How to grow tender fuchsias
Tender fuchsias are grown for their very attractive pendant flowers, which bloom continuously from summer to autumn. They come in an array of colours and habits, making them a useful addition to summer-bedding schemes, containers or in the ground for border displays.
- Moderately easy to grow
- Flowers appear from mid-summer through to the first frosts of autumn
- Plant or bring outside in early summer after the risk of frost has passed
- Fuchsias flower their best in full sun, but are also happy in partial shade
- Encourage bushy growth by pinching the shoot tips of young plants
- Regularly water and feed container-grown plants for a great display
- Softwood cuttings are the easiest propagation method
All you need to know
Choosing a tender fuchsias
Tender fuchsias bring reliable colour summer containers and borders. Fuchsias with upright habits can be used to create height in the middle of a container, while those with trailing stems are perfect for tumbling over the edge of your hanging baskets. They can even be an eye-catching standard (lollipop shape) that is the centre piece to the patio or a house plant for a cool conservatory or sun room. With the right care, they will flower continuously and bring colour to wherever you plant them. To help your final choice, bear in mind the following when buying:
- Tender and hardy fuchsias look very similar so check the label before buying
- With a wide-range of flower shapes and colour combinations, it is hard just to choose one. Pick from small delicate single flowers to big doubles with standout colour combinations. The colours range from shades of white, pink and red to violet-purples and bright coral orange
- The foliage is mainly mid-green, but there are variegated- and golden-leaved cultivars. F. triphylla species and cultivars have larger leaves that can be bronze or slivery in colour
Where to buy tender fuchsia
Tender fuchsia are available from late winter onwards in garden centres and nurseries. Usually in the undercover bedding plant section, often with all the other plants for summer containers.
You’ll find them sold as
Seedlings or young plants grown singly in small modules, with the advantage that they can be transplanted with minimal root disturbance. Bedding plants and young veg plants are often sold as plug plants of various sizes, with smaller ones requiring more aftercare. They usually need to be potted up and grown on indoors until large enough to plant outside.
Frost-free environments, such as a cool greenhouse or conservatory, have a nighttime minimum of 4°C (39°F). This is ideal for plants tolerant of low temperatures, but will not survive being frozen, such as tender plants being overwintered including pelargoniums; frost-tender rooted cuttings such as penstemon; and bedding plants in spring.
A wider variety can be obtained from specialist growers. Check gardening magazines and newspapers for mail-order offers too.
Tender fuchsia selectionHere are some options to grow, depending on how tough and hardy you need the fuchsias to be in your garden.
- Fuchsias rated hardiness H1C Tender, so overwintered in a frost-free greenhouse, windowsill or conservatory and planted out after the last frosts in early summer. Minimum temperature: 5-10°F (41-50°F)
- Fuchsias rated hardiness H2 For summer containers and frost-free inner-city areas or coastal fringes. Elsewhere, can be overwintered in a frost-free greenhouse. Minimum temperature: 1-5°C (34-41°F)
- Fuchsias rated hardiness H3 Hardy in coastal/mild areas except in hard winters. May be hardy elsewhere with wall shelter or a good microclimate. Elsewhere, can be overwintered in a frost-free greenhouse, windowsill or conservatory. Minimum temperature: -5-1°C (23-34°F)
When to plant
Tender fuchsias can be planted or placed outside once the risk of frost in your area has passed, this is generally in mid to late spring, but do check the forecast. If you have enough frost-free undercover growing space you can plant up containers and hanging baskets earlier, to get your display off to a head start. But do check it is completely frost free, and go easy on the watering to begin with as the young roots are prone to rotting off in over-wet compost.
Where to plant
- A spot in sun or dappled shade is required for a healthy plant and the best show of flowers
- Too much shade will result in an absence of flowers
- A peat free multi-purpose compost is ideal for containers
- They will tolerate most soil types but will not fare well in the extremes of overly wet and the overly dry
- Check your fuchsias regularly and aim to keep the compost/ground moist, but not soggy. Fuchsias in containers and hanging baskets will require more (daily) watering than those planted in the ground (weekly in dry spells)
- It can be all-to easy to over-water newly planted containers, so feel how wet the compost is with your fingers before watering and don’t let them sit for more than a few hours in a dish of water
- In summer you can be more generous with the watering as the plants will be bigger, more estalblished and so use more water
- Choose a potting compost with added feed or add balanced slow-released fertiliser pellets to help the plants grow strongly throughout the summer season
- Monitor growth and flowering and apply a balanced liquid feed if plants are looking stunted or yellow-leaved
The spent flowers often fall off of their own accord or can form a deep-purple berry, which is edible if rather tasteless.
