Friday, June 22, 2018

In the Garden -- Growing Fuchsias

Ruth de Jauregui

Credit: loneangel / Morguefile
When I think of fuchsias, I think of the narrow reddish purple blossoms of my Grandma's shrubs in Brookings, Oregon, and my Mom's collection that grew on the east side of our little house on the Northern California coast. Mom's fuchsias were sheltered on the east by a 6-foot-tall fence and tall cypress hedge and on the west by our house. They thrived in the cool, moist climate and bright light, sheltered from the wind and sun.

Fuchsias (Fuchsia spp.) are small trees or shrubs found primarily in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America, though there are a few species native to New Zealand and Tahiti. The tender plants are generally winter-hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11, though Mom's thrived in their sheltered zone 9 location. A few hardy species survive down to zone 6.

While you can purchase fuchsias, they're easy to propagate from stem cuttings. Simply take 2- to 4-inch cuttings of growing tips. Strip off the lowest leaves and swirl the stem in rooting compound, if available. Insert the stem into moist sand, perlite, vermiculite or soil. Use bamboo sticks to suspend plastic wrap above and around the cutting and its pot. Snip a couple of small holes in the plastic for ventilation. Place the cuttings in a warm, bright location, but avoid direct sun. A window covered by sheer curtains will diffuse the sun's rays adequately.

Credit: Erland / Morguefile.com
Once the cuttings establish roots, in three to four weeks, remove the plastic wrap. Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged as the plants develop new leaves. Transplant into flowerpots, hanging baskets or in a sheltered, light or dappled shade location in the garden. In general, fuchsias prefer temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When the weather heats up, move the plants into deeper shade and protect from drying summer winds.

Water fuchsias when the soil is dry to the touch. Check potted fuchsias daily, especially in hot weather and water as needed. Fertilize every one to two weeks from spring until fall with a 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer solution. Use 1/4 teaspoon of fertilizer in 1 gallon of water. Water after fertilizing to prevent the fertilizer salts from damaging the tender roots.

Credit: maggieau124 / Morguefile.com

When frosts threaten in fall and winter, take the fuchsias inside. A sunny window or enclosed porch that stays above freezing will allow the fuchsias to overwinter indoors. Protect fuchsias in the garden from frost with sheets or plastic suspended on bamboo poles and anchored to the ground with rocks, bricks or lumber. Do not allow the covering to touch the foliage.

In addition to their beautiful blossoms, fuchsias attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

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