Fuchsias are beautiful plants with reddish to pinkish purple color that are commonly grown as shrubs, in hanging baskets, and sometimes as small trees. The fuchsia plant was first discovered in the Caribbean and a vast majority are grown in South America. It requires subtropical or tropical conditions to flourish. Fuchsia care requires conditions that mimic such tropical conditions. Those who live in subtropical or tropical regions will have few problems growing fuchsias outdoors year around. A few varieties can handle freezing temperatures such as 'Molonae' and 'Neon Tricolor.' Always research how cold hardy a plant is before planting outside. The overwintering process is essential for container grown fuchsias that reside in regions that experience cold winters.
The flowers of the Fuchsia are very decorative with a teardrop shape. The flowers may bloom from summer until autumn. Tropical species may continue to bloom if kept warm inside during the winter. Fuchsias have four long, slender sepals and four shorter, broader petals. There are many varieties that offer many different combinations of colors and shades.
Fuchsias also have hummingbird and insect interest. Hummingbirds are attracted to the bright flowers and will visit them frequently once discovered. Placing a hummingbird feeder next to fuchsias and other reddish colored flowers will keep hummingbirds returning all season. Bees also enjoy fuchsias and can be found buzzing around the flowers.
Sunlight Requirements for Fuchsias
Most varieties of fuchsias do not like direct sunlight, but a few do not mind it. Morning sun, semi-shady, or a shady location suits many fuchsias. Too much sun will cause the foliage to burn and blooms will be suppressed. WIlting is a precursor to sunburn and watering needs to occur once slight wilting begins to show. Repeated wilting stresses the plant and can be avoided with diligent watering.
Fuchsias in hanging baskets are very susceptible to sun and heat damage, because the container and soil will become hot and cause damage to the roots. Hanging baskets and container grown fuchsias require diligent watering as well.
Fuchsias prefer soil that is constantly moist. The keyword is "moist." Saturated and waterlogged soil will promote disease and root rot. Watering should occur enough to keep the soil slightly moist at all times. Thorough watering is recommended to ensure the entire root zone has been wetted. Most plants respond much better to a single, heavy watering from time to time compared to a little bit every day or so. Fuchsias may need watering every day or so during the hot summer months, though.
Sometimes a crust will form on the soil in a container which prevents water from penetrating the soil. The crust will cause water to roll off and down the side of the container. Break up the crust with a fork, stick, or anything capable of puncturing the crust. The best method to estimate when to water containers is by feeling the weight of the container before and after a thorough watering. Poking a finger into the soil to test for moisture will only test the upper few inches of the container.
Soil for Fuchsias
As stated in the 'Watering Fuchsias' section, the soil needs to be moist at all times. A loamy soil is ideal for moisture and nutrient content. Loamy potting compost or peat-free multipurpose compost works well for container grown fuchsias.
Drainage is also key. Soil that is sandy will drain too quickly and nutrients will be leeched away from the plant after each watering. Clayey soil retains too much water when wet and will become hardened when dry. Sandy and clayey soils can be amended with organic matter, like compost and/or mulch. Clayey soils may require some perlite or sand to help facilitate drainage also. Waterlogged soil is prone to root rot and disease. Root rot causes discoloring of the foliage, poor appearance, and a pungent odor is emitted from the roots. If root rot is not corrected, the plant will ultimately die. Amend the soil and correct watering methods immediately to cure root rot.
Liquid Fertilizer Applications
Never fertilize a dry plant or apply excess fertilizer. Fertilizer burn is caused by excess and negligently applied fertilizer and symptoms appear as damage to the foliage and blooms. Always follow the directions on fertilizer containers, and always use less than recommended when in doubt. Water fuchsias thoroughly before fertilizing, then wait awhile for the water to be absorbed. A 20-20-20 NPK fertilizer is ideal, but all-purpose Miracle Gro works fine also. Fertilizing once a week using a very diluted solution allows fuchsias to flourish.
Slow-Release Granular Fertilizer
A granular slow-release fertilizer can be applied to the soil surface and provide a steady supply of nutrients. A 14-14-14 NPK slow-release fertilizer works great. A single tablespoon is plenty for a basket grown fuchsia. Apply a little more for larger containers and ground plantings. Liquid fertilizer applications can continue while using a slow-release granular fertilizer.
Leaf drop, frost, or cold temperatures will prompt overwintering to begin. The fuchsia will need to be cut back once brought inside for overwintering. The soft, green stems need to be removed, but the woody parts of the stems should be left alone. Cutting back to about 1/4 the fuchsia's size is a general rule-of-thumb. Leave the central leader stem intact when dealing with upright fuchsias.
Fuchsias need to be placed in a cool location indoors during the winter. A garage or porch works fine for overwintering. Most varieties need to remain a few degrees above freezing, so do not place the plants in too cold of an area. Do not introduce light or fertilizer to fuchsias during the overwintering period, and water only once or twice during the winter. The center of the root mass requires moisture but the edges can dry out.
Acclimate to Spring
Slowly acclimate fuchsias to the outdoor weather when spring arrives. Slowly increase watering as well. Remember to keep the plant protected from late frosts and cold spring temperatures during acclimation. The plant can be moved to its final destination once the threat of frost is over and daytime and nighttime temperatures remain relatively warm.