Copyright 2011
Overwintering Fuchsias
Overwintering   fuchsias   seems   to   be   one   of   the   biggest   hurdles   for   the   newcomer.   So   much   so   that   they   tend   to   be   treated   as annuals, bought in Spring and thrown out after the Summer. The   truth   is   they   can   be   kept   quite   easily   over   the   winter   and   will   lead   to   bigger   and   better   plants   the   following   year   and   will supply you with cutting material just by following 2 golden rules.                                  Do not let the frost get to them. Do not let them dry out
During the winter, fuchsias can be kept two ways - DORMANT. This   means   that   plants   are   kept   in   a   cool   enough   (not   freezing)   environment   that   inhibits   any   growth   at   all and   will   look   much   like   the   one   on   the   right   for   the   duration   of   the   winter.   2   or   3   degrees   above   freezing   will   keep these plants dormant. SEMI   DORMANT.      This   is   where   growers   have   the   benefit   of   a   moderately   heated   greenhouse   and   are   able   to   keep plants   in   growth   through   the   winter.   A   temperature   of   42   -   45   degrees   Fahrenheit   will   keep   plants   ticking   over   and growing very slowly through the winter. Whichever   method   you   choose,   your   plants   should   receive   the   same   preparation   for   winter   and   that   is   being   being   pruned   back   and   de- foliated.   Pruning   means   that   plants   will   be   shaped   and   tidied   up   and   can   be   stored   closer   together,   whilst   removing   all   leaves   ensures   you get   rid   of   any   bugs   or   diseases.   Just   when   plants   being   kept   DORMANT   are   prepared,   depends   entirely   on   when   the   first   frosts   come.   In 2010   they   came   in   November   in   our   area   with   a   vengeance   with   temperatures   down   to   17   degrees   F.   (-8   degrees   C.) so don’t leave it too late. Ideally   you   should   cut   back   on   the   watering   a   few   days   before   pruning   leaving   the   root   ball   just   moist.   Doing   this avoids   ‘DIE-BACK’.   If   too   much   water   is   present   at   the   roots   then   it   is   drawn   up   in   the   usual   way   but   appears   at   each cut   as   droplets   (as   seen   on   the   left)   which   will   rot   the   end   which   in   turn   will   die   back   for   about   an   inch   or   so.   If   the   cut has   been   made   just   above   a   pair   of   leaves   then   any   future   growth   will   be   lost.   Some   growers   use   Copydex   to   seal each cut, I generally prune well above a pair of leaves, these tips can always be tidied up later  
Below   I   have   used   a   standard   as   an   example   of   pruning   and   de-leafing   which   is   usually   done   in   that   order.   To   make   it   easier   to   see   what   is going   on   I   have   de-leafed   first.   Each   leaf   has   been   cut,   (not   pulled)   from   the   branches   and   whilst   it   may   seem   an   arduous   task   it   is   a necessary   one   as   the   plant   needs   to   be   as   clean   as   possible.   The   middle   picture   show   the   framework   built   up   during   the   summer   whilst   the one   on   the   right   shows   it   after   roughly   one   third   has   been   trimmed   off   including   any   weak   growth. Again   cutting   back   to   a   good   inch   or   more above a leaf joint (or where the leaves where) this is where the new growth will come from.  
The   same   method   applies   to   whatever   fuchsias   you   have   been   growing.   If   they   have   been   in   hanging   baskets   with   lobelia,   etc   then   dig   them out   remove   most   of   the   old   compost   and   re-pot   them   into   fresh   compost   in   a   pot   big   enough   to   take   the   root   ball.   Trim   roughly   a   third   off   and de-leaf them.  
