Fuchsia Water Requirements: Tips On Watering Fuchsia Plants
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Fuchsia plants are one of the most engaging potted flowering plants available. Care of these plants is fairly easy but watering fuchsia plants is crucial to producing big leafy plants with plenty of dangling blooms. Since most are grown as hanging baskets, the root zone is more exposed and tends to dry out quickly. But what are fuchsia water requirements? Read on for tips on how to water fuchsia and save these tender plants for another season.
Fuchsia Water Requirements
One of the easiest things to do is either over or under water plants. Moisture meters can be effective in determining how much water is retained in the soil, but they don’t help with the when and how much regarding the plant’s water needs.
Watering a fuchsia plant is actually quite easy. They need regular moisture but can’t be standing in boggy water. Your in-ground plants will be more tolerant of a dry day or two while the potted plants need a bit more moisture.
Most fuchsias aren’t terribly hardy and are used as annuals but their rapid growth even for one short season makes them standouts for the landscape. Consistent moisture will keep the plant happy and flowering all season.
Fuchsias cannot tolerate having wet roots. Well-draining potting soil and good drainage holes are important for potted plants. Plants in-ground should also have freely draining soil which is loose and fertile.
Watering fuchsia plants correctly may require the use of a moisture meter or what I call the “knuckle test.” Simply push your index finger into the soil around the plant. If it is moist to the second knuckle, you don’t need to water. If the soil is dry, however, it is time to water.
How to Water Fuchsia Plants
Fuchsia plants in containers should be watered until the water leaches out of the drainage holes. This is to help pull excess salts from fertilizing out of the water. You may want to consider using rain or distilled water if your municipality has fluoride in the water. Plants are sensitive to some chemicals and can become sick from common drinking water.
Plants in-ground should be watered until the soil is uniformly moist around the root zone. The root zone is generally 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 cm.) out from the main stem of a mature plant. You don’t want standing puddles of water so wait a minute before adding more and make sure the moisture is sinking into the root area.
Overwintering fuchsia plants require a different approach. You can save tender fuchsia even in northern climates by bringing it indoors. Bring plants in before the first frost and place them in a cool, dry location such as the basement or garage. Watering a fuchsia plant that is being overwintered is important, but the plant’s needs are minimal in winter. As a rule, watering twice during the dormant period is sufficient. Some growers recommend watering at a major holiday in the winter so you don’t forget.
If your plant is near a fan or heater, it will need a bit more moisture, as this will dry it out quickly. In spring, resume more consistent watering and gradually reintroduce the plant to the outdoors. In no time at all, you will have your beautiful flowering fuchsia in full glory to adorn your landscape.
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Fuchsia Plant Profile
The Fuschia genus contains more than 100 woody shrubs and trees, but the familiar garden fuschias widely available in garden centers are mostly hybrids chosen because they are ideal for hanging baskets and other containers. While these plants can be perennial garden plants in warm climates, fuschias are usually grown as outdoor container plants, either planted as annuals and discarded as the weather turns cold, or brought indoors and nursed in bright light and controlled conditions over the winter.
From spring to fall, fuschias produce dozens of brightly colored teardrop-shaped flowers from trailing stems, and they do so in the kind of shady conditions where most plants struggle. Fuchsias are a fabulous staple for hanging baskets with their elegant, drooping flowers hanging down like so many crystals on a fancy chandelier. But they can look fantastic in almost any container garden. Fuchsias look lovely in a pot on their own but also pair well with complementary or contrasting colors. Display them with oxalis, angel wing begonias, lobelia, or coleus. These plants also a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.
If you do live in a warm climate zone, you can also consider one of the shrub-like cultivars that may even achieve small tree stature when planted in the garden.
