FUCHSIA (lady’s ear drops)

2-5 deg C/36-41 deg F

Although one of the most popular pot plants, and extremely beautiful, the fuchsia is often a failure if an attempt is made to keep it in a room for a long period. It is a plant which is more suited to a conservatory, garden room or porch, or any other place that is reasonably humid and has good light and air circulation.

There are innumerable types from which to choose, mostly named cul-tivars. It is best to visit a specialist grower – or to obtain a catalogue for description – if you wish to make purchases. There are hardy types which should be chosen for cold places. Where it is frost-free, the more exotic greenhouse cultivars can be selected. Some are especially suited to hanging pots or baskets and have a trailing habit, others are more erect and best when trained as a bush. Standard fuchsias are not usually suited to room conditions at all and are best avoided, although they are splendid for a conservatory.

A few fuchsias have coloured or ornamental foliage. These must have a position in good light to develop their finest tints. Other fuchsias also need plenty of light to produce generous flowers and strong growth, but direct sunlight should not be allowed. It is best to buy either rooted cuttings in spring or adult plants just as the buds are opening. The cuttings should have the growing tip removed to encourage bushy growth. For hanging-baskets it is usually necessary to have about three plants set evenly

around the edge. If hung in a window. the baskets should be turned daily to even out the light distribution, and prevent one-sided growth. Choose a cool place where the temperature does not fluctuate, and keep the plants nicely moist. In some cases, the shoots can be stopped to obtain a more dense and bushy plant and increase the number of flowers. The plants need plenty of feeding as the buds are just beginning to form if they are to be strong. Flowering will normally continue from summer to autumn. After flowering. reduce the amount of water and trim back to strong stems. Keep the plants in a frost-free place during winter, giving just sufficient water to maintain any foliage remaining on the plants. In spring, when new shoots appear, cut back further if necessary – the aim being to begin with a strong basal stem system to support the new growth. If this is not done, the plants may become too large and very straggly, and untidy later on. Erratic watering may cause both leaves and flowers to fall. Aphids. whitefly, and red spider mites are frequent pests, but are easily controlled. Anyone with a conservatory or large porch of glass could make an exciting collection of fuchsias and include the graceful singles and modern large-flowered doubles. Some of the latter have very unusual marbled colourings. The hybrids and cultivars of F. triphijlla. with elongated blooms are sometimes not readily recognized as fuchsias, but often make better houseplants than others and are worth trying, particularly in a bay or bow window where light is more even.

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