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Fuchsias in Australia
from AUSTRALIA'S CAPITAL TERRITORY
The Glorious Fuchsia By Irene Brewer
The varieties of fuchsias will add intense colour to any garden, verandah, or shadehouse. What fuchsias lack in perfumed scent they make up supremely with their bold and vivacious colours. In pots, gardens, hanging baskets or even over pergolas, fuchsias will add life and wonderful colour to any living environment.
Fuchsias are ideal to grow in cooler climates and are most rewarding with their abundance of flowers and long blooming periods. They come in a many varieties of colours, ranging from white, pastel pink, pink-reds, lilac, deep purples, reds and oranges and their blooms vary from single, semi-double, double and tubular. The size of the blooms range from very tiny to very large, some blooms measuring 4 inches across the corolla.
Fuchsias are excellent bedding plants and grow equally well in containers such as pots and baskets. They may be grown as bushes, standards, trailing in baskets or grown against upright fixtures such as lattice or wired supports
Simply categorise fuchsias in two types: hardy and tender. Hardy fuchsias generally survive a winter temperature of up to -6°, usually losing their leaves through the winter and producing new growth from either the base or canes the following spring. Fuchsias grown in protected areas, such as in glasshouses or against a wall and under a covering, will keep growing throughout the winter, producing flowers in early spring through to autumn.
Most fuchsias prefer a semi-shaded aspect, morning sun, afternoon shade, underneath trees with filtered sun. If they are planted in dense shade they will grow very leggy and produce very few flowers. Too much sun will burn the foliage and flowers.
Positioning - Fuchsias can be grown in a variety of ways depending on the plants size and structure. In ground facing morning sun only, large or small pots, window boxes, hanging baskets and some varieties will cover a trellis or pergola. Many of the large and rambling types will be quite happy growing in medium to large pots if properly looked after. Regularly check for pests and diseases and treat accordingly.
Tender fuchsias will generally not survive temperatures below freezing point, but survive the hot summers more easily, especially the triphyllas which have tubular flowers. They can either be discarded at the end of the growing season or overwintered under cover.
Watering-In the summer months a careful watering routine is crucial for the survival of fuchsias which are grown in containers. The reason most fuchsias die is through over watering. The roots drown through lack of drainage and this attributed to two things: (1) The soil/potting mix is too heavy and holds too much water; (2) The drainage holes are blocked by either weed matting which is used by some growers, or the pot is sitting directly onto a saucer, thus sealing up the drainage holes. If using saucers under pots, place a layer of gravel onto the saucer and then place the pot on the gravel. Alternatively, place the pot on terracotta legs or bricks to allow for adequate drainage.
When planting in baskets or pots, put a layer of coarse charcoal on the bottom of the pot before adding the potting mix. This helps with drainage and the charcoal is a good purifier, stopping the soil from becoming sour. The potting mix should have perlite, vermiculite or coarse river sand added to the mix to assist in drainage. It is preferable to mist fuchsias on a daily basis, either early morning or evening, and deep watering only every second or third day when temperatures are in the high 20 to 30 degrees. The misting creates humidity which fuchsias rely on and assists in the prevention of red spider mite which thrive in hot dry conditions. Fuchsias grown in the garden should also be deep watered every second or third day and misted once a day.
In the winter months fuchsias are kept on the dry side, but still require watering approximately every two weeks to keep the soil just damp. Covering the roots of plants in pots with straw, newspaper or coconut fibre helps to keep the roots from freezing in extreme temperatures. If growing standards, wrapping the stem of the plant in newspaper keeps the sap from freezing in the stem and therefore the standard will not die back to the roots. If the stem dies back, the fuchsia will probably send shoots from the roots in the spring and the plant can no longer be grown as a standard, but will revert back to a bush.
Multiple Planting in Pots or Baskets- For an impressive display of colour plant selected multiple varieties together. Say four or five per 18 inch basket or similar. The same can apply to large window boxes facing the morning sun.
