Ask the master gardeners
Q: My fuchsias bloomed so beautifully last year that I decided to overwinter them. What should I do now to ensure a bounty of flowers this summer?
A: With their gracefully arching branches and spectacular single or double flowers, fuchsias are one of the most attractive container plants that continuously bloom throughout the summer in partially shady locations.
(photo by our Tom Nycz at the Nolen Greenhouses at NYBG)
Overwintering fuchsias is quite easy, once you follow a few simple rules. Just before frost, the plants should be stripped of any remaining leaves and pruned back by as much as two-thirds. Alternatively, prune them in early March, before the new growth appears, but remember that lack of pruning will result in sparse growth and fewer blooms.
In general, fuchsias exhibit stronger new growth if overwintered in a cool location, with temperatures ranging from 40 to 55 degrees. Higher temperatures might produce some off-season unwanted growth and will make the plants more susceptible to pests such as white flies and spider mites.
(Mark Vergari photo at Matterhorn Nursery in Pomona)
During dormancy, water sparingly, just enough to keep the roots moist. By early March, new growth buds will sprout from the old wood. Immediately remove the plants from their pots, gently loosen and prune the roots by about one-third. Repot the plants in new growing medium — you may use the old pots.
At this point, fuchsias need higher temperatures (about 65 degrees, colder at night) and brighter light but not direct sun. Still be careful with watering; normal watering should resume as soon as new vigorous growth is established.
After two full sets of leaves appear on a new shoot, it is important to pinch the tip and repeat the process several times in order to promote branching and to get a full head.
If you move your plants outside before the May 15 frost-free date, make sure temperatures stay above 40.
In order to ensure a profusion of flowers, fertilize regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer for blooming plants, at half strength but applied twice as often.
— Cristina Malinverno, Blauvelt, master gardener Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland
This reminded me to check up on my fuchsia, which spent the winter in the back of a shower stall in a downstairs bathroom. Here it is after a good trim.
I cut out lots of dead:
And made cuttings to stick back into the pot after they root. They root very easily; sometimes I just stick the cuttings right into the dirt.
I’m also rooting some pussy willow.
The arrangement was the dining table centerpiece at a friend’s house for a Saturday lunch a couple of weeks ago. It’s so great to have blooms on something in March. After they root, I’m going to plant them in the same wet spot where I’ve got red-twig dogwood.
I like to overwinter geraniums, too. Here’s a post from last fall explaining how I do it. This pot was in the same shower stall with the fuchsia so I decided to trim it up, too.
Oops, need to get it out of the direct sun to keep it from wilting. I cut off lots of dead:
Here’s how the pot looked when I brought it up from the basement in early March.