Glorious Fuchsias in Australia

The Growing of Fuchsias in Australia

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 The Glorious Fuchsia in Australia




Northwest Fuchsia Facts

Extracts from AHS Practical Guides: Fuchsias, by George Bartlett

Fuchsias, A Practical Step by Step Guide, by Carol Gubler

One thing is sure about planting hanging baskets and containers, and putting hardy fuchsias into the ground after all chance of frost is past: every person who grows fuchsias has their own variation on the basic themes. Most of the variables have to do with soil mix used and the additives to combat disease, fertilize the growing plants, and make the soil a pleasant place in which to grow hearty and healthy plants.

The Dirt About Soil Mixes

Fuchsias will grow in just about any type of soil mix, so long as they are kept moist and well drained (not wet) and well aerated. Soil directly from the garden is a poor choice, and often gives disappointing results. Peat based mixes are excellent; they are soft and extremely fibrous; they retain water and nutrients well. Mixtures of organic materials without peat are also available. These are made up of bark and other wood materials. Soil based mixes are rich in organic matter; free draining, and ensure good aeration of roots. They are heavier than the other types, and a good choice for hanging baskets or containers exposed to the elements and buffeted by winds.

Peat or organic based mixes are improved by the addition of grit, perlite,  or vermiculite, to improve drainage and add weight to keep baskets or pots from swinging or tipping in the winds. Our members are divided about the advantage of mixing water retaining gel into the soil. All agree that if gel is used, it is important to avoid overdoing it; too much can cause water logging, a very unfavourable environment for fuchsia roots. A slow release fertiliser such as osmocote, is an excellent way of ensuring that your plants receive an initial boost of vital nutrients. A liquid feed is used as well, during the growing life of the plant. Some vendors advocate their insecticidal products for addition. Mixing your own soil mixture in larger quantities or in each pot or basket as your plant your fuchsias is the most successful. Use this information to help you formulate your own recipe.

The Poop on Fertilisers  (Nitrogen: Phosphate: Potash)

Fuchsias require feeding during the growing season. Most fertiliser is provided either as a soil mix or top dress (Osmocote, Woodburn Perfection*) or as a liquid mixed with water (Peters*, Nulife Fushsia Food*, Oxygen Plus*). Follow the package directions when mixing fertilisers. Go with a light hand rather than a heavy hand. Increased dosages do not improve success, they may actually be harmful. Initially, a fertiliser high in nitrogen (the first number listed in the shorthand designation of fertiliser composition) such as 25:15:15, is beneficial. Fish fertiliser is a good choice for  the early season, high-nitrogen fertiliser. Later in the growing season, a more balanced fertiliser is best (20:20:20). Members who plan to show their plants sometimes begin fertilising to encourage blooms later in the growing season, with a mixture that has a high potash (third number) content, such as 15:15:30. Get the benefit of experience. Ask other members who have been growing and experimenting with fuchsia culture for a long time what works for them.

Planting in the Final Container

Once your plants are well rooted in 4" pots (or 3" pots, if you are daring), you can plan how you will distribute them into their final containers for the show, for your garden, your deck, your porch or patio. Of course, you have done some thinking and planning about this already, and you have the various baskets, pots and other containers you will need ready and cleaned. Do not pot up a plant until the roots are well established in the existing potting mixture, and never pot up a plant in full flower. Do not pot up a stressed plant (one in full sun, too wet or too dry). After you pot up a plant, place it into a cool, shady spot to recover.

Put a modest amount of potting soil into the bottom of the pot or basket. Varying the amount enables you to lower or raise the plant in the container. (Dropping the plant in the pot allows you to hide any bare lower stems, and in some varieties may encourage  the plant to also bring shoots from below the soil) Add osmocote or other fertiliser additive that is a soil mix type to this soil and mix. Carefully remove the plant(s) from the current 4" containers, and position in the new container with their roots somewhat spread out. For hanging baskets, position the plants around the edge of the pot, and ideally place one in the centre, to fill out the basket. Look at the direction of growth of the branches, and position each plant to obtain maximum coverage of the container, especially with hanging baskets or half baskets. Gently ease soil around the plants, maintaining their positioning. Press the soil down gently to remove air pockets. Do not compress tightly. Label your plants/containers. Water to dampness. Spray an insecticide, if desired, and place the plant in a shady location to recover.

