and pinkish-white flowers. Its stems can trail as much as two feet.
  • ‘Phyllis’ is an upright variety, with deep red petals surrounded by lighter rose-red sepals.

Pruning
Regular pruning can keep a fuchsia plant vibrant with blooms. It’s also okay to prune back drastically. It will rebound nonetheless and be better for it. For trailing fuchsia, remove thin or brittle growth at any time. Bushy perennial fuchsia would benefit from a light trim in the early fall and spring to clean up any dead stems.

Potting & Repotting
Fuchsias look lovely in a pot on their own but also pair well with complementary or contrasting colors. Display them with oxalis, angel wing begonias, lobelia, or coleus.

Choose a 12- to-16-inch pot, depending on the size of the plant. You want a container one size larger than what it resided in at the nursery. Or, if you’re combining smaller plants into one container, two or three specimen plants from four-inch pots can live comfortably in a 10- or 12-inch pot. Here are tips on repotting fuchsia:

  • Susceptible to root rot, fuchsia requires a fast-draining potting soil and very good drainage, so make sure that containers have adequate drainage holes and potting medium drains well.
  • To avoid losing soil through drainage holes when you water, place some plastic screening over the holes first before filling the container with soil.
  • Allow space between the top of the container and the soil line. Don’t fill the pot to the rim with soil.

Overwintering
Many gardeners discard their potted fuchsia plants as winter approaches. Some gardeners try to keep potted plants growing indoors over the winter, but growing fuchsia requires a humid environment to be successful. Another strategy is simply to cut them back to a few inches and place them in a dark, dry corner for the winter. Water only enough to keep the soil from becoming bone dry. In the spring, bring them back outdoors, where they usually recover.

Common Pests
Fuchsia plants are susceptible to aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. These can be especially troublesome when you bring plants indoors for the winter. Insecticidal soaps are the best option for controlling these insects.

How to Get Fuchsia to Bloom
Remember that fuchsia flowers on only new growth. The moment a flower begins to fade, pinch it back to allow for new growth. In most cases, you’ll be rewarded with a new, vibrant flower in a matter of weeks. Fuchsia can rebloom in a single season if you keep on top of pinching back the flowers when necessary. If you don’t see new flowers within six weeks of pinching back, cut that stem back even further to the first strong node and allow it more time to grow.

FAQ

  • How long can a fuchsia plant live?

    That depends on the variety. Some are perennials that can come back year after year, while others are planted as annuals. Fuchsias grown as shrubs can live for several years with the proper care.

  • Can fuchsia grow indoors?

    It is possible to grow them indoors and it is suggested as a way to overwinter plants you hope to keep going into the following season. However, keep in mind that they need plenty of indirect light at the proper temperature and humidity levels, which might make growing them inside a bit challenging.

  • How fast does fuchsia grow?

    These plants have a growth rate of one to two feet per year. However, keep in mind that you’ll be pinching back the stems to create more blossoms, so it’s unlikely your overall plant will grow that much in a year.

Information courtesy of TheSpruce.com

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