Standard fuchsias are one of the most eye catching and self satisfying ways of training fuchsias. Planted out into the garden they can add instant height and colour and whilst they might look difficult to grow they can be surprisingly easy, after all they are just a bush on a stem.For show purposes there are rules on stem lengths, which are -Mini Standard - 6 to 10 inchesQuarter Standard - 10 to 18 inchesHalf Standard - 18 to 30 inchesFull Standard - 30 to 42 inches
Of course, if you are growing for your own pleasure, then the choice of height is all yours. A standard can be grown from almost any cultivar cutting but the best ones are those with strong upright growing habits and have the vigour to reach the stem height as soon as possible. I recommend upright cultivars for the beginner but the picture above is of ‘Sylvia Barker’ better known for its trailing habit !Standards should really be started from Summer or late Autumn cuttings but a greenhouse heated to around 45 degrees Farhenheit or a conservatory or windowsill will be needed during the Winter to keep growth going,If you have a batch of cuttings waiting to root and some are intended to be standards, then it is a good idea to identify them by some means. Its annoying when potting up cuttings and, without thinking, you nip out the growing tip. End of standard, very annoying.
These measurements are taken from the compost level to where the bottom branch leaves the stem
On the left of this picture is a plant not long been potted up into a 3 inch pot and has been earmarked as being a standard with a cane pushed in, try and pick a straighter cane than I did.Start tying the stem to the cane every 2 or 3 inches. I have started using a velcro type of fastener which comes on a roll. Just cut off what you need and they can be re-used again and again. Whatever you use, tie it loosely and check them often, as the whip grows the stem will thicken. If the tie becomes too tight it will cut into the stem and stop the sap rising and disfigure it. Avoid those plastic covered wire ties The other two are at a stage when they are now called ‘Whips’ and will continue being called that until the desired height has been reached and the head has started to form.As the whip grows replace the cane with a longer one and, most importantly, make sure it does not become pot bound (roots fighting for room) if it does it will feel threatened and may try to flower and stop producing the growth you need. Keep potting up as needed.
As the whip grows, sideshoots will develop and some of these will need removing. A full standard will need about 6 pairs of sideshoots at the head whilst a mini standard will need about 4. So, if you are growing a full standard for instance, remove all the sideshoots below the top 6. As the stem grows, another set of side shoots will develop at the top under the growing tip, once you can clearly see these go down and remove the bottom set. Repeat until you have got the whip to the height you want. Doing this ensures you have the right amount of sideshoots at the head and should the growing tip get damaged or it starts to come into flower at least you will have these top sideshoots to nip out and work with. Do not remove any of the leaves coming off the lower stem, the whip needs these to take in sunlight and keep it sustained. They can be removed once the desired height has been reached, the growing tip has been removed and the side shoots are being nipped out and shaped.Whips like the one on the left can bought at most decent nurserys which would save you the time getting to this stage and all you have to do is nip out the growing tip and shape the head.
Once the whip has reached the desired height the growing tip is removed.On the right is a mini standard. It is no longer a ‘whip’ as the growing tip has been removed and the top sideshoots are starting to develop. Note the lower leaves are still in place. Also note the cane runs through and above the head giving essential support. It can always be trimmed down under the canopy of leaves later.On the far right this plant is obviously heading for the show bench as the grower has inserted more canes and brought down and tied in the branches whilst they are still green to help give it a nice shape. These canes can be removed when the branches have hardened. Note that the lower leaves have now gone, it now has enough leaves on top to sustain it. Don’t rip the leaves off, cut them off leaving a tiny stalk on the stem, these will drop off themselves in time.
From now on treat it as a bush plant, pinching out any growing tips to encourage more flowers.On the left is a quarter standard of ‘Anne H.Tripp’ nicely shaping up. I prefer to use the plastic covered metal rods (B&Q) for the final support and again it also runs right into the head which is tied in.On the right is the end result, which ended up on the show bench at a couple of shows and won prizes both times.If you intend to plant them in the garden then make sure they are well staked. Push some canes into the soil at an angle and fasten them to the supporting cane just below the head. There is nothing worse then seeing your hard work rolling around the garden after a bit of wind.
One question asked is ‘Why does my standard flower before the head is formed?’ One reason could be that a Spring cutting is being used to form a whip and as fuchsias flower in the long days of the summer months then they will come into flower instead of putting on new sideshoots. If this happens then you could wait until flowering has finished and it goes back in to ‘growing’mode’ in the Autumn but, again, you will need to keep it going through the Winter.Another reason mentioned earlier is that it may have become pot bound. Keep them potted up.