Fuchias in the City
Care & Culture—A Guide to Growing Fuchsias
Hmm... Just how much do they eat and drink?
Watering & Feeding
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Watering fuchsias is fairly easy and straightforward. They generally like to be kept evenly moist but not wet. So make sure to choose a potting mix than can support this need. When I water, I'll give each plant enough so that it starts to drain out the bottom. This also helps avoid the buildup of any minerals or salts that might be contained in the water, from feeding or otherwise, that might prove harmful to the roots. If there's a saucer or pan underneath, be careful not to let the pot remain standing in the water for any length of time. This goes for rain as well. You want to avoid water-logging or souring the soil in the pot and possibly rotting the plants' roots.

Beyond these basic requirements, evenly moist but not wet, are a number of tips and techniques you might find useful in getting your plants to give the best performances they can.

Hanging baskets are especially prone to drying out quickly so they might need to be checked again in the afternoon on warm or dry days. They're positioned higher and are exposed to more of the drying effects of wind. This is often the case in my garden, where I have good breezes that come down between the buildings and pass through the hanging baskets. Large mature trailing plants in hanging baskets have significantly more leaf area in proportion to the amount of roots as well. This abundance of leaves will drain the available moisture from the soil much more rapidly than smaller plants will.

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Depending on the potting mix some baskets might even benefit from being taken down and set into a tub of water to fully hydrate them before being rehung. Plants that become root bound towards the end of the season, and are not scheduled for potting on, will also need to be watched more closely as they now have less soil to hold moisture or will pass water through the extensive root network more quickly. If you're potting up your own baskets or pots, and are growing them in warmer, sunnier and drier places, it might be good to add some moisture-retaining granules into the mix. Large standing plants or fuchsias grown in a sunnier position should also be watched carefully.

The leaves of many plants, of course, will wilt if the plant becomes too dry. Fuchsia leaves might also droop a bit in the heat of a high-summer afternoon or if grown in a sunnier spot. In addition, fuchsias stop actively transpiring moisture through their leaves when the temperatures rise much above the upper 70's or low 80's Fahrenheit (25 to 30 C) .

Because of this behavior, it's important to actually check the soil of your plants before you add water if you see wilting leaves. Only add water if the soil's dry. Simply adding more water not needed will not cause the leaves to perk back up. At these times, it's best to mist the leaves and surrounding areas to cool down the plants instead. You'd be surprised just how effective misting can be in getting fuchsias to perk back up in the heat.

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Regularity in watering is important. If they dry out too much or too often they'll simply drop flower buds in response to what's essentially an artificial drought. Remember that fuchsias are woody shrubs. They won't recover from a severe drying as easily as many herbaceous plants might. Since it takes about eight to twelve weeks for most fuchsias to develop to flowering size from the final pinching, irregular watering will certainly set back their floral display. You also run the risk of tricking your plant into thinking autumn is coming and cause some, or most, or maybe even all, of its leave to yellow and then drop. This might be a helpful occurrence towards the end of the season when you want to slow down the plants' growth to store them away for the winter, but not a very nice one at the height of the summer when you want a great display.

Fuchsias are usually described as gross feeders. No matter how rich it was when it first started out, the frequent watering of pot culture will quickly leech important nutrients from the potting mix. A soilless mix might not contain much nutrition for the plants anyway. So the supplemental feeding of fuchsias can start fairly soon after they're potted up and growing on. It's best to avoid feeding plants that have just rooted, though, since you stand a chance of burning tender young roots.

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Once the fuchsias are indeed up and growing, a regular feeding program of water-soluble fertilizer is important to the full potential and blossoming of the plants. Because you still stand the chance of burning older roots with a overly concentrated plant food, for fuchsias weaker more frequent applications are called for. Many growers even add a tiny amount of food with every watering.

Personally, I feed my plants about once a week and find that they respond just fine to that schedule. The exact proportions depend on the brand. For example, if the instructions say to add a tablespoon of food to every gallon of water and apply it once a month, I'll quarter that, or often even a little less, to apply it weakly and weekly. I also make sure that it's thoroughly dissolved and stirred about before I give to the plants.

Some liquid plant food is good for foliar feeding and I regularly sprinkle some of the weak solution over the leaves from the rose of my watering can. Fuchsias should not be feed when their soil is dry, though. In that case, I might water first or wait until a little later in the day to water the plant food in. Towards the end of the season, I'll stop feeding the plants as I want to slow their growth and prepare them for over-wintering.

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What kind of plant food is best? Generally, the same formulation used to feed tomatoes or flowering plants serves well for fuchsias. Fertilizer in most countries is required to have an NPK analysis on the package which lets you know the percentage of the three major essentials for plant growth—nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K)—that it contains. Nitrogen is used by the plant for the vegetative growth of leaves and stems. Phosphorus goes towards the development of roots, flowers and fruit. Potassium aids in the production of strong stems, as well as flowers and fruits. There are also a few trace elements necessary but there are usually enough of those in the potting mix itself to keep most plants happy.

Since you generally want to encourage good root growth, strong stems and good flowering in fuchsias, a formulation that's higher in phosphorus and especially potassium, such as the tomato food, is good. Be aware that potassium also tends to wash out of the soil faster than phosphorus. During the height of the summer, fuchsias might benefit from a formulation that's a little bit higher in nitrogen to help maintain leaf growth.

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However, even a formula that’s listed as 20-20-20 can be fine as long as it's applied correctly to suit fuchsias. In the end, it’s more about the regular weekly feeding than the fine proportions of the NPK. And, of course, don't overlook those organic fertilizers, such as liquid seaweed extracts. They often have a lot of additional positive properties for encouraging healthy plant growth and usually much gentler on the roots as well.

I have a hesitation with the current trend of big business to add fertilizer to just about every product. Perhaps it's being driven by the desire to sell, sell, sell to the uniformed from the shelves of box stores but it seems like an arms race has taken over to add junk food for plants as a selling point of supposed convenience. I don't like the one-size-feeds-all-for-the-season strategy of additives being so helpfully foisted in a potting mix.

Many fertilizers can burn new roots. What's in the mix? Will it assault new fuchsia roots as they're developing? Exactly how long does it last? Will it deplete and set back my fuchsias' growth before I notice and can make up for the deficiency with my own feeding? What are these products really good for?

I suspect that the New Improved Triple-Action No-Thought-No-Effort Potting Mix Now with Broadcide®™ might mostly be good for the bottom line of super-corporations but I don’t think it’s especially beneficial for my gardening or my fuchsias. I tend to pass these enriched season's-pass potting mixes by in favor of my own feeding program.
Chapter I
Siting & Climate
Chapter IX
Bedding Out
Chapter V
Watering & Feeding
Chapter II
Potting Soils & Mixes
Chapter X
Hardy Fuchsias
Chapter VI
Pinching & Shaping
Chapter III
Propagation & Potting Up
Chapter XI
Fuchsia Species
Chapter VII
Training Special Shapes
Chapter IV
Growing On
Chapter VIII
Over-Wintering