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Expert Advice: How to Grow Beautiful Fuchsias
 

From Ron Monnier
Monnier’s Country Gardens LLC
Woodburn, Oregon
www.monnierscountrygardens.com

 

Fuchsias are heavy feeders. To maintain growth and flowering, continuous availability of fertilizer is a must. There are various strategies to accomplish this. Most growers of containerized plants will continuously feed, introducing fertilizer to the container with every watering. The rate homeowners use is 1 teaspoon per gallon of water.

Most homeowners will feed once a week, watering with clear water in between. The rate for once per week feeding is typically ½ to 1 Tablespoon per gallon of water.

Others will use a slow release fertilizer incorporated or topdressed in their container plants. Some will feel that intermediate feedings with liquid are necessary and will use 1 teaspoon to 1/2 Tablespoon per gallon of water applied as needed.

In all cases the user applies enough of the solution that it drips out the bottom of the container, NOT Gush. Typically that would be 2-3 cups of solution per 10-12 inch basket. It’s said a lot that one shouldn’t fertilize a dry plant. That’s probably true if the plant is so dry that it’s limp. One should water their plants when they are on the dry side, but if you are liquid feeding, why would you want to water the plant first?

Fuchsias have a growth habit proportional to the amount of light they receive. Feeding will help grow large plants that bloom prolifically. To have the huge fluffy plants, grow under shade. The more light the fuchsias are given, the shorter the internode will be. Plants in bright conditions will be tight bushes as opposed to the long flowing plants that are grown in the shade.

Most people think of fuchsias as being container plants that have to grow in the shade. The idea is a misconception in the Northwest where they grow “no mutz/no putz” when ground planted in the full sun. The problem with fuchsias isn’t necessarily that they are sun fried in the sun as much as that they do not like to have their roots get hot and dry out.

With the premise that fuchsias don’t like hot feet, there are strategies that can help gardeners grow their container fuchsias through the summer. What most people do is grow the plant totally in the shade. If a gardener doesn’t have a fully shaded area, then one just needs to shade the pot. There are those that will have their container fuchsia on their deck, surrounded by other heat tolerant plants, like geraniums. The sun heats up the geranium pot but the fuchsia remains shaded.

Another strategy is to plant in a container that isn’t as prone to heating. Plastic heats up bad. Concrete, clay, and wood moderate the temperature better than plastic. Pulp pots and moss baskets are great because of their evaporative qualities.

Fuchsias don’t like their roots to dry out. The soil should always be damp but not wet. The container type has a lot to do with watering. Plastic pots can hold their water pretty good. Concrete, clay, and wood should be checked twice a day when it’s hot. Pulp pots and moss baskets consume a lot of water and should be checked frequently.

Fuchsias abhor wet feet almost as much as dry feet. Some people like to put their container plants in a bowl of water through a hot spell. This can work if one is out of town for a couple of days, but should be strictly avoided for any length of time.

Root balls on plants that are hanging will heat up to the surrounding air temperature. When daytime temperatures exceed 90 degrees, it’s not a bad idea to set the plants down on the ground in the shade, so the root ball temperature is moderated by the ground temperature.

Here in the Northwest, the big thing is the “Hardy Fuchsia.” People are tired of putzing with the container plants. Gardeners want to be able to plant their fuchsias and expect that they will come back from one year to the next.

The first thing to know about fuchsias is that they are herbaceous perennials. Given a freeze, they will die back to ground level, regenerating the next spring from the below ground part of the plant. There are plants with different degrees of hardiness; from the “can’t kill them with a stick” type, to the ones that have a will to die when it gets below 40 degrees. By planting deep, like a tomato, and adding mulch in the winter time one can successfully grow some of the marginally hardy varieties.

There is a lot of noise made about winter hardiness in fuchsias. Most of the talk is concentrated on cold hardiness. Experience has shown that way more plants are lost in the Willamette Valley during wet winters than cold dry ones.

When planting, by far the most important thing to consider is drainage. Raised beds improve any slow draining soil. Fuchsias love organic matter. When planting your fuchsia in the ground add organic matter and fertilizer. I recommend planting the fuchsia 4-6 inches deep. I amend the soil in the planting hole with ¼ cup 16-16-16 and 1-2 cups alfalfa pellets (or any good source of organic matter). Half of the fertilizer and organic matter are mixed in the bottom of the hole. The remaining fertilizer and organic matter are thoroughly mixed in the backfill. Loose well draining mulch should be applied after planting.

A fertilizer program should begin within 4-6 weeks of planting. The last fertilizer should be applied prior to mid August. Fuchsias planted after mid-August would only get their pre-plant fertilizer and not be fertilized again until the following spring.

After the first frost or before the first hard freeze, loose well draining mulch should be pulled up around the base of the fuchsia to a depth of 4-6 inches. This acts as insulation, helping to keep the crown from freezing. Fuchsias can be cut back any time after frost has knocked the plant back and before the first of March. If there hasn’t been a freeze sufficient to knock back the fuchsia, then it’s still a good idea to remove half of the bulk of the plant. Fuchsias bloom on new wood and will generate more new wood on a pruned plant than non-pruned.

Fuchsias will start growing in the Willamette Valley around the 1st of March +/- depending on the weather. The insulating mulch layer should be removed at that time. Fuchsias are heavy feeders. The come out of the ground hungry. I recommend the first fertilization no later than Mar 15-April 1. All purpose fertilizer like 16-16-16 should be applied every 4-6 weeks, the last application occurring around mid-August. Organic and/or slow release fertilizer as per instructions but typically one application early and the other late May or June 1. It’s hard to recommend water soluble as a sole means of fertilization on fuchsias in the ground because no one will make applications until the ground dries out. Those that do should be making applications weekly through the end of August.


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