Garden Soils - Must be free draining, free of clay and rich in nutrients such as animal manures or blood and bone. See Fertilising
Heat Tolerant Varieties- Although this may differ slightly throughout Australia here is a list of heat tolerant fuchsias.......Autumnale, Daisy Bell, Orange Drops, Checkerboard, Billy Green, Santa Cruz, Chang, Southgate, Swingtime, Bon Accord, Eternal Flame, Buttercup. Please e-mail me of any more varieties you consider should be added to this list.
Handy Hint - After purchasing a good robust healthy fuchsia, from what ever source, take a few tip cuttings and strike same. This gives you a constant back up for that variety.
Propagation of Fuchsias-The simplest methods of propagating fuchsias is through taking tip cuttings in the early growing season. The tip cutting should be approximately 2-3 inches in length, with at least three sets of leaves, including the growing tip. Carefully peel off (or close cut with scissors) the lower 2 sets of leaves from the stem and put into a 1 inch pot. If using larger pots, put in at least four cuttings in the one pot. Make sure the cutting is clean by dipping it into water or a fungicide solution to sterilize it. Use a mixture of equal parts of peat moss, coarse river sand and perlite. Vermiculite may be substituted for perlite. Keep the mixture moist. You may vary this mix to your liking or circumstances. (hot or cooler weather)
Do not fertilize the cutting until it has rooted and is ready to be potted into a larger pot. Carefully transplant into a 50-75mmpot using a suggested formula of potting mix with fertiliser (refer fertiliser link) and lightly water in. As the plants grow, pinch out the growing tips once the length of the stem has about 2-3 sets of leaves.
Pinching the plant several times increases bushiness and the plant will produce more stems, thus more flowers. Some fuchsias are self branching and grow into bushy plants without pinching, but generally pinching out the growing tips benefits the growth and shape of most fuchsias. If you require your plant to bloom at a specific time, stop pinching the growing tips 6-7 weeks before flowering is desired for single blooms. For double blooms, stop pinching 8-10 weeks before flowering is desired.
Cleanliness -All tools, containers, etc used for propagation must be absolutely clean. A final rinse or soak in a very mild solution of liquid bleach and water is suggested. One tablespoon of bleach to four litres of water.
Clusters - (Great enjoyment) We call them "clusters", that is when you propagate from cuttings either using a multiple of different varieties in the one pot or placing 6 - 8 of the same variety in one pot. The former will give you a quick and glorious display whilst the latter will give a quick and dense display. When mixing varieties, put small flowerings together and large flowerings together.
Handy Hint - Line wire hanging baskets with spagnum moss for good water retention during hot seasons.
Fertilising Your Fuchsias by Irene Brewer
Throughout the years I have tested many brands and types of garden fertilisers and the natural, least expensive, have been the most successful. Products such as pelleted animal manures and natural blood and bone are sufficient on their own to give good growth and superb blooms. If striving for a "showroom" plant, a half-strength solution of Phostrogen or similar applied weekly is recommended during flowering.
Pelleted Animal Manures in Gardens- Dig in, at a rate of quarter a kilo per two square metres, prior to planting. Scatter sparingly on top during season and water in.
Pelleted Animal Manures in Pots and Baskets-Prior to potting, mix half a cup to each six inch size pot of potting mix or ratio of in baskets, etc. Broadcast small amounts on top during prime growing periods and water in.
Creating a Liquid Fertiliser-Cut the full leg off an old stocking and place inside four cups of pellets. Tie a knot in the stocking near the pellets and submerge in a 8-litre bucket of water. Leave for a day, mix around the bucket and pour directly around plants or add to watering can. Continually mix till most dissolves. Just empty out any remaining sediment onto garden and mix another batch if required. Some manure pellets have a slightly offensive smell. This system solves that problem.
Australian Pelleted Fertiliser Test -We potted a small Tuonela fuchsia plant in a 100mm pot (4inch) with the bottom half of the pot containing pure pelleted chicken manure fertiliser. The result was no burning of roots or plant, and a superb specimen fuchsia in a few weeks; not that I would recommend this planting system - this was simply a test.
Handy Hint:Do not fertilise a sick or dying plant. Determine if possible the reason for sickness and treat accordingly. To dry, to wet, insect pests, fungus, etc.
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