Fuchsias are such a varied plant family that the only way to truly recognise some of the more diverse species is by their flower. For some gardeners, that can make fuchsias a little intimidating, but there are few plants that provide such vivid, low-maintenance interest year in, and year out.
With leaves that range from long and thin to tiny and round, and stems which mature to woody bases bearing greens and reds as young shoots, fuchsias offer something for everyone. In this guide, we’ll be sharing tips on how to grow fuchsias in all situations, and how to care for mature plants with pruning and feeding tips for everyone.
Shrubs and small trees
Reds, blues, purples, whites, yellows, orange, etc.
Poisonous for pets:
Non-toxic to cats and dogs
What are Fuchsias?
Fuchsias are tender perennial plants, typically grown as shrubs, but with a few stunning species that can grow into small ornamental trees. With edible flowers and berries, they have largely unexplored culinary uses and can set off garden borders in style.
For most gardeners, fuchsias are a backdrop to other annual plants, but their beaming blooms have as much interest as any annual or herbaceous perennial, and they can be cut back hard too, making them very adaptable in any garden design.
Fuchsia’s Natural Habitat
Nearly all fuchsias are native to South and Central America, where they thrive in bright, sunny conditions, on warm and fertile soil. They can cope with high winds, salty air, and drought but flower best on enriched compost over well-drained garden soil.
There are two common species native to New Zealand (and a few less common ones too); Fuchsia procumbens, the coastal fuchsia, and Fuchsia excorticata, the tree fuchsia (also called K?tukutuku).
One plant, Correa reflexa, commonly known as the native fuchsia in Australia, is in fact not a fuchsia at all.
How to Choose the Right Fuchsia for the Right Spot
While most fuchsias are not frost hardy, many are, and some of the most stunning garden varieties grow well outdoors all year round in Australia, with no need for winter protection.
However, shorter, denser fuchsias will typically need to be planted in pots in cooler regions, to move into the greenhouse over winter, so choose their location wisely.
Fuchsias are also classed as semi-deciduous shrubs, meaning that they will lose their leaves after winter, but in warmer regions, retain some structure and foliage. If you are concerned about bare branches, choose tougher fuchsias for your garden, or plant fuchsias somewhere away from cool or strong winds, where they will be more likely to hold foliage.
Growing Fuchsias in Australia
Fuchsias generally grow best in garden soil, enriched with compost, but there are a few varieties that look best in hanging baskets and pots, and one or two that absolutely require container conditions so they can be protected from frosts during winter.
In fact, there are one or two varieties that are actually climbing types, which can be grown up trellis or wire to provide interest against exterior walls.
How to Grow Fuchsias Outdoors
If you’re growing fuchsias outside, in the ground, follow these basic rules for soil conditions, lighting, and moisture levels and you won’t go wrong.
Light and Temperature
Fuchsia can cope with full sun, and grow in exposed sunny conditions in nature, but in Australian gardens, open spaces can put too much stress on them, especially if they are pruned and encouraged to flower excessively.
For fuchsias in hanging baskets or pots, it is especially important to provide shade from the afternoon sun.
Fuchsias can cope with quite high wind exposure. They are a varied genus, so it isn’t the case for all fuchsias, but most are quite happy to be planted in windy spots, and even coastal zones with salty winds.
Fuchsia leaves are tough, and well-adapted to the wind. Unlike most plants in your garden, you can actually water the foliage without much risk of fungal problems, as their leaves are not commonly eaten by pests, and their tough exterior protects them from disease.
Fuchsia hate being waterlogged, but they also don’t like prolonged drought. A week or two without water in summer, won’t kill them, but it will reduce flowering, and potentially cause some leaf drop. Long wet winters can initiate root rot too.
With that in mind, it’s important to plant fuchsias somewhere with really good drainage, and plenty of organic matter in their planting hole to add some water retention for young plants.
Here’s the important part. When it comes to caring for your fuchsia, you can take one of two options; care wildly, or care mildly. Fuchsias that are left to their own devices will survive but never thrive.
Fuchsias that are watered regularly, on free-draining soil, enriched with fertilisers and mulch every other year will truly thrive, and bloom for several weeks longer than your forgotten fuchsias.
Ideally, in summer, fuchsias should be watered once a week in the ground, and every other day in pots or hanging baskets. (Check out our list of plants suitable for hanging baskets for more options.)
Planting Fuchsias in Pots and Baskets
Fuchsias grown in pots need a little extra help. While fuchsias like free draining conditions, it’s important that they still have access to moisture, so coir compost is a no-go, and sandy garden soil won’t hold enough nutrition.
