How to prune fuchsia?

Pruning Fuchsias – How, Why and
When.

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Fuchsia plants can often look after themselves quite well without any form of pruning. They are naturally floriferous and are rarely without flowers in the summer months. However, to get the best shape – and even more flowers than normal – a regular pruning (snipping) regime is beneficial in younger plants. Basically, the more shoots or branches your Fuchsia has, the more flowers it will be able to produce.

Firstly, determine what type of Fuchsia you have. This is not always easy with very young plants bought from the garden centre or nursery because a bush and trailing Fuchsia will look very similar with just a few shoots and leaves. Standard Fuchsias of course are very recognisable! Hopefully you can trust the plant label, which should tell you if it is a trailing, bush or hardy fuchsia.

Older flowering plants of Fuchsias will be seen to be either bush or trailing by their habit of growth. Some are borderline plants, between bush and trailing.

Pruning Hardy Fuchsias

Hardy type Fuchsias are normally pruned on a once-off basis right at the start of the growing season – preferably after the hardest of frosts have finished and once the new grow just starts to appear after the winter die-back.

Very little by way of finesse or horticultural expertise is required. Simply cut the bush right back hard – near to ground level – or to a basic frame of any Fuchsia that you might have been training for some reason. They are normally grown as bushy shrubs.

New shoots will soon start to emerge at the base, and are hardy enough to withstand a few late frosts – maybe with as little foliage browning. No need to worry – it will grow well as soon as normal gardening season starts. Hardy by name and description; hardy by nature.

That’s it. I have cut back older Fuchsias with a pair of loppers, or pruners, and also rendered a younger shrub to the ground with a hedge trimmer. Same result; it soon starts to grow and retain the original height – but with fresher, more floriferous foliage. Clear up the old branch prunings. Job done!

Bush Fuchsia Pruning

  • These are the half hardy small perennial that are normally bought each year in early spring – or re-grown from over-wintered plants.
  • For young plants, a little formative pruning is good to ensure a bushy plant which will have plenty of scope to produce flowers. Essentially, the more shoots or branches; the more flowers will be produced.
  • No special tools are required other than a pair of snippers, a sharp knife (carefully) or finger nails.

New Fuchsia Plants

If your new Fuchsia is just a new central stem with few if any side shoots – maybe even as a Fuchsia cutting that you have produced – prune the stem just above the third or fourth lave joint, but leave all the leaves on the plant below that cut. It will soon send out a pair of side shoots. This is the start of producing your busy, full of flowers, plant.

Now we enter the progressive stage of building a bushy fuchsia plant. Allow the two side shoots to grow to three or four pairs of leaves, then snip them off just above the second leaf joint. Side shoots will emerge from the joint below your cut, and these should be allowed to grow four or five pairs of leaves – with possibly a few flower buds showing at the end tip. No matter – cut them off this time at slightly above the third pair of leaves, then repeat the operation but at the fourth pair of leaves next set of shoots.

By now you will have the start of a bushy, compact Fuchsia plant that will have a good shape and will be raring to give you a good display of flowers. Many stems equals many flowers. If you are not too impatient to start seeing flowers, repeat the pruning as above, but at five pairs of leaves.

If you want your Fuchsia to be perfection for a particular event – wedding, garden party, or flower show, stop all pruning at around 6 to 8 weeks before the event. This will bring the plant into flower for the desired date.

Routine pruning thereafter, is simply removing faded flowers before they are allowed to set their fruits – unless you want to make jam! The setting of seeds and fruits really do take a lot of energy out of the plant – at the expense of new growth and flowers.

  • Important also through this process, to feed the plant on a weekly basis with a general liquid feed, to compensate for the food-producing leaves that you will be removing, although of course your plant will be much larger with a good canopy of foliage and flowers.

You can adjust this pruning regime to give you the type of plant shape you want – bush, pyramid or tower!

Pruning Older Plants after Winter

The same basic principles as above, but taking into account the framework of branches you already have. Start by side-shooting to retain or alter shape, then proceed shortening all the new shoots to around three or four pairs of leaves.

Pruning Weeping or Trailing Fuchsias.

Trailing Fuchsias should also be pruned regularly – as per the instructions for the bush fuchsias. Do not be in a hurry to see just a few flowers at the end of two or three branches hanging over the edge of your basket. Trim the ends of all shoots to build a good structure of branches. The will soon start to droop or trail, providing you with many more flowers than would be the case with just a few long stems.

  • The only modification, would be to allow all side shoots to grow to enough length to cut at just above the fourth set of leaves.