If you are pushing the envelope for weather, keep an eye out to move plants if an especially cold and/or wet day should appear. Once established in their new containers, move the plants proudly to the location that you have chosen to give them protection, the right amount of sun/shade, and the opportunity for you to enjoy them. Sit back, put your feet up, and admire.

Meanwhile, prepare yourself mentally for the ongoing maintenance of the plants: water, fertilise, turning, pinching, monitoring for pests or other problems, and treating any problems that might arise. YOU ARE A GARDENER.

NEW!! Pruning Fuchsias in Containers

South African Fuchsia Fanfare May 1982


A good yearly pruning is one of the essentials of good fuchsia culture and it is amazing what can be done in training and shaping a plant with a little attention to proper pruning. The way a fuchsia is pruned depends on the part of the country in which you live. All fuchsias growing in containers should be placed where there is a minimum danger of frost. The plants in the garden should be as well protected as possible.  Heap dry leaves and grass around them to protect the roots and as much of the plant as possible. Stakes may be driven in around cherished specimens and a double layer of shade cloth can be fastened around for the nights and removed during the days. No pruning should be done until all danger of frost is over.


In frost-free areas, plants may be pruned from May onwards and many growers prune at rose pruning time for convenience and, of course, there is a great similarity in the pruning of these flowers. For all types of fuchsias, the best advice is to cut them back hard, lopping off a good two-thirds of the plant's last year's growth. First, cut out any dead branches  and any twiggy growth. The long, stringy branches of last year's growth (which is the smooth brown wood) must be cut back to the second node. Unless this is done, the plant will get unsightly with old wood and bare areas at the base and throughout its framework. The attractive prize winning fuchsias are the ones covered with lush green leaves, with no main branches showing through the foliage.


If you do not prune your fuchsias at all, next season's growth will take place at the end of all your old, long branches and you will have an untidy plant, with few flowers, that is guaranteed to put you off fuchsias forever! After the initial pruning your fuchsias should have a good, well-shaped framework of the healthy branches. Satisfy yourself that it is the shape you want (bush, standard, fan, espalier, etc) and that you have not left any branches that will grow at an angle that will spoil the shape.


The new growth will usually start to show within two to three weeks. After this new growth has developed 2 or 3 sets of  leaves, pinch out the tip. Some fuchsia growers allow three sets of leaves to grow and then pinch out the top pair; others prefer to pinch after two sets as they feel that this closer pinching produces a more compact, bushier plant.


This tip pruning will force two more branches to sprout at the top set of the remaining leaves. Continue this pinching method until you have good, full growth of many branches. If you do this, you should be repaid for the time spent, with blossoms throughout the late spring and summer. Remember it is on the new growth that your blossoms will develop, therefore, the more branches and new growth, the more flowers.


Basket plants are pruned back to the sides of the basket and the top shoots are also pruned back to two nodes. All your cuts, with sharp secateurs, should be about 5mm above the node. Do not prune young plants that you are growing on for the coming season. These need you to continue pinching, turning and giving frequent light feeds, preferably weekly. During winter, give foliar feeding where possible for the plant can absorb this more easily – particularly during the cool weather.


Root pruning: When pruning the top of your plant, care should be taken to inspect the roots to see if they are in need of pruning as well. Lace your hand on top of your pot or basket (if it is not too heavy) and turn it upside down. Tap the pot upwards and it should come off easily and you can then examine the root system.


If only a few roots are showing through the ball of earth, it does not need pruning. So replace it in the same pot and press it in firmly.


If there are a number of healthy white roots showing, plant it into the next size pot without disturbing it, but making sure that you keep the top at the same level in the new pot.


If there are a great number of matted roots, and particularly if they are running around the root ball, it is time that the plant was root pruned. Remove the old exhausted soil around the roots at the sides and base but never disturb the root ball immediately beneath the main stem. Trim off all the straggly roots and repot into a clean pot with loose, rich compost or potting soil. This is an ideal time to straighten up any plant that may have grown at an odd angle.


If the containers or baskets are too large to be treated as above, cut down close to the inner side of the container and remove enough earth to allow you to put your hands well down to ease out the plant with the soil mixture intact. Then deal with it as yo would with a smaller plant.


After root pruning and repotting, water the plant to settle it in and then water very sparingly until the leaves appear. Until the leaves are well developed, do NOT fertilise your plant, as it will not hurry the plant on but could well kill it, as there are no leaves to make use of the fertiliser. As soon as the plant has a good covering of leaves, keep to your program of regular pinching, feeding and spraying and, if you remember to turn your container regularly, you should have a truly beautiful plant which will give you joy for months and months.

