Fuchsias flower their hearts out all summer long, so it’s not surprising that they appreciate a rest during the cold winter months. The arrival of chilly nights in autumn signals the natural end to their flowering performance for the year.
It is a terrible waste to let the frost kill off such hard-working beauties, especially when it takes such little effort to get them through the winter. Hardy varieties growing in the border, such as ‘Tom Thumb’, will need only a loose, dry mulch to protect their crowns, while the larger, tender group of fuchsias, that have looked so good in containers and bedding displays throughout the summer, will need to be brought indoors for the winter before the cold weather really hits.
All tender varieties require much the same care, no matter how they were grown, whether it was as a bush in a container or as part of a group in a hanging basket. Once they have been prepared for their rest, they need to be kept in a cool, frost-free place, such as a garage or shed as in warmer conditions they will come into growth prematurely.
Once spring has returned they are quite simple return into growth again and your care will be rewarded with large plants that are full of vigor and ready to give you a repeat of the previous year’s brilliant display.
Preparing for the Winter Rest
- After flowering all summer, fuchsias need to be given a rest period. The compost should be kept just damp to the touch as the plants do not require much water when not in growth.
- Cut the plant back by about a half with a sharp pair of secateurs, aiming to create a well-shaped specimen to start off with next spring. The leaves will have naturally started to die back in the autumn, but any remaining ones should be removed to help avoid pest and disease problems while the plant is in storage.
- Make sure the plant is labelled, and lift it out of its pot to check for any plump, creamy white vine weevil grubs on the roots, disposing of any you find before returning the fuchsia to its container. Store the plants in a box packed with an insulating layer of newspaper and put it in a cool, frost-free place. Check the plants every six weeks and give them a little water if the compost is very dry.
Caring for Standards
Standard fuchsias take a long time to train, so it is worth giving them a little extra attention to ensure they come safely through the winter.
The long, bare stem of a standard is vulnerable to frost damage but can be protected with a length of pipe insulation tubing. The pot and head can also be wrapped in an insulating material, such as horticultural fleece or bubble plastic. When you come to revive the plant in spring, lay it on its side to encourage the sap to flow to the top of the plant and bring the head back into growth.
Reviving in Spring
Take your plants out of storage in late February or March and place them in a warm, well-lit place. Do not worry if they look dry and twiggy as with a little attention they will soon be covered in fresh, young growth. Give the pots a little water every few days and mist the woody stems with tepid water to help soften them and encourage the buds to break. Scraping back a tiny piece of bark to see if the wood underneath is green is a useful way of checking if a stem is still alive. When your plants are safely back in growth, you can give them a quick tidy up with secateurs, removing any stems that have died over the winter and start feeding them again.