Growing A Standard Fuchsia
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Lets talk about growing a standard fuchsia. If you want to make your neighbours envious of your garden, there is no better way to do so than by placing a standard fuchsia in it. It can take two years to grow a good one, but when you see the final result you'll know that it was well worth the time and effort.
My favourite plant for making an excellent standard is one named Waveney Sunrise. Not only does it have a very attractive flower, but it also has lovely foliage of a pale lime green colour. The branches hang down to make this a most attractive standard that will last you for many years, I have some plants of this cultivar that are at least ten years old. Click on the small picture to see what a mature plant of Waveney Sunrise looks like when in full flower. But don?t restrict yourself to any one variety or cultivar, there are many to choose from that will make you a good standard. You will be surprised at some of the shapes that can be created.
We start by taking a cutting in the early spring. If we can choose one with three leaves, instead of the usual two growing opposite each other, this will be all the better. The more leaves we have, the more branches will grow on the finished plant. We are aiming to train a trunk that is as straight as possible. We will insert a small bamboo cane into the compost to the bottom of the pot and tie the stem into the cane. Using something soft that will not cut into the brittle young stem, some folks use pieces of nylon cut from ladies stockings. I myself prefer using Velcro fastenings, these are ideal for this task and can be easily loosened and re-tightened as the stem of the plant thickens. The Velcro needs to be firm enough to hold the stem against the cane, but not so tight that it bites into the bark restricting growth. We place one every two to four inches as the stem grows. It?s a good idea to check old ties to be sure they are not too tight as we add new ones.
We remove new branches in the leaf axils close to the stem as they grow. We do not remove the main leaves on the stem because these will be photosynthesizing (manufacturing food to support the plant.) In the first few weeks it?s a good plan to keep the young plant in a dark place, down among some taller plants, this will draw the plant to the light and it will soon grow quickly to reach the required height.. We continue removing new side growth and fastening the stem to the cane until it reaches the approximate height at which we want the head to form.
We can leave the new side shoots in the top four or five joints as the plant grows. Then if the plant accidentally loses its growing point at any stage, we will have side growth in place to start re-forming the head. If all the side shoots have been removed and the growing tip is accidentally broken off, it would take quite a while for new growth to begin again to form the head.
We need to keep the plant growing unchecked, so we pot up into a larger size pot as soon as the roots comfortably fill the pot. We need to be very careful with the watering at this time. The plan is to encourage the plant to make a large root system, we do this by controlling the amount of water we give the plant. We are aiming to make the plant put roots out into the new compost to search for water. We don?t let the plant get dust dry, but are careful and try to just give it enough water to make it search for more. We are aiming to have the plant in a 10? or 12? pot by the end of the first season. We do not make the mistake of potting up into too large a pot for the size of the roots. The compost can soon get wet and soggy and rot the entire root system, thus killing the plant. Please remember this old adage: More fuchsia plants are killed by overwatering, than are killed by under-watering.
When our standard reaches a height that suits us, we leave the top four or five side shoots on it and pinch out the growing tip. Those four or five shoots we left growing on the stem can now also be pinched out at about a 1/2 inch past the first joint. This will cause the plant to throw out more side shoots which we will continue pinching out to form a well shaped head. If you are thinking of entering your standard in one of the many shows that are organized across the country in August, July or September, consult the schedule before you make the final pinch, as the height of the standard may be stipulated.
When the plant is growing strongly in the final size pot and has filled the pot with roots, we can begin to feed it with a high nitrogen fertilizer to promote plenty of fresh green growth. We continue keeping all the shoots pinched tightly as the plant grows. We plan on forming a well shaped head in the first year. We are not really bothered about letting the plant flower at this time.
We don?t get too worried if the shape does not develop exactly as we hoped. If we get any stray branches that grow longer and faster than the others, they can be removed early on in the shaping process. We are planning on getting a nicely shaped head in the first year and this is the time to cut out any wayward growth..
We will over-winter our standard in a frost?free environment, just as we do with our other fuchsia plants. I myself keep them in a greenhouse, the heater is set to keep the temperature just above freezing. I find that they survive quite well in there. When we bring in our standard it is the best time to prune it. We cut back to the shape we want to begin with next spring. During the winter months we watch very carefully to be sure the roots do not dry out completely. Let me remind you again. Please remember the old adage: More fuchsia plants are killed by overwatering, than are killed by under-watering.
In the following spring when the standard begins to show signs of coming into growth we need to re-pot it into some new compost and lightly prune the roots. I use an old serrated-edged bread knife for this task. We knock the plant out of the pot and using the saw-like knife, remove about 2 inches of compost from the bottom of the root ball. Then using a piece of stick or plastic we remove all the loose compost and dead, brown roots from around the root-ball. Now we re-pot the plant back into the same pot using clean new compost and give it a good watering in.
This is the standard fuchsia?s second year and we intend letting it flower this time. We continue forming the head by pinching out the growing tips, until about eight to ten weeks before we want the plant to flower. We then let it grow and look forward to a stunning display. Enjoy your standard!
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Last modified: April 24, 2009 09:26:01
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