If planted in hanging basket, ensure regular feeding – and watering – for the food reserves in a confined hanging basket are much less that would be the case in a large pot or in the garden soil.

Pruning Standard Fuchsias

New or older standard fuchsias bought out of winter dormancy should be treated as above, but of course snipping the shoots at the head of the stem. For the early part of the growing season, you can leave any foliage that appears on the main stem – and even new side shoots, for all these will help the plant to generate energy whilst growing. In this case it is a long distance for the food to travel from roots up to the head. However, don’t allow any side shoots to continue once the head is starting to grow well and responding to your initial formation pruning.

Pruning and Clipping Fuchsia Hedges

Established hedges of Fuchsias are normally a dense mass of old twigs and branches. Traditional hedge trimming is all that is required with maybe a slightly harder trim for the first spring cut. Thereafter, lightly prune as required to ensure a good supply of new growth – and flowers.

Fuchsias are one of the most widely cultivated plants in the world. They are one of the few plants that flower in the shade during summer. They are easy to grow and boost plentiful exotic blooms from spring to fall. Fuchsias are available in a variety of colours and forms offering gardeners the chance to feature them in hanging baskets, as hedges and even trees.

Soil and position

Although you will see fuchsias flowering in full sun, they grow ideally in filtered light.

Fuchsias will adapt to many soil types, but prefer a light to medium loam which is not too acidic. Mix in compost to improve soils that are too light or too heavy. In pots of hanging baskets, use a specially formulated mix.

Caring for fuchsias

Feed in early spring with a complete balanced fertiliser such as Palmers General Garden Fertiliser. Unless grown in a container then a slow release fertiliser should be used. The phosphorous content will encourage flowers without promoting excessive sappy growth. Continue feeding once a month through the flowering season with a liquid fertiliser such as Phostrogen.

The soil should be kept moist, but not wet. Watering will be necessary in spring and summer, especially for plants in containers.

Pruning is important to encourage flowering and maintain the shape and size of your plant. Unpruned fuchsias will eventually become very straggly with poor flowering. Pruning takes place in late winter for early summer flowering. In frost free areas, fuchsias can be pruned in autumn. Remove all thin, twiggy or damaged growth. Cut back the strong stems, leaving two or three sets of nodes at the base of last season’s growth.

Styles and shapes

It is important to ensure you choose the variety of fuchsia that is suitable for each particular purpose. There are cascading and trailing forms most suitable for hanging baskets, and more upright and bushy forms which are good for the garden. For making standard fuchsias, choose a variety with a strong upright habit which can also be trained to bushiness by trimming. Palmers have a huge range of varieties available.

Training

Fuchsias can be trained into any shape you desire. Try an espalier shape or maybe a pyramid.

Bush shape – For a compact dome bush, trim the young plant by removing the growing tip and top pair of leaves. This causes side shoots to grow which, in turn, should be ‘stopped’ by pinching out the growing tips. Pinch the resulting new side shoots back again when they reach about 20cm long. This will allow plenty of flower shoots to form.

Hanging baskets – Treat like a bush but let the side shoots grow longer, over the sides of the basket, before stopping. This trimming will delay flowering a few weeks, but in the long run will produce a better shape and more flowers.

Standards – Choose a strong, upright growing plant. As it grows, keep it staked and remove all side shoots, but let the leaves remain. At the desired height (50 – 100cm), pinch out the top. Pinch out resulting side shoots successively, as for the bush shape, until a full head has developed. Then let it flower. It may take over a year to produce the desired results.

Pests and diseases

Fuchsias are very easy to grow and relatively problem free. A healthy plant which is well fed, watered and pruned will overcome most attacks by pests and/or disease. Extra assistance may occasionally be required; aphids, which cause deformed leaves, can be controlled by spraying with Mavrik; mites can be a problem in hot weather, especially in glasshouses. Control with Mite Killer or Spraying Oil. Whitefly causes mottled yellow leaves and is best controlled with Target. For fungus disease (including rust) spray with Fungus and Mildew Spray.

For easy overall control, most pests and diseases which attack Fuchsias can be controlled with Nature’s Way Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental Insect Spray. Simply include fuchsias in your general rose spraying routine.

This ‘How To’ Guide has been produced to provide basic information and our experienced staff are available to answer any questions that you may have. Because this guide is of a general nature, neither Palmers nor its staff are responsible for the application of the information, as the contents may need to be modified for individual projects and site applications.