Fuchsia Care in the Spring

Prune your fuchsias in September when you see green shoots appearing on the stems. Remove all dead and spindly growth and any branches growing over each other to open out the plant. Remove approximately two-thirds of last year's growth. Basket plants need to be pruned back to the perimeter of the basket

Feed your plants with a fertiliser high in nitrogen to encourage new growth and when buds start to appear, fertilise with a phostrogen based fertiliser to encourage blooms. Turn pots and baskets regularly to ensure even growth.  Our flower display is on 22 November so make sure you stop pinching your plants approximately 8 weeks before the display so that flowers can form and your plant will be ready to bring to the display. All members are encouraged to prepare at least a couple of plants for the display so the society can put on an impressive display.

Give your plants plenty of space to avoid overcrowding. During hot weather put hanging plants on the ground in the shade to avoid drying out. Check regularly for pests such as whitefly and aphids. In the hot weather some fuchsia varieties are susceptible to red spider mite. Mist plants  to reduce infestation of red spider mite and remove any fallen leaves from the surface of the soil. If you don't wish to use sprays for whitefly another method of controlling them is to use yellow tacky cards which can hang near the plants. The whitefly is attracted to the cards and stick to them.

October is the time to take tip cuttings from your favourite plants. Spring cuttings should be taken from the new soft growth. The cutting should be taken from the actual tip of the new growth, cut below the second or third set of leaves. Plant the small cuttings in a mixture of perlite and peat moss or coarse sand and peat moss in small 2.5cm tubes or place four or five cuttings in a 10cm pot. Leave in a light position and you will find that the cuttings will be showing signs of rooting within two to three weeks. A weak solution of seaweed fertiliser can be added to the cuttings once new growth starts to appear.

Re-pot cuttings into the next size pot when small white roots appear at the drain holes. To produce a good bushy plant, nip out the tiny growing tip of the plant after it has produced two to three sets of leaves. Some varieties of fuchsias, such as Heidi Ann, are self-branching and do not require continual pinching. Of course if you want to grow a standard, leave the growing tip intact and train the one stem upwards.

Fertilise your plants often with a weak solution of fertiliser rather than occasionally with a strong solution.


A question that is frequently asked: to what height should a standard fuchsia be grown? Measurements defined by the British Fuchsia Society as to the length of clear stem from soil to the lowest branches are as follows:

12” – 18” (300-460mm) – One quarter

18” – 30” (300-690mm) – Half standard

30”-42” (690-1070mm) – Full standard

During the periood of growing the standard to the desired height do not remove the leaves from the stem as they feed the plant and develop the trunk as it grows taller. However, do remove all lateral growth or side shoots that form at the leaf nodes, as this will increase the growth. When your plant is nearing the height you want, allow it to grow 3 or 4 pairs of leaves without removing the side shoots. When this is achieved it is time to remove the growing tip and allow the side shoots to develop and form the “head”.

Constant turning and pinching is now required, until the head is the required size and shape. Only then should the lower leaves be removed from the stem.

The young plant needs to be fed well and potted on as soon as roots reach the edge of the pot. If allowed to become pot bound it will have the tendency to bud or flower and removal of these will act as a stop and practically all upright growth will cease.

If growing a weeping standard with large heavy blooms it is advisable to use a wire frame to support the branches. An inverted wire basket is suitable for this. If using a support, pinch out the growing tip approximately 1” (25mm) below the top the stake and allow the side shoots to grow through the frame.


For some of our newer members who may be seeking help on the purchase of fuchsias for the next season, the following notes by the late Leo Boullemier will be of great interest.

One guide to use when choosing fuchsias for ease of cultivation is to check the date when they are bred. If that date is prior to 1940 and the fuchsias are still being listed by present-day nurseries, then one can assume that they are floriferous, easy to grow, vigorous plants. Also, any fuchsia that has withstood one hundred or so years of changing fashion in flower and method of cultivation is certainly worth including in an initial collection. After the last World War, hybridisers in America sought for large double flowers, exotic shapes and multi-coloured blooms. These may be left for a season until some experience has been obtained by growing the easy ones. Fuchsia colour can also indicate ease or difficulty of growth.

