GROWING AND SHOWING FUCHSIAS

Tips by Ray Birt

 COMPOSTS

For the last few years, composts sold at Garden Centres/Allotments, Shops etc.  have been on the poor side (lumpy) and gardeners have found it hard to buy decent compost that meets their needs.  Suppliers have put less and less peat into their mix of compost.  Try and purchase 100% peat compost .

Always sieve your compost.   Suitable growing media needs to have a fine texture to be able to hold water.  I add grit (Cornish) and Perlite or Vermiculite, up to 15% of volume to aid drainage and aeration.

CUTTINGS

There are over 10,000 fuchsias, so before you select which fuchsias you would like to grow, it would be well worth going to your local fuchsia show to see the different types (double or single blooms) and how they grow (bush, basket or standard etc.)  Once you have the fuchsias you want you can then start to take cuttings from that plant.

Cuttings can be taken nearly all year round, with the best time being the autumn (when the plant has stopped flowering), winter months and early spring.

I strongly recommend small tip-cutting consisting of either one or two pairs of leaves and the growing tip.  Make sure the leaves are the same size so that it should produce an even plant. 

Cuttings are taken directly underneath a leaf node.  Sever the stem cleanly using a sharp knife.  Using  a dibber/stick make a hole in the compost and gently push the cutting into the hole..  Put a plant label next to the cutting with a name and date on it.

Cuttings root much more quickly if they have bottom heat, i.e.  heated bench/propagator.  The cuttings should root within 3 weeks.

In the summer months there is no need for bottom heat to root your fuchsia cuttings.

Once your plants are rooted, handle the cuttings by the leaf and not by the stem.  Use your fingers and thumb to gently move the cuttings from the soil.  Put the cuttings into 2" (5cm) or 21/2" (6cm) pots, using good seed compost with added Perlite/Vermiculite.

Cuttings like warm and airy conditions. but not full sun.

Take cuttings from your own cuttings.  These will make the best plants.

CUTTINGS - POTTING ON

I take my tip cuttings (1 pair of leaves and the growing tip) early September to late November, although you can take fuchsia cuttings all year round if you have the correct materials and conditions.

My cuttings are taken and placed on my heated bench.  the cuttings usually root in 3 weeks and I then pot them up in 5cm (2") or 6cm (2.5") pots.

Check your plants and once roots are curling around the pot you then need to pot them on.  Pot the plants into an 8cm  (3") pot.  Continue this process onto the next size pot, 9cm (3.5").  Usually this would be your final pot for cuttings taken in the autumn (1st year plants).

If your plants are older, then continue to pot up one size at a time 3,5" - 4", 4" - 4.5" etc.

WHERE TO KEEP YOUR FUCHSIAS

MARCH and APRIL

young plants grow well in a bright and warm place.  A good place would be a windowsill or glasshouse, and on good days (weather) put your plants outside against a wall.  However, watch out for high winds and night frost, and bring your plants in at night.

The right conditions are needed to  make good growth.

MAY ONWARDS

 When the weather warms up the plants can be put outside but not in full sunshine.  If frost is due at night bring the plants inside.

Put your plant pot in a tray so that the wind will not blow them over.

Fuchsias dislike high temperatures, so they need a shady area in the summer.

WATERING

In the early stages of growth,  keep the soil (compost) moist but not too wet.

Lift your pot.  If light - water; if heavy - do not water.  Another sign to look out for is that the soil goes a lighter colour (light brown) and will require watering.

April onwards, usually the plant needs to be watered every other day (2 days); again this will depend on the weather and growing conditions.

Put your plant on a saucer and when you water drain away any surplus still there after 15 minutes.

Water in the morning or in the cool of the evening, but never when the sun is directly on the plant.

FEEDING

In February and March give a weak feed to your plant and continue the feeding throughout the life of the plant, except in winter.

Use plant fertiliser such as Chempak No 2 or No3.

Feed your plant every 2 or 3 weeks in March and April and then from May onwards every week - 10 days. Use on;y a third  of what is recommended on feed packaging.  DO NOT OVER FEED.

SHAPING AND TRAINING YOUR PLANT

Decide what shape you want to grow your plant - Bush

Start to shape after plant  grows 3 or 4 pairs of leaves.  (Remove growing tip), and then about every 5 or 6 weeks remove the growing tips, which should have grown 2 or 3 pairs of leaves.  Continue above for another 1 or 2 stops.

STOPPING (NIPPING OUT)

Remove the growing tips of every branch on the same day.  This will ensure even growth and flowering all over the plant.  Stopping promotes busy growth and also can control the shape and size of the plant.

Final stopping can control when the plant should flower.  Single flower = 8-9 weeks, semi flower = 9-10 weeks, double flower 10-11 weeks.

TURNING

Give your fuchsias a quarter turn every two days so that the plant will grow evenly.