I am in front of the bay window at Lower House. The sun is shining its hardest on my bare legs. I think I might be happy. York stone. The hot smell of box and the trees shuffling with birdsong and breeze. It must be afternoon. It must be 1961. Women and children have bare legs. Men only wear shorts for sports. Here, said Jennifer, try this. She took one of the pink and purple flowers tumbling off the bush and broke it, snapping it expertly at the base. Go on, suck it. It won’t hurt you. A little perfumed tube, curiously firm between my lips. Drawing until the roof of my mouth hurt, half expecting disgust and screams of laughter. And then the merest hint of sweetness, a fleeting glimpse of taste. A moment inside the life of a bee. Nectar, said Jennifer. You could live off that forever.

I tried scores more fuchsias that day, showing the trick to anyone who would bear with me. I cannot resist taking a draw on the occasional fuchsia even now. But I have never recaptured that exact, elusive sweetness.

Not that fuchsias have crossed my path very much. At my friend Henry’s house, in Usk, they have boxes of fuchsias standing on a row of saddle stones as they have had for the past 30 years at least. The boxes have homemade foursquareness, and the combination of plants pouring out pink, magenta and purple, earthy loam, wood and stone is deeply satisfying, but it belongs to that place. Copying it would cross the divide from inspiration to theft.

About 15 years ago, Sarah came back from the Chelsea Flower Show with an enormous standard fuchsia that had been sold off on the last day. Because it had been forced under cover for the show, most of the flowers dropped off after a few days of being outside in Hackney. But it came back more modestly and entertained us for the rest of the summer before being frosted. It was more like an exotic bird than a plant. It was never more than passing through. We did not really grow it.

In fact, I have never grown a fuchsia. This is nothing to do with the plant. They are not difficult if you attend to their modest needs, and if you are into taking cuttings – which I am – then they are easy to propagate, so they are essentially cheap. But not in this garden – yet. I like fuchsias very much in other people’s gardens and swaggering along the Cornish hedgerows. I like the way they parachute off the branches like floating ballerinas. It has just somehow never felt appropriate here. Perhaps they are too present in memory to have room for them in the here and now. There was, of course, embarrassingly, some time later in life, the delight of discovering that fuchsias were named after someone called Fuchs. Did all plants get named like this? Were there Dickias, Bottomleyias, or Prattias? Could grown-up life hold that many delights? As it turned out, it could not. Dahlia, forsythia and stewartia do not promise the same delicious thrill.

The fuchsia is named after Leonhart Fuchs, a 16th-century German botanist. The species was not discovered by him, though. Fuchsias were first brought to the attention of the west by a French Catholic priest named Plumier, who came across the plant now classified as Fuchsia triphylla while on a plant-hunting expedition in the Dominican Republic in 1695. Sadly, his samples were shipwrecked but he published drawings in 1703. The first fuchsia did not arrive in London until 1788 and was given to the Royal Botanic gardens at Kew.

Thereafter fuchsias were grown with hothouse intensity. This was largely unnecessary, though. In the Gulf Stream-coddled West, F magellanica (one of the hardiest varieties – although they cannot have known that then) was planted as hedging. But the idea of fuchsias was exotic and the Victorian plant consumer was not to be denied. All over Europe people bred fuchsias ferociously, all in glasshouses. By 1848 the first book devoted to fuchsias, by Felix Porte, a Frenchman, listed 520 cultivars. Now there are more than 8,000 hybrids and cultivars.

Right up until the First World War, the majority of fuchsias had lots of small flowers. In the 20s and 30s, they began to be bred in America and the flower size increased dramatically. In many cases, more did mean better, and varieties like ‘Texas Longhorn’ had flowers eight inches across. (‘Texas Longhorn’? A breed of beef cattle to describe a fuchsia? When it comes to the naming of plants, people often get silly.) American and British growers began to concentrate on hardy varieties that did not need greenhouses, fuel or labour. Like the dahlia, chrysanthemum, sweet pea or rose, the fuchsia was something that could be grown in a small garden or allotment, lent itself to competition and became a way in which working men (always a male thing, these competitive flowers) could show their expertise and add colour and exotica into hard lives. It is easy, in our soft, postmodern, untested age, to sneer at these shows, but I love them. I love the passion, skill and unsung graft that goes into winning a local, nickel-plated trophy for cosseting these flowers into symbols of freedom and dignity.

Your roots: Growing fuchsias

Fuchsias are woodland plants, so like dappled shade and moist, warm conditions. If you put them out in the open, they need shading in hot weather and many stop growing and flowering above 27 C. Remember that a black pot retains much more heat than a pale-coloured one. Fuchsias only flower on the current season’s growth so have to be pruned hard. Treat them like late-flowering clematis or buddleia and cut back the old wood – even if it has new shoots – in spring. Even hardy varieties can have their top growth killed by hard frosts, but hedges and shrubs will grow back from the base.

