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Fuchsias come into blossom in the spring, then by summer, it may seem like something has gone wildly wrong!
The plants just don’t look happy, stems are wilting, flower buds aren’t opening, and those once colorful hanging baskets bursting with life, are just a bitter disappointment.
Never fret! Just cut it back and start over. Fuchsias are extremely forgiving plants and always perform better after cutting.
The crutch of this plant is the seeds at the tips of the branches.
How to Pinch Fuchsias the Right Way
The number one rule to keep fuchsias flowering is to stop them from producing seeds. When flowers are spent, the plant drops them naturally. But it does not drop the seed pod.
If you leave a fuchsia plant to drop flowers when it is ready, a seed pod is left on the branch.
New flowers on fuchsias grow on new growth. Therefore, to get new flowers continually, you need to be trimming back on the old branches to make way for the new.
For flowers, the seed pods left after spent flowers drop are only depleting the plant of energy. The sooner they are removed, the sooner new growth can become established.
The seed pod is the part at the base of the flower head that sits at the tip of the branch.
When removing these, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the branch just beneath the seed pod. It looks and feels like a swollen grape that can be green to a deep blue hue in color.
For plants that are becoming straggly, you can pinch off further down the branch to remove some of the foliage too. This will encourage new branches with new leaves, and new blooms to emerge on the tips.
How Often Do Fuchsias Need to Be Pinched Back to Keep Them Flowering?
Every week, do an inspection for fading flowers, and those that are beginning to wilt. As soon as you see some that are losing their vibrancy, or looking limp, pinch them off.
You will find as the summer months go on, you’ll be pinching back spent flowers, and taking away the thinner, wilting parts, and some of the fuchsia leaves that are turning yellow or brown off of the plant to get them more established and healthier looking.
The Summer Cutback
All too often, garden centers force fuchsias to bloom in greenhouse conditions. When growing fuchsias in pots, from new, it is common to see some gorgeous floral beauty emerge in droves in the spring, then just as the best of summer comes in, the plant’s flowers fade away to nothing and it stops flowering completely. The buds on the fuchsia fail to open.
When that happens, pinching the tips of the branches is unlikely to be wildly successful. The best bet is to strip the plant by cutting it down by two thirds of its size. These grow back fast, so within a couple of weeks, there will be new growth established.
After four to six weeks, new buds will emerge on the new growth and the next burst of flowers will be healthier than before because they were left to grow naturally. Forced blooms are rarely long-lasting.
Position for the Morning Sun
Like all plants, fuchsias need sunlight. Too much though will prevent it from blooming because these flower when the temperatures are cooler. That is why they should be planted somewhere that gets shade.
Given the low tolerance fuchsias have for full sun, growing fuchsias in pots can be easier because it makes moving them to more suitable locations manageable.
Put them in a spot that gets full sun in the mornings when the temperatures are cooler, then have them shaded in the hottest part of the day. This prevents leaf burn too.
Go Easy on the Watering
Watering is critical for every plant’s health and its ultimate survival. Go overboard though, and the roots will suffocate resulting in rot which kills plants.
If you’ve watered a fuchsia to the extent that puddles are forming on the topsoil, chances are, you’ll need to know about how to revive a fuchsia plant. Fortunately, it’s easier to prevent such issues from arising.
The core thing to do before watering is to check the soil. If it is moist, it does not need water. If it is dry, it definitely does. Watering needs to be done before the soil dries, but not to the extent that it makes it damp for too long.
There is no way to know how often a plant will need water without testing the soil’s moisture level. Do that by poking your finger in the soil. If it feels moist, leave it be.
Young plants that are small will not need much water. To know if it does, look for clues like fuchsia leaves curling. That is a symptom of dehydration, but it can also be a sign of a pest presence.
Whiteflies are common. Shake the leaves. If those pests are present, it’ll be like a cloud of white bugs. They’re barely visible in a hanging basket, but disturb them, they’re easy to spot – It’ll look like a cluster cloud of whiteflies. These pierce the leaves to drink the juices.
There are a number of ways to treat a pest infestation, Neem oil being the simplest.
Monitor the Plant when Temperatures Soar
The times to pay close attention to the soil moisture level is when the temperatures soar. The hotter the temperature, the faster the soil will dry out. In particular, for fuchsias grown in pots or hanging baskets. The containers can hold a lot of heat.
As far as how much water to add, only add enough to moisten the soil around the root ball of the plant.
When watering fuchsias in containers, not a lot of water will be needed. For garden-grown fuchsias such as the tree and shrub varieties, the amount of water to add will depend on how deep the roots were planted, and the overall size of the plant.
Established fuchsias the size of shrubs in a garden will need more water than your typical container grown fuchsia with little room for new roots to branch out.
During the summer when the temperatures may become too extreme for the plant is when to be careful.
In the afternoon sun, fuchsias will wilt. It is not a sign that it needs to be watered. Just that it is hot. Cool it down by spritzing water using a spray bottle to mist the leaves.
Those splashes of water will cool it down. Within an hour or two, it’ll perk back up. Water these in the morning so they are not sitting in soil that is too moist overnight.
How to Care for Fuchsias in Winter
This only applies to fuchsias being overwintered indoors. For fuchsias in the garden, they need all the thermal protection you can throw at them. The best protection is to take them out, pot them up and store them indoors where temperatures can be maintained at 50oF to 60oF.
The fall season is when fuchsias stop flowering, but technically it is the start of the season for gardeners. That’s because this is the time to aggressively cut it back by reducing its size by half. The next several months is when to go higher on nitrogen fertilizer and lower with everything else.
Why the switch of fertilizer?
Because flowering only happens on new growth, and from spring through to fall. Nitrogen promotes growth; phosphorous and potassium are added for flowering.
After aggressively cutting the plant back, start feeding a high nitrogen fertilizer every week to two weeks from fall through to around March. Liquid fish emulsion is ideal as it is higher in nitrogen, usually in the NPK ranges of 5-1-1 or 3-0-0.
December to March is when to actively begin pinching the plant back. This is different from the pinching technique used to encourage new flowers around April. From December, after three months of feeding with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, there will be plenty of growth.
Remember the nature of how this grows? Only on new growth, and on the tips of all new growth.
When you pinch a leafy stem back by around a half-inch beneath a tip, more tips grow back. They multiply.
By the time the flowering season rolls around in April, the plant will have clusters of buds ready to burst open. The more flowers you have at the start of the season, the more regularly you’ll be able to pinch back during the flowering season.
This gets you a more rounded plant that is filled out, established faster, and can be regularly pinched back without noticing any flowers being lost. As you remove them, more are emerging on newly established growth.
By March, start feeding fuchsias with a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10.
For fuchsias grown in containers, they do take a lot more feeding to flower. The best fertilizer for fuchsias in containers have a high potash content, and they need that every couple of weeks throughout the flowering season.
In containers, fuchsias are greedy for food. They may not need much watering but they can take a fair amount of plant food to keep them pushing out new growth and flowering buds.