For   plants   that   are   going   to   be   allowed   to   go   DORMANT   you   now   have   to   make   sure   they   are   packed   away   somewhere   frost   free .   One   way is   to   take   a   cardbox   box   lined   with   several   layers   of   newspaper,   put   3   inches   of   moist   peat   in   the   bottom,   place   your   fuchsias   on   their   sides into   it   (still   in   their   pots)   and   cover   them   with   more   peat.   The   polystyrene   boxes   used   by   fishmongers   are   ideal   for   this.   They   should   now   go into   a   shed   or   garage   or   an   unheated   greenhouse.   They   have   to   be   accessible   as   they   need   to   be   checked   out   on   a   weekly   basis   to   make sure   they   have   not   dried   out,   water   should   be   given   sparingly   making   sure   the   root   ball   is   just   moist.   More   fuchsia   are   lost   through   the   winter through   over   or   under-watering   than   through   frost.   To   check   they   are   still   alive   scrape   the   bark,   if   it   shows   green   underneath   then   all   is   well. Don’t   be   tempted   to   bring   them   into   the   house   onto   the   kitchen   windowsill.   They   will   be   far   too   warm   and,   because   of   the   lack   of   light   levels, will produce long leggy growth which is of no use at all. Because   or   their   size,   standards   can   be   more   difficult   to   accommodate   over   the   winter   and   should   really   go   into   a   heated   greenhouse   or maybe   a   cool   conservatory   (or   your   friendly   neighbour’s).   As   an   added   protection,   use   foam   pipe   insulating   on   the   stem,   wrap   the   pot   in bubble wrap and cover the head with horticultural fleece.  
I   prefer   to   keep   my   plants   SEMI   DORMANT   and   to   do   so   they   are   kept   in   the   greenhouse   at   42   -   45   degrees   Fahrenheit,   if   possible.   I   say   if possible   because   the   last   2   winters   were   so   severe   that   it   was   a   case   of   considering   the   cost   of   keeping   the   electric   fan   heater   running   against the   cost   of   restocking   in   spring,   which   I   ended   up   doing.   The   problem   is,   because   we   are   losing   fuchsia   nurseries,   it   becomes   harder   to   find   the varieties needed for the showbench, so this year it is fingers crossed for a milder winter. ( Written Oct 2011) I   aim   to   have   my   plants   cut   back   by the   end   of   September,   By   doing   so I   know   they   will   be   back   in   growth before    the    winter    sets    in.    The greenhouse    is    14    feet    by    8    feet and   is   lined   with   bubble   insulation. The    plants    are    still    in    the    same compost   that   they   have   been   in   all Summer    and    won’t    be    re-potted until   Spring.   I   will   now   switch   back to    a    high    nitrogen    feed    which    is given    with    every    watering    which won’t     be     much,     again     keeping them just moist.
Above   is   the   same   standard   about   4   weeks   after   pruning   and   now   putting   on   some   nice   new growth. It’s also trying to flower here and there, but these are removed a soon as possible. On the right above is a half basket, again with lots of new growth. On   the   right   is   a   pot   which   was   cut   hard   back   taking   almost   two   thirds   of   the   top   away.   I   wanted   this as a stock plant and again it’s producing lots of new cutting material.  
It’s   amazing   how   tough   some   varieties   can   be.   On   the   left   is   a   basket   of Trudi   Davro   which,   after thinking   about   space   in   the   greenhouse,   I   intended   to   throw   out   so   I   cut   it   back   right   down   to compost   level.   It   then   got   left   and   forgotten   down   the   side   of   the   green   house   and   left   to   fend   for itself. I   guess   it   won   itself   a   reprieve,   at   least   all   those   cuttings   its   producing   have   and   I   won’t   be   any better off for room!  
Any young plants i.e Summer cuttings or last minute bought plants are treat differently. These still  usually have quite soft growth, so a light trimming all round is done and all the leaves are left on.  
It looks like Spring all over again!
There   is   a   list   of   recognised   hardy   fuchsias   which   are   quite   happy   left   to   their   own   devices   in   the   garden   and   can   be   cut   down   to   ground   level   in Spring   once   all   signs   of   frost   have   passed,   but   any   which   have   been   grown   in   pots   should   be   given   the   same   treatment   as   above.   In   the   garden their roots are deep enough to come to no harm but in pots they are open to the elements. If   you   still   prefer   to   go   out   and   buy   your   plants   each   year   then   all   well   and   good   but   there   is   only   so   much   growth   you   can   get   off   one   plant bought   in   Spring.   Try   over   wintering   at   least   2   or   3   and   see   the   benefits   of   a   second   year   plant   and   feel   the   satisfaction   of   keeping   fuchsias through one of the worst times of the year.  
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Overwintering Fuchsias