Half-hardy fuchsias: These can be grown like pelargoniums and overwintered in a cool but frost-free greenhouse or shed. (I have a friend who keeps hers in the cellar.) They can either be kept in their pots or planted out directly into the soil; the latter bringing with it the advantage that they develop larger roots and need much less watering and feeding.

Fuchsias in hanging baskets: Trailing fuchsias are perfect for hanging baskets. The average-size basket will take four or five plants, and as long as they are watered and kept out of the wind, these plants should continue flowering well into the autumn months. There are many suitable varieties for using in hanging baskets, including: ‘Cascade’, ‘Hidcote Beauty’, ‘Marinka’, ‘Auntie Jinks’ and ‘Machu Picchu’.

Fuchsia problems: When fuchsias were mainly grown indoors they were plagued by whitefly, which live on the underside of the leaf. They are best treated with a spray of diluted washing-up liquid. Another greenhouse enemy is the red spider mite (tiny and yellow-green rather than red), which causes bronzed leaves and defoliation. The presence of these mites is a sure sign that the greenhouse or conservatory is too dry, so damp the floor and raise the humidity. Vine weevils will eat the roots of fuchsias in pots and are often introduced with the plant, so repot any plant after purchase, checking the roots carefully. If they do attack, the plant will wither and die. Outdoor fuchsias are more likely to suffer from capsid bugs – sap-suckers which will distort young buds and stems. Again, spraying with diluted washing-up liquid would help.

Cultural Notes – Fuchsias

Fuchsias – magnificent, unique, very versatile and easy to grow. Just a little care will give you great results. They are excellent in the garden, pots or hanging baskets. And will give you years of bright vibrant colours in your garden or patio.Fuchsias can be grown in all parts of the eastern and southern parts of Australia and areas of Qld, SA & WA.

HISTORY: These lovely shrubs originate from the rainforests of South America and have been cultivated into over 5000 varieties.

VARIETIES: In terms of colour, fuchsias flower in an infinite number of combinations, sizes and forms Which flower for most of the year. Some are single with just one circle of petals in the corolla, others are doubles withmany sets of ruffled petals. There are hundreds of named varieties available including many variagated forms.

SELECTION: Consider whether you need a tall or trailing variety and whether or not to combine them with other plants. Choose upright varieties for low or general garden beds and pots, perhaps a standard to mix in with otherplants and trailing varieties for that raised embankment or hanging basket. Try to let the hanging blooms be seen to their best advantage. Some of the beautiful variegated types such as Crimson Bedder can make excellent ground covers. Fuchsias can be grown to any shape with staking as well.

OTHER USES: Fuchsias are such versatile plants and the foliage is also appealing. Grow them in hanging baskets, pots or window boxes. Grow them in the garden as standards,bushes And hedges – or espalier them against a wall or fence.

Hanging baskets are an extremely popular style for courtyards, patios, balconies and unit gardens where space is at a premium. Baskets also have the additional advantage of allowing plants to be moved from site to site according to the seasons and prevailing weather conditions. Firstly, consult the Brenlissa fuchsias catalogue to ascertain the varieties best suited to basket culture and which are hardy in your area. Use a premium quality potting mix to backfill about half way up the container and then set your plant firmly on this. Settle the plant in gently teasing the roots and then pack to within 3-4cm from the top with mix. Water thoroughly, add some osmocote, attach a name tag, secure the hanging chains and hang your basket on a bright frost-free balcony preferably with an easterly aspect and filtered sun.

If you do not use a potting mix already containing water storage granules it is a good idea to add these to the mixture around the root area of your fuchsia.

Taller growing varieties are ideal for training as standards. You need to choose a plant with a strong main stem and one which is known to make vigorous growth. You need to prune all the side shoots away and tie the stem toa stake which is as high as you are aiming for your plant to grow. When your plant has reached the desired height, pinch out the top and thus force the side shoots to develop immediately below the top of the stem. The emerging side shoots should be regularly pinched back to create a bushy crown of foliage. Once this crown has formed a good umbrella network of the required size, no more pinching need be done and you can allow the plant toflower freely. The result can in many ways be even more outstanding if you choose a trailing variety and train it in this fashion so you will end up with an umbrella shaped plant dripping with gorgeous blooms.