Whether planting a fuschia in outdoor containers or in the garden, wait until the weather is consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit all night before planting—these plants are very sensitive to cold.
|Botanical Name||Fuschia (Group)|
|Common Names||Fuschia, lady's eardrops|
|Plant Type||Evergreen shrub, usually grown as a trailing container plant|
|Mature Size||Usually 1 to 2 feet tall, similar spread|
|Sun Exposure||Part shade to full shade|
|Soil Type||Rich, moisture-retentive garden soil or peat-based potting mix|
|Soil pH||6.0 to 7.0 (slightly acidic to neutral)|
|Bloom Time||Repeat seasonal bloomer|
|Flower Color||Red, pink, white, violet, purple, and bicolors|
|Hardiness Zones||10 to 11 (often grown as an annual container plant)|
|Native Area||Caribbean, northern South America|
A Guide to Growing Fuchsias
Let’s go over everything you need to know to grow a spectacular arrangement of fuchsias in your garden this summer.
Types of Fuchsia
Fuchsias are a great addition to small gardens, and they’re a fantastic choice of balcony gardens that rely on vertical growing systems in a limited space. Some fuchsias are climbers, making them the ideal choice for compact spaces.
There are four common types of Fuchsia available from most garden centers throughout the United States.
- Standard Fuchsia – Bush or upright fuchsias trained as standards, making them the ideal choice for balcony containers or pots.
- Trailing Fuchsia – Ideal for hanging in flower baskets.
- Bush and Upright Fuchsia – These small, bushy, round shrubs are perfect for establishing borders in the garden, or for growing in containers on patios or balconies. These varieties are very hardy and suit most climates around the United States.
- Climbing Fuchsia – These fuchsias grow fast, with long and lax stems. Train them onto walls or fences for a beautiful vertical display.
Some of the Favorite Fuchsia Varieties
- Fuchsia’ Lady in Black’ (Half-Hardy)
- Fuchsia’ Shrimp Cocktail’ (Hardy)
- Fuchsia’ Dollar Princess’ (Hardy)
- Fuchsia ‘Hawkshead’ (Hardy)
- Fuchsia’ Pink Fizz’ (Hardy)
Planting Your Fuchsias
Gardeners can plant half-hardy varieties outdoors in the flowerbed in late May to early June. Check your local listings for the last frost dates in your area, and plant a week or two after that date. Gardeners can plant hardy varieties outdoors in the spring to early summer.
When planting your Fuchsia, dig a good-sized hole in the flowerbed that’s big enough to accommodate the root ball of the plant.
Add some organic matter, such as a rich compost or potting soil to the base of the hole before placing the root ball in the hole and covering it.
Remember to place the fuchsia root ball, and adjust the height of the soil to keep it at a level where the tops of the roots are just under the surface. Hardy fuchsias require deeper planting, and gardeners need to ensure they cover up to one to two inches of soil above the roots.
Mix more compost into your garden soil, and then fill in the planting hole. Make sure that you pack the earth lightly around the roots. Water thoroughly, and apply a granular plant fertilizer. Add a 2-inch layer of mulch or compost around the base of the stem to ensure proper moisture retention and nutrient levels in the soil.
The following is a list of the best planting locations for fuchsias.
- Flower borders and beds
- Courtyard gardens
- Informal and cottage gardens
Planting and Care
In North America, fuchsia plants are often grown in hanging baskets or other containers. One advantage of container planting is that you can move your fuchsia indoors if it gets too hot or cold, as these plants don’t like extreme temperatures. Make sure your container has good drainage, and use a well-draining, peat-based potting soil, as fuchsia’s are susceptible to root rot from waterlogged soil. Generally, a 12- or 16-inch pot is sufficient for a fuchsia plant. Note that if you use a plastic container, you should place your fuchsia in a shady location because plastic retains heat.
Watering and nutrients
Striking the right balance of watering for a fuchsia can be tricky as they like their soil continually moist but not waterlogged. Well-draining soil is essential so excess water can escape. During the hottest, driest days of summer, you may need to water your fuchsias once or twice daily to ensure they are staying moist. However, it’s always recommended to check the level of moisture first by dipping your finger into the soil to see how wet it is. Fuchsias have a big appetite. During the spring and summer, feed them every few weeks with a liquid fertilizer or diluted fish emulsion. Refillable watering globe spikes are ideal for keeping fuchsias satiated.
Hummingbirds are the key pollinators for fuchsia plants, although they also attract butterflies. If you want your garden to be full of these lively, beautiful creatures, fuchsia plants are an excellent flower to include in your landscaping design. The shape of the fuchsia flower is ideal for hummingbirds, as its hanging flowers allow the birds to easily hover while drinking the plant’s nectar. As they drink, pollen rubs off on the hummingbirds, who then transfer the pollen from flower to flower.
