Here on the north coast, fuchsias have an almost perfect climate. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens has a collection of both species and hybrids. Over 60 fuchsias have been planted in the Woodland Garden. There is also a lovely display of trailing and common fuchsias in the Display House. You can visit and enjoy the fuchsias anytime from summer to late autumn, even in winter if the weather is mild.
Planting Although fuchsias are considered shade plants, they need a lot of light to grow and flower. Choose an outdoor location where the plants receive direct morning sun or filtered sun throughout the day. The warmer the climate, the more shade is needed. Fuchsias are at their best where summer days stay below 85 degrees F. and nights are cool. In hot and dry climates, the plants grow poorly and the flower size shrinks. Growers in those areas must provide good shade and wind protection and install automatic misting systems. Prolonged freezing temperatures damage most fuchsias. Hardy varieties can survive teenage temperatures if they are well established in the soil, have been planted deep and have been given a heavy layer of compost. They will freeze to the ground and re-sprout from the roots. Container plants must be moved under cover.
Red and orange flowered varieties take full sun near the sea. White and pastel hanging basket varieties must be shaded. Some small-flowered houseplants will also grow in a very bright window, but usually don’t do as well as outside, especially on the West Coast.
If there seems to be too much stem between the sets of leaves, move the fuchsia to more light. Turning the plants a quarter of a turn regularly will also make them more symmetrical. If the shade in your yard comes from trees, be careful where you place the fuchsias until the trees have fully leafed out.
Soil Plant fuchsias in humus-rich soil in the garden or use a light organic potting mix in pots with perfect drainage. Wooden containers or fiber pots keep the roots cool and allow the plant to “breathe”. Clay pots do the same but dry out faster.
Watering Fuchsias like their roots moist, but not wet. Water when the surface of the growing medium becomes dry. A houseplant in full bloom needs water once a day or possibly twice in very hot and dry weather. Do not water a wilted plant in midday heat if the soil is still wet. You can suffocate the roots! Mist the leaves to reduce the surface temperature and move the plant to a cooler location.
Fertilization How you care for your fuchsias in March and April will affect how well they grow and bloom in the summer. Start in the spring with a regular fertilization schedule, starting with a light application each week. A good rule of thumb to use is to mix a half strength balanced water soluble fertilizer and feed fuchsias weekly. You can switch to a “bloom” formula of fertilizer when the plants are budding, but don’t cut out the nitrogen completely because fuchsias will continue to grow while blooming. Remember that a houseplant needs regular feeding because there is little soil to hold nutrients and the frequent watering leaches them out faster. In cold winter areas, withhold fertilizer in the fall to harden the plants off before they go dormant for the winter. Most fuchsias need long days to flower. Some varieties, especially the F. triphylla hybrids, can flower all year round if the climate is mild.
Pests and diseases In warm climates and for greenhouse growers, whitefly can be extremely problematic. Whitefly populations in the early stages of population development can be kept down by a vigilant program of removing infested leaves, vacuuming adults, or flushing (spraying) with water sprays. Insecticidal soaps or oils such as neem oil can reduce but not eliminate populations. Don’t miss the underside of the leaves. Test all sprays first; the tender leaves and flowers burn easily. Also be aware of the fuchsia gall mite, a microscopic mite that sucks the plant sap and injects a toxin that causes the fuchsia to produce gnarled and shriveled growth, similar to peach leaf curl. Stems, leaves and flowers swell and become hairy and galled. Within these grids, the mites live and breed, protected from predators. See below for a detailed review of the treatment