Insert a plastic plant label in the pot with the name of the variety and the date of the cutting taken i.e. Squirtie, 26/03/12.  Use the plant label as a guide/pointer and turn the pot a quarter turn  (north, south, east & west).

HYGIENE

Keep the area you are growing your plants clean and tidy at all times.

Any yellowed or damaged foliage should be removed from the plant.  The top of the compost should not have any dropped leaves, seed pods etc.

Maintain strict hygiene at all times, if you create the correct atmosphere with humidity and keep up cleanliness, most troubles will be deterred.

Use Provado  (can be purchased at most Garden Centres).  Soak the soil with Provado three times a year (March. July and October).  This should assist  (90%) with keeping pests and disease at bay.

OVERWINTER CARE

 Fuchsias need to be frost free and must never be allowed to dry out.  As autumn approaches make sure you have cleaned out your greenhouse.  Discard any plants that did not come up to expectations.

Autumn pruning - trim the plants back by removing about one third of the growth made in summer.

At the end of October, older plants, if they have not shed their foliage, you will need to remove all the leaves, leaving just the bare stems and framework.  You can at this stage pot-down your fuchsias I,e,  from 5" to 4", 3,5" -3" etc.  This is done by root pruning to fit the new pot.

Biennial method plants are kept in green (leaves left on) and will need heat throughout the winter months. (45-55 degrees).

You can keep your plants in the following places as long as they are frost free: greenhouse, cold frame, garage. shed or even the spare bedroom!!

Do not overwater your plants.

.METHODS OF TRAINING (STRUCTURES)

There are many methods to train your fuchsias.  This will extend your horticultural skills, and some structures may take up to two years to achieve your aim.

I will deal with the most common way of training your fuchsias, but you need to choose your cultivars with care.

BUSH OR SHRUB

The basic shape for a fuchsia plant is either that of a bush or shrub.

Training starts at the cutting stage by pinching out the growing tip after three pairs of leaves have formed, and continue this process every two or three pairs of leaves.  Continue this until the required size and shape have been attained, also when you want the fuchsia to flower.

STANDARD

The formation of a Standard is different, the growing tip is left intact and all the side shoots removed.  the leaves on the stem (whip) are left on until the head has been formed.  Put a stake (pea stick) alongside the stem and tie in to keep it straight.

Once the required height has been achieved, the pinching out of the side shoots stops and four or five pairs of leaves are left to develop before removing the growing tip. 

Training from then on to form the standard head is the same as for a bush or shrub.

BASKET/HANGING POT

Choose trailing fuchsias for the above.

Normally plants are grown in pots up to 3.5" (9cm) before they are put into the basket or hanging pot.

In a full basket, 15", the plants are spaced at equal intervals around the basket or hanging pot.

You will need up to 5 or 6 plants for a basket and 3 or 4 for a hanging pot.

Pinching out the growing tips is done after 3 or 4 pairs of leaves have formed.  Continue pinching out at 3 or 4 pairs of leaves and the end result should be growth cascading down over the basket.

Hanging pots should have the same training as for a basket.

There are several other more ambitious types of training which require greater attention to shaping and training.

Other structures :

Fans

Espaliers

Pillars/Pyramids

Conical.

You will normally see the above structures at local and national fuchsia shows around the country.

Don't forget the following whilst training your structures:-

Watering, feeding and turning your plants.

Correct type of fuchsia for each structure.

HOW TO SHOW YOUR FUCHSIAS

Before the show date, carefully study the show schedule, particularly the size and type of pot permitted.  Pots are to be standard size and not half pots, and of the correct colour.  (Terracotta)

Plants must be exhibited in the size pot indicated.

A single flower has 4 petals and a double flower has 8 petals.

Do Not exhibit any fuchsia that has signs of pest or disease.

Have clean pots, make sure that the foliage is clean, and remove any yellowing or damaged leaves.  Also make sure that the soil on top of the pot is clean.  Remove any spent (old) flowers and seed pods.

On the day of the show, allow yourself enough time to complete the following tasks :-

   a) Report to the show manager/secretary and collect your entry cards.

   b) Place your entry card with your saucer in the correct place on the table.

   c) Properly dress your plant.  If you are not sure what to do, talk to experienced exhibitors  who will/should help present the plants to their best.   Write the name of the fuchsia on a card in front of the plant.

   d)  Give yourself plenty of time to stage your exhibit.

Take the following with you :-

Show schedule, spare clean pots and saucers, spare canes, pen, labels, scissors,  cleaning cloth, water can.   Half pots if you are exhibiting in the multi pot classes (used to raise the front or back pots),  helping to  obtain the correct balance.

 

If you are interested in any of the above, your local fuchsia group/gardening club should be of interest.  I can recommend the Windsor & Slough  Chrysanthemum, Fuchsia and Pelargonium Society.