Fuchsias are the favorite of many garden and plant lovers and since fuchsias are perennial shrubs, they can also be overwintered well with the right care. Although most fuchsia species are found in tropical and subtropical climate zones, they are not strictly tropical plants and there are even some relatively hardy species. In order to optimally manage the hibernation of the fuchsia, you should be familiar with their habits. In their South American homeland, fuchsias like to grow on mountains where the rain on the slopes provides a lot of moisture. A location in or on the edge of a rainforest means that the fuchsia belongs in a shady, moist and evenly cool place. In winter, the fuchsia sheds its leaves and goes into hibernation.
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Preparation for winter quarters
The preparation of fuchsias for winter storage is carried out in stages:
If the fuchsia is also planted in the ground as a bedding plant with a pot, it is easier to dig up the plant for the winter and transport it to winter storage. Remember not to make the planter too heavy so that the respective pot, box or trough can still be transported to the winter quarters without any problems.
From September at the latest, stop fertilizing the fuchsias. From September, the water supply will also be reduced more and more.
Discontinuing fertilization and reduced watering will automatically encourage the plant to adjust to the upcoming winter dormancy. Flowering stops and the previously soft shoots begin to lignify. Fuchsias must therefore be pruned regularly after each growth period, otherwise they will develop only a few flowers or no flowers at all. Without pruning, the old shoots continue to grow, but they can no longer form buds and the plant ages more and more. Only when the old shoots are cut back will new shoots grow out of the eyes, which will then bear flowers for a season. You have three options for the cut:
- the pruning can already take place in winter
- you can do a spring pruning
- a combination of both cuts can also be useful
A key advantage of winter pruning is that the plants take up less space in the winter quarters. The winter pruning can also only serve as a rough pre-pruning to get more space for the plants to be stored. Subtleties can then be done with the spring cut. If a fuchsia has not yet fully prepared for the coming hibernation, cutting it before winter automatically triggers the plant’s hibernation mechanism:
- with hardy fuchsias, carry out the winter pruning before the start of the first major frost period
- Perform winter pruning on fuchsias that are not hardy before storing
- no winter pruning for fuchsias that overwinter in a pit, as the cutting points are susceptible to fungal attack
When pruned before winter, some fuchsias may still have sap in the shoots, which will come out after pruning. The plant regulates this loss of liquid itself. However, to avoid mold growth, the escaping water should be removed to avoid permanently wet spots.
Hardy outdoor fuchsias
In the case of the so-called hardy fuchsias, most of the above-ground part of the plant dies off in winter and the fuchsia then develops new shoots from the root ball in spring. Even if some fuchsia varieties are described as hardy, this is only partially true. Some fuchsia root balls die off in winter at minus 5 degrees Celsius and even the root ball of a fuchsia variety that is described as particularly hardy cannot survive temperatures below minus twenty degrees Celsius. However, as long as you can protect the root ball from such temperatures, a fuchsia will continue to develop from year to year.
To protect against freezing of the root ball in winter:
- Allow outdoor fuchsias to root freely, i.e. plant them without a pot
- Cover plant with mulch or straw
- do not use peat covers, this stores water instead of air and does not provide an insulating layer of air in winter when it is cold
- also plant evergreen ground covers as winter protection for the root ball
- in extreme winter frosts, put a box or bucket over the root ball
A certain danger when overwintering the fuchsia poses frosts in spring, when the plant already has the first new shoots. If these freeze to death, however, the existence of a healthy plant is not fundamentally threatened. However, it will hardly or not flower at all in the year after wintering.
Not hardy fuchsias
If so-called hardy fuchsias are to overwinter in a flower pot unprotected outdoors, they have no chance against the frost. Even if it is a fuchsia with a high trunk, it can only hibernate safely in a sheltered winter storage.
Although fuchsias, which are usually kept in pots, are particularly frost-sensitive plants, they should be left outdoors for as long as possible before overwintering. A light frost with temperatures around the freezing point can even be good for the plant because the cold contributes to better lignification of the shoots. In November, before winter has set in with the first severe frosts, the fuchsias should then be taken to their winter storage for overwintering.
If the winter cut is omitted:
- Remove the leaves, blossoms, fruits, etc. that are still attached to the plant
- safely dispose of removed plant remains to protect against infections and parasites
- Label plants by variety so that you can tell them apart without leaves or flowers
- Planting soil should be slightly moistened
Check plants regularly for mold infestation, diseases or pests during the winter
Suitable winter quarters
Winter quarters that also guarantee a certain level of humidity are suitable for fuchsias. If they offer the right indoor climate conditions, rooms such as
- basement rooms
The plants are best stored for the winter in rooms with a temperature range between about one and ten degrees Celsius:
- Don’t put plants too close together
- ensure sufficient, draught-free air circulation
- choose low room temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius for dark rooms
- ensure higher room temperatures of over 5 degrees Celsius for brighter rooms
- ensure that the humidity is as constant as possible
- Under no circumstances choose rooms with wall or floor moisture for wintering
Overwintering in plastic bags is also possible if the plants are housed in sheltered rooms. This makes it easier to transport and store the plants.
- Moisten the soil in the pots
- Put pots in plastic bags
- Knot the plastic bag at the top
- regularly check the stored plants for mold infestation
Burrows in the ground are often considered a particularly convenient way to let fuchsias overwinter. However, this type of hibernation is only recommended for older plants that have already reached a certain level of lignification:
- choose a place for the pit that is protected from excessive moisture
- dig a pit about 60 to 80 centimeters deep
- Line the pit with boards
- fill the bottom of the pit with a hand’s breadth of peat
- Then place fuchsias in their pots in layers in the pit
- cover each layer with a layer of peat
- cover the top layer of peat with boards and waterproof sheeting
Preparation for spring
If you have already cut back the shoots sufficiently during the winter cut, you can usually save yourself a spring cut completely or at least to a large extent. You have to adjust the timing of the spring cut individually. Depending on the type of hibernation and location, the fuchsia will sprout sooner or later after hibernation. The following should be observed when cutting:
- Cut off old shoots about 5 millimeters above an eye
- to cut diseased shoots down to healthy wood
- Use particularly sharp scissors to avoid crushing the fuchsia wood when cutting
How far before or after winter you should cut back depends on the variety and ultimately on the growth stage of the individual plant. As a rule of thumb, healthy fuchsias tolerate more pruning than plants that have one or the other problem. It also plays a role in what shape the plant should get in the coming year. How many eyes remain after the cut is ultimately the same, as long as any pair of eyes remain. Whether doing a winter pruning and spring pruning, or just opting for spring pruning, the plant’s shoots should be pruned back by no more than two-thirds overall. A good midpoint for the cut would be about a half cut, with the minimum being about a third.
After a successful spring cut, the fuchsia wants to be watered. Until the first shoots form, it is enough to keep the soil moist. Only when leaves appear on the shoots is normal watering announced and the plants should only receive the first fertilizer now. If fuchsias do not sprout properly after spring pruning or some shoots even begin to wither, this is often due to too much moisture in the soil. However, the fuchsia can be saved by cutting off the damp-damaged root tissue and planting it in a smaller pot. When pruning in spring after the winter, you should repot the fuchsia, as the plant will automatically stand in fresh soil that contains more nutrients for the plant.
The fuchsia occurs naturally in:
- Central America
- The Andes in western South America
- fire land
- Polynesia such as Tahiti
- New Zealand