SINGLE RED & PURPLE FLOWERS are found on so many hardy or semi-hardy plants and are rarely difficult to grow.

RED & WHITE FLOWERS are often easy to grow and adaptable to situation ( I would leave Texas Longhorn alone for a while). No-one can go wrong with Checkerboard or any of those best described as the James Lye colouration - waxy white and carmine.

RED SELF-COLOURED FLOWERS  are usually on strong growing plants. This colour often needs more water than most.

ORANGE COLOURED FLOWERS  are often found on plants requiring less water. They can take more sunshine than most (e.g. Dancing Flame, Orange Drops).

WHITE & BLUE OR MAUVE FLOWERS need shade to prevent their sepals turning a dirty pink and the corolla reddish mauve.  These fuchsias need careful watering and constant checking for red spider mite. Double flowers of this colouring are often found on plants needing careful cultivation.

PINK & WHITE FLOWERS  vary much and cover a wide range of both habit and ease of growth. Pink selfs can be easy growers (e.g. Southgate).

WHITE FLOWERED fuchsias are the most demanding to grow well, requiring cool shade to prevent the flowers turning pinkish, much ventilation to keep botrytis away and plenty of spraying to keep red spider mite at bay. The flowers are also prone to bruising so they require to be well spaced out and handled carefully. There are many fairly easy growing singles in the white range, some with pinkish red tubes.

The above are merely an indication of how to avoid some of the pitfalls by starting with tried and true fuchsias.

The fuchsias listed below have been grown successfully in the Canberra region in past years and the list has been provided by members of the Society.

ACCLAMATION - Double, trailer. Sepals pale pink, streaked cream and rich pink. Basket variety.

ANNABEL- Double. White flushed rose,  corolla white veined pink. Garden variety.

APPLAUSE - Double, trailer. Sepals cream to pale carmine. Corolla coral-orange. Basket variety.

BORDER QUEEN - Single, upright, self-branching. Sepals pink, corolla amethyst violet flushed pale pink. Garden variety.

CARMEL BLUE - Single, upright. Sepals white, corolla blue. Garden variety.

CAROLINE - Single, upright. Sepals pale pink, corolla pale lavender. Garden variety.

CELIA SMEDLEY - Single, upright. Sepals white, corolla currant red. Garden variety.

CHECKERBOARD - Single, upright. Sepals white/red, corolla red. Garden or basket.

COTTON CANDY - Double, upright. Sepals and corolla pale pink. Garden or basket.

DAISY BELL - Single, trailer. Sepals pale orange, corolla vermilion. Basket.

DIMPLES - Double, upright, self-branching. Sepals red, corolla white. Garden or basket.

DISPLAY - Single, upright. Sepals rose pink, corolla deep pink. Garden variety.

DODO - Single, semi-trailer. Sepals white, corolla magenta. Garden or basket.

ECLAT - Single, upright, self-branching. Red sepals, corolla white, flushed red. Garden or basket.

EMPRESS OF PRUSSIA - Single, upright. Sepals red, corolla reddish magenta. Garden or basket.

FLASH - Single, upright bush. Sepals and corolla light magenta. Garden variety.

HIDCOTE BEAUTY - Single, semi-trailer. Sepals waxy cream, corolla salmon pink. Basket.

LENA - Semi-double, semi-trailer. Sepals white, flushed pink, corolla rosy magenta flushed pink. Garden variety.

MARCUS GRAHAM - Double, upright. Large corolla, dusty peach. Garden or basket.

MISS LYE - Single, semi-trailer. Sepals white, corolla rose cerise. Basket.

MORE APPLAUSE - Double, semi-trailer. Sepals pale carmine, corolla cyclamen pink. Basket.

PACQUESA - Single, upright. Sepals deep red, corolla white. Garden variety.

PARTY FROCK - Semi-double, upright. Sepals rose pink, corolla blue, flushed pink. Garden.

PRESTON GUILD - Single, upright, self-branching. Sepals white, corolla violet blue. Garden variety.

SLEIGH BELLS - Single, upright. Sepals white, white bell-shaped corolla. Garden variety.

SOUTHGATE - Double, trailer. Sepals medium pink, corolla soft pink. Garden or basket.

SWINGTIME - Double, lax habit. Sepals rich red, corolla white veined red. Basket.

VOODOO - Double, upright. Sepals dark red, corolla dark purple violet. Garden variety.

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