The blooming fuchsia pictures in this post are from my garden, July 2012. Enjoy!
Our weather continues on wet and mild. Today we had a break from the rain, and the sun streamed in, so I took the opportunity to go outside and try something new to me, which is to get my fuchsias ready to winter over in the garage. (If you are interested in this topic of wintering over plants, earlier this month I showed you how to pot up paperwhite bulbs and how to pot up pelargonium.) I like to do this in order to save money on plants next spring–if all goes well, I won’t have to buy nearly as many fuchsias to fill my hanging baskets and containers. However, this is the first time that I’ve tried wintering over fuchsias, so I will be on a steep learning curve to see what works and what doesn’t.
While hardy fuchsias will do just fine outdoors in the garden and come back next year, their tender relatives will not, at least not here in my zone 8 Pacific Northwest garden. In order to winter them over, you have to dig them up, plant them in a container, and water them in. This part of the process is exactly the same as the one I used to pot up pelargonium, and I refer you to that post for the step-by-step tutorial.
Today I used one-gallon sized pots for the larger fuchsias and 4-inch pots for the smaller ones, and these do not have to be decorative because these plants will not bloom at all over the winter. The plain old black plastic ones from the gardening center are perfect for this project.
This year, I had fuchsias in my hanging baskets, and so I basically emptied all the baskets and removed the plants that I want to winter over, in this case, a pelargonium also commonly known as a geranium, the fuchsia, and a rogue lobelia in my favorite variety called ‘Cambridge Blue.’ I decided to try wintering them all over. I know that the lobelia is an annual, but it’s still blooming away, so I’m going to see how long it goes!
I took the basket and cleared away as much of the dead plants as I could, moved the chains to the side and out of the way, and then carefully turned the basket upside down. The plants and dirt come out in one big ball, and I pulled the basket away from it, and then put that ball of plants and roots right-side up.
I use my little hand saw with the serrated edge to cut around the plants to separate it from all the other dead roots, and then I shake it to release anything that isn’t part of the plant. Then it’s easy at this point to see what you have to work with. Here you will see the pelargonium on the left, the fuchsia in the center and lobelia on the right:
You can see how big the actual root ball is. If it’s small, it can go into a 4-inch pot. Larger specimens go into a one-gallon pot. The process is just like for the pelargonium–fill the pot 2/3 full of potting soil, water it to let it settle, add more soil if needed, then put the plant roots in the pot and backfill with more potting soil, working it in with your fingers so there are no empty holes in the pot and that all the roots are completely covered. If the roots are very long, you can trim them back with hand pruners by 1/3, but I didn’t trim the top of the plant back at all at this point. From some reading I did, it’s advised to leave the top as is at this point, and then trim it back in the early spring when you are ready to bring it out of dormancy.
In this photo, the pelargonium/geranium is on the left, the fuchsia in the center and the lobelia on the right.
All the dead roots and plants, as well as the old potting soil, can go into your compost pile as long as they are pest and disease-free.
I used my homemade plant soap to make sure no pests were coming indoors with the plants. It’s made from:
- one capful Murphy’s Oil Soap (used for cleaning wood furniture)
- 1 quart water
Place this in a spray bottle and shake it up well to mix, and then spray your plant, paying attention to the under parts of the leaves and the stems.
Now this is the part where I am experimenting a bit. I read some instructions that said you can winter them over in the garage with no light, while another source said to put them in a cool, light room. I am going with the dark garage just to see what happens, because I already have a tableful of plants under lights and am running out of room! According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service yard and garden brief, you should taper off watering the plants, just giving them a bit of water so they don’t die but not tons of water–about the equivalent of watering them once every 2-3 weeks. You want to make sure they are somewhere that is not freezing and also not too warm–45-55 degrees F is recommended as ideal for them over the winter, and I think our attached garage should be just about right for this. They will lose their leaves and looks kind of dead, but they are not.
In mid-March you can begin to bring them out of dormancy. Tender fuchsias bloom on new wood, so what this means is that you want to prune them in March so that they put out lots of new growth. You can cut most of the trailing ones back pretty hard to get rid of all the trailing stems, and the upright ones to half of their height. After pruning, you can bring them into the light and into a warmer room, and they should start to grow again. You can water them regularly and use a fertilizer for blooming plants now, but mixed at half strength. After your last frost date, your plants will be ready to go into your spring and summer containers and bloom well for you.
**ADDENDUM: After hearing from a couple of local expert gardeners, I am coming to the conclusion that you need to have lights on the plants in the garage in order to winter them over successfully. One gardener said that she winters her over in a garage that has windows, and this provides the necessary light for her plants. I am going to try adding a light over my fuchsias in the garage and see how they do.
The garden has been so cooperative this fall, but I suspect this will be my last actual outdoor gardening post for a while. I have other ideas up my sleeve, so stay tuned!
Do you winter over your tender fuchsias, and if so, do you keep them in light or dark conditions? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments, so stop by for a visit!
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