Fuchsia plants only produce new flowers on new growth, so pruning is essential to keeping your fuchsia blooming throughout the summer. After a branch has finished blooming, it is safe to clip it back with clean garden shears. This will make way for new blossoms. Pruning away damaged growth will also ensure that your fuchsia plant stays healthy and vibrant throughout the growing season. You can also prune your fuchsia plant to manage its shape. A wagon-wheel is a common shape for fuchsia plants, as it creates a full, balanced look for this delicate plant.
Pests, diseases, and animals
The most dangerous ailment that affects fuchsia plants is fuchsia rust, a fungal disease that causes orange pustules on leaves. If your plant is infected with fuchsia rust, remove affected leaves immediately and treat the plant with fungicide. Fuchsia plants are also susceptible to botrytis, a gray mold that grows on plants in dark conditions. You can remedy this infection with fungicide. Common pests that bother fuchsias include aphids, thrips, whitefly, and fuchsia gall mites. You can treat infestations with insecticidal spray or neem oil. Fuchsia plants are resistant to rabbits and deer.
Fuchsias are exotic plants native to Central and South America, where temperatures are typically high. Because of this, Fuchsia plants thrive in warm climates and cannot tolerate low temperatures. They will need to be brought inside before the first frost arrives to be overwintered indoors. You have two options on how to approach this. First, you can move your Fuchsia plant inside and allow its light and heat to keep it alive and enjoy the plant in your home over winter.
Alternatively, you can encourage your Fuchsia to enter dormancy over winter. To do this, place the plant in a dark place, such as a basement or garage, and reduce waterings down to around once a month. The temperature should be maintained at around 50º F. During its dormancy, the plant will not flower but will remain alive. It will undergo very little growth, if any, and will be storing up energy ready for the next growing season.
Around a month before the last expected frost, you should prune your plant back to around half its size and gradually allow it more indirect daylight to prepare it for returning back outside. After the final frost, it can be moved back outside to its original position and continue care as normal.
Fuchsias can be quite picky when it comes to humidity. If humidity is continually very high, then they will decline and eventually die, whereas very dry air can be a problem too. Average humidity levels will be best for this plant, so if your local climate is very dry, then a regular misting spray will help to keep these plants in good condition.
Most Fuchsia’s do not appreciate being in full sun conditions. Too much direct sun will cause their flowers to wilt and drop. Instead, allow the plant some direct sun ideally in the morning when it is not at its strongest, and then, protect the plant from the afternoon sun with some shade. The temperature of soil will also have a bearing on how much sun the plant can tolerate.
Fuchsia plants like to have cool soil, and when this is achieved, they can tolerate more sun. Fuchsias with hot soil will struggle to thrive in the sun, and instead should be grown in the shade. Fuchsias in containers will typically have hotter soil than those grown in the ground, and the type of container can affect soil temperature too. Plastic containers get hotter than terracotta ones, so Fuchsia plants kept in plastic containers will likely be better positioned in full to partial shade.
Fuchsia plants can be easily propagated with stem cuttings. The ideal time to take a cutting is during spring, but they can be taken right up until fall for successful propagation. Take a new growth cutting of between two and four inches, pinching it off above a set of leaves. Remove the lowest pair of leaves and insert the raw end of the stem directly into a moist growing medium. You can dip the stem into a rooting hormone to encourage rooting if you wish, but Fuchsias tend to root easily, and this step isn’t necessary. Put the pot in a bright and warm location such as a windowsill. The cuttings should root within four weeks.
What makes Fuchsia plants so popular are their exotic-looking flowers that bloom all summer long. The typically appear in early or mid-spring, and will persist right through to fall. The flowers themselves are an unusual shape, in a delicate draping style with two-tone coloring. They are quite showy and make beautiful displays in hanging baskets, as well as when grown as shrubs or small trees.
What Is Fuchsia?
Fuchsia, pronounced “few-shuh,” is a genus of deciduous, perennial shrubs in the Onagraceae family.