Plants need to be lifted from the ground and stored over winter in a frost-free place, such as a heated greenhouse, windowsill or conservatory. Plants in pots can just be brought inside
- Trim back this year’s growth to create a framework of stems about 7.5-15cm (3-6in) high from the soil/compost: the plant will regrow from these stems to produce next year's display. You can leave the framework taller if you want bigger plants for your displays; it's just they will be a bit woody and brown at the very base
- With standard fuchsias, you cut back in the same way, but you cut back to within 7.5-15cm (3-6in) of the top of the lollipop stem. Standard fuchsias will require over winter protection, even if the standard has been created using a hardy fuchsia cultivar, as the stem is particularly vulnerable to frost
- Water to keep the compost just moist. They'll often start shooting again within a few weeks. As these grow, pinch out the tips to encourage bushy growth
- Alternatively, propagate new smaller fuchsias by cuttings in late summer to make it easier to store your fuchsias where space is limited
Caring for older plantsMature plants can be over wintered from year to year, but old plants riddled with pest and diseases should not be kept and new ones propagated as replacements.
Tender fuchsia are commonly trained into bushes and standards, but you can also create fan-shapes and espaliers (branches in tiers) for fun and interest.
RHS guide to espalier training trees
RHS guide to fan training trees
All young fuchsia will need a little help to develop a good shape that bears branches full of flowers. All of these forms/shapes are grown from a little rooted cutting/plant.
The aim here is to create a nice, rounded dome shape.
- Using your index finger and thumb remove the top set of leaves from the tip, down to just above the second set. This is called pinching or stopping
- This encourages side-shoots to grow, once the new side-shoots have two sets of leaves, pinch out the tips again
- Repeat step two until the plant is as bushy as required
Pinching out increases the potential number of blooms, but delays actual flowering. It can take up to eight weeks after your final pinching session before they will flower. As a result, it best to pinch out early in late winter and spring, but let the plant develop and flower afer mid-May to early June.
A standard is a method of training a plant in to a small tree or lollipop shape, with a clear stem/trunk and a bush of leaves and flowers at the top.
A standard will take 18 months to achieve a full standard fuchsia and about six months for a quarter or mini standard.
The recognised stem lengths for standard fuchsias are:
- ‘’Mini standard’’ 15-25cm (6-10in)
- ‘’Quarter standard’’ 25-45cm (10-18in)
- ‘’Half standard’’ 45-75cm (18-30in)
- ‘’Full standard’’ 75-90cm (30in-3ft)
- Keep the tip intact as this is need to encourage the plant to grow taller
- Instead, pinch out the side shoots along the stem, but keep the leaves on the main stem, to keep the plant healthy and growing
- Tie the stem to a cane to support the plant and to keep the stem nice and straight
- As the plant gets bigger carefully repot the plant into a larger pot, fresh compost will help keep the plant growing strong and not restrict its upward growth.
- Continue until the desired length of stem has been achieved
- Allow three more sets of leaves to form, then pinch out the tip. This will encourage a bush to form at the top of the stem. Then keep pinching as per the instructions for a bush fuchsia (above)
- Keep the stem nice and clear by removing side shoots as they appear
With minimum effort, it's possible to get excellent results when propagating fuchsias. Softwood cuttings can be taken at any time of year – if you have lush green shoots, you can take a cutting. They generally root within 10-20 days, depending on the time of year (it is fastest in spring and summer).
Another traditional method is to make softwood cuttings as normal, but put them in a short vase/jar of water to root. This is generally trouble free (just keep the leaves out the water) and you can easily see when they are rooted. Allow the roots to reach 1-2cm (up to 1in) long and then pot on singly in 7.5cm (3in) pots of peat-free multipurpose compost.
Semi-ripe cuttings can also be taken from mid-summer to early autumn.
Tender fuchsias are relatively easy to grow, but they can suffer problems from time to time. These are usually easy to control, such as glasshouse whitefly and vine weevil grubs (which munch away at the roots), but there are trickier problems. Fuchsia gall mite is a new pest to be on the lookout for; while fuchsia rust and red spider mite are difficult to control.