Pot culture is probably the most common way of displaying your fuchsias. In much the same way as a hanging basket they can be transported to and fro as you wish. As long as attention is paid to watering and feeding on a regular basis the potted fuchsia will provide wonderful value. Potted fuchsias should be re-potted and root pruned at least bi-annually for best results from your plant. There is always a spot for a pretty fuchsia in any garden.

Please check with us for your advise on your local area.

How To Prune A Fuchsia

Fuchsia is a very colorful plant that can be pruned to create a particular shape or style of growth. A very important reason to prune a fuchsia at least once a year is that they will not grow flowers on old wood.

Step 1 – Examine the Plant

Late July to August is the best time to start thinking about pruning a fuchsia. Check the plant to decide if you want to prune to enhance the appearance or produce better blooms.

Step 2 – Make First Major Cut

Cutting back by half in late autumn is often a good start for outdoor plants. Plants in pots should be cut back to four to eight inches above the soil level. These cuts produce the skeleton for the new growth.

Step 3 – Check for Extra Pruning Possibilities

Often the outdoor fuchsia will need reducing by more than a half. As you examine the plant you will be able to see where there is too much wood left. Excess should be cleared away to make way for new wood in the new season and prevent the plant from becoming leggy.

Step 4 – Shape

This is also a good time to adjust the shape of your fuchsia plants. Those that are free-standing can have their shapes rounded so that they look more symmetrical.

Step 5 – Feed the Plant

In spring as the plants start to show signs of wakening, feed them with a rich compost or nitrogen rich fertilizer.

Step 6 – Prepare to Bush

As the plants push out new growth, trim off the stems that have three pairs of leaves. This removes the growing tip and forces the plant to grow in width rather than length. This will create more branches. More branches mean more new wood and more new wood means more flowers.

Step 7 – Emphasize the Bushiness

In addition to cutting back stems, cutting new shoots back to three pairs of leaves will create a very bushy plant with a wealth of flowers.

Step 8 – Follow the Contours

Now that you’ve set the stage for a full and bushy fuchsia, you will also want to maintain the shape that you trained the plant into. Plants that are set against walls should be encouraged to grow to the sides.

Step 9 – Potted Plants

Use these same pruning techniques for fuchsia plants that are growing in pots and hanging baskets. With hanging baskets it might be wise to let a few stems drape over the basket to carry the flowers downwards.

Although a savagely pruned shrub can look as though it has been butchered there really is no better way to ensure strong new growth and a wealth of blooms. It is only in the winter months that the plants look sparse. As soon as the new spring growth sets in the new soft lines will soon create a pleasing effect. Fuchsias that are not efficiently pruned will become much less colorful and hollow looking with flowers only on the outer periphery because all the old established wood stops bearing flowers and leaves.

Prune to Bring Back a Fuchsia

Question: Last spring, I bought a fuchsia basket that grew beautifully for the whole summer and fall. Now it is straggly and unattractive. Is it possible to make it beautiful again or should I just throw it out and start over?

M.W., Laguna Woods

Answer: Don’t throw it out. Proper pruning will make your fuchsia just as full and beautiful as last year.

The key to proper pruning of fuchsias is to understand a bit about their growth habits. Fuchsias produce flowers only at the tip of new growth. Your mission is to maximize the number of new growth tips.

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Your fuchsia isn’t likely to produce flowers along the long straggly branches that it now has, so you must dramatically shorten the stragglers to force new growth closer to the center of the plant.

Do this by cutting all hanging branches back to the edge of the basket and shortening to 6 to 8 inches any branches that grow upright from the plant’s center.

If pruned properly, your fuchsia basket will contain a rounded cluster of bare branches. You may worry that you have ruined the plant permanently. Don’t.

Make sure the soil is moist, but not soggy, and feed the fuchsia lightly with a well-balanced fertilizer such as 14-14-14. In a week or so, new growth tips will begin to appear on the bare branches.

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Throughout the rest of the winter and into the spring, whenever new growth has three pairs of leaves, pinch out the top pair to force two new growing tips where there had only been one. Each time you pinch off a branch end, you double the number of growing tips. Continue feeding.

By May, your fuchsia should be full, bushy and flowering.

–Written by University of California Certified Master Gardener Mary C. Steele of Laguna Niguel

Have a problem in your yard? University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners are here to help. They are involved with a variety of outreach programs, including the UCCE Master Garden hotline, which provides answers to specific questions. You can reach the hotline at (714) 708-1646 or send e-mail to ucmastergardeners

@yahoo.com. Calls and e-mail are checked daily and are generally returned within two to three days. Please include your name and city of residence.

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