There are over 100 species in the Fuchsia genus, and thousands of named cultivars and hybrids growing in gardens around the world. Most plants available from garden centers and nurseries will be hybrids.
Species may have one of two distinct growth habits: the trailing type that you often see in hanging baskets that are available each spring at your local garden center, and bushier, upright types that grow in the ground and are ideal for planting in containers. The latter may be trained into standards.
The upright varieties can reach mature heights of up to six feet, while dwarf varieties top out at two to three feet.
This eye-catching, vibrant plant is generally grown as a perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10, depending on the variety, while hardy fuchsias, such as many hybrids and cultivars of F. magellanica, can thrive outdoors year-round in a slightly cooler range of growing zones, from 6 to 10.
Many people can’t resist having the plant around, even if they don’t live in the right climate for it to survive the winter. Growing it as an annual is an option, but containers can also be brought indoors to overwinter.
If you go this route, it’s easy to bring your potted plant inside for the winter and put it back out in the garden in the spring. No need to buy a new plant each year!
One look at the flowers and you can probably figure out why it’s sometimes called lady’s eardrops or angel’s earrings.
Throughout the summer, flowers bloom in a riot of shapes and colors, with vivid pink, deep purple, bright red, lavender-blue, peach, and delicate pink and white all making an appearance, depending on the type.
After blooming, 1/2-inch or slightly larger berries form. These turn black or dark blue when ripe.
And they aren’t just for show – these berries, believe it or not, are actually edible. They can taste like grapes, figs, or tart lemon, depending on the variety. Some have an intense peppery afterbite.
Don’t confuse plants of this genus with cape fuchsias (Phygelius spp.), several species of flowering evergreen shrub native to southern Africa. We’ll cover these in another article.
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Fuchsias (Fuchsia cvs) are a much loved perennial garden favourite. Not only can they be used in the garden, but also in hanging pots, part shade and full shade. They burst into flower from late spring to early winter and exude happiness with their blend of contrasting colour. When in full bloom the bush can seem like a cluster of full-skirted ballerinas waiting to move onto the stage.
Fuchsias are named after the 16th century German doctor, Leonhart Fuchs, who gained horticultural credibility by publishing a herbal in the 1540s but never actually laid his eyes on a fuchsia. It’s useful to know his surname, though, because it helps us remember how to spell the plant’s name– simply ‘Fuchs’ with an ‘ia’ at the end.
There are more than 100 species of fuchsias in nature, but most garden fuchsias are hybrids that have been bred for their showy flowers. These flowers are often quite large and pendulous, which means they’re easily damaged. The clue, then, is to keep the plants in a sheltered position that isn’t exposed to strong winds. Fuchsia plants prefer gentle conditions with plenty of water, good drainage, no temperature extremes and protection from the hottest sun.
Some of the pendulous varieties are ideally grown in a hanging basket or pot so that the flowers can be seen from below. Fuchsia flowers usually have sepals (the petal-like parts at the top of the flower) that blend or contrast in colour with the softer single or double petals that flair out below. Stamens protrude from beneath the petals, looking like a bunch of skinny, dangling legs. The effect can be totally charming – like a cluster of full-skirted ballerinas waiting to move onto the stage
Hot and dry conditions cause flower buds to fail to develop properly flowers, if any, will quickly fade and drop. Whiteflies are the most common insect pest on fuchsia. Other insect pests include aphids, which cause curling of the leaves. Thrips, mealybugs, spider mites, and scales can also attack fuchsia. For more information on common houseplant insects see HGIC 2252 Common Houseplant Insects and Related Pests.
Diseases that affect fuchsia include fuchsia rust however, some cultivars are resistant to rust. Botrytis blight also affects fuchsia but can be prevented with good air circulation, adequate spacing and good sanitation. Other disease organisms that attack fuchsia include Pythium, Phytophthora and Rhizoctonia. For more information on houseplant diseases see HGIC 2251 Houseplant Diseases and Disorders.
If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at [email protected] or 1-888-656-9988.
Bob Polomski, PhD, Associate Extension Specialist, Clemson University
Janet McLeod Scott, Former Horticulture Information Specialist, Clemson University
This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.