Fill your containers with a mix of compost and sandy garden soil, or sandy topsoil. Mulch the soil every year, and re-pot them every three years to stop roots from becoming pot-bound.
Fuchsias in pots, especially mature and semi-mature plants, can drink an inch of water per day with ease, so keep them out of direct sunlight to prevent scorching, and keep their soil evenly moist but not damp.
Propagating Fuchsia Plant
Fuchsia can be propagated in a few different ways, and deciding which to choose comes down to how much time you are willing to wait and the plant you have to begin with.
Propagating Fuchsias from Division
By far the fastest way to create new fuchsia plants is by division. This won’t work with tree fuchsias, unless they have sent up runners and volunteer shoots, but works well for shrub-type fuchsias.
Dividing shrubs with multiple lead shoots is a great way to reinvigorate your plants, and to create new semi-mature shrubs instantly.
- Dig up your entire fuchsia in late winter, or very early spring. They are shallow-rooted, and rarely root wider than the top of the plant, so this is usually quite easy.
- Split the root ball between two leading stems, keeping as much root as possible attached to the original plant.
- If the divided section is in good condition, it can be planted immediately.
- If the divided section has loose roots, and the stem is rocking, plant it into a loose, very free-draining compost mixture for a few weeks while the roots re-establish, and cut back the top growth to about 1/3 of its original size to reduce stress on the roots. It will be ready for planting when the top no longer rocks, and new growth is apparent.
Fuchsia Propagation from Cuttings
Propagating fuchsia from cuttings is straightforward, and a good way to learn about cuttings for new gardeners. It generally takes a couple of months for healthy roots to develop, but once they do, you can plant fuchsia cuttings directly into the garden, and expect flowers the following year.
- In spring, cut 10cm of fresh growth from any branch, and dip in rooting hormone.
- Remove the lower leaves to prevent stress.
- Plant quickly into a loose, free-draining compost mix (equal parts spent compost, fresh compost, and grit work for me).
- Within 4 weeks in a warm, but slightly shaded spot they should have rooted well in their containers.
- When they develop new shoots they can be planted out into containers.
- When they reach 1 ft tall, they are ready for planting in the ground.
Propagating Fuchsias from Seeds
Propagating fuchsia from seed can take six months to germinate, and several years before you have a reasonably good looking plant. It’s also quite likely that it won’t resemble the parent plant exactly as fuchsias cross-pollinate easily, and are common in gardens across Australia, making it hard to control.
- If using fresh seeds, remove them from the berries, clean them, and dry them on paper towels until they are no longer sticky (about a week) to reduce fungal problems at the germination stage. (If using packet seeds, soak them in water for 48 hours.)
- Use any well-drained seed compost to fill square plastic pots (square pots encourage healthier root growth in shrubs).
- Add a thin layer of sand (1-2mm) over the surface of the compost.
- Press the seed into the sand so it is still exposed to light.
- Soak the pots in a tray of water, and once the surface is moist, leave it to drain.
- Place the pots somewhere warm and bright, but not in direct sun until after germination.
- Cover with a sheet of plastic or glass.
- Mist the surface if it dries out, and wipe down any condensation from the glass.
- Germination can take up to six months, so check them regularly.
- After germination, leave them in their pots until they have their first true leaves that resemble the parent plant.
- Gently prick out these young seedlings into pots filled with a mix of 75% compost and 25% perlite for drainage.
- Arrange your pots in a tray filled with compost, so their roots can grow beyond their containers, and then treat them with care until early spring, when they should be ready for planting out.
Caring for Fuchsia Plant
Mature fuchsias need less care than those in their first five or six years, but do still benefit from an annual mulch or compost, leaf litter, or rotted manure. However, be sure to keep any mulches at least 2 inches away from the base of the stem, and they can cause rot on the mature woody parts of the plant.
Avoid mulching fuchsias in winter. While they are frost tender in some cases, they are more susceptible to root rot through winter dampness, and adding mulch will conserve winter moisture, not reduce it. Instead, add organic mulches in spring to boost nutrition.
Fuchsias benefit from any flowering plant fertiliser, or tropical fertiliser. While they are tender perennials, and well adapted to our climate, they function in much the same way as any other tropical. Camellia and azalea fertilisers work well too.
Repotting and Pruning Fuchsias
Fuchsias do not need pruning, but they look a lot better if you do! Regular annual pruning of fuchsias will keep them to a neat and manageable size, as well as promote more vigorous flowering through summer and into autumn.
Pruning young fuchsias by pinching out the top few leaves on each stem is also a great way to create bushier shapes more quickly. Many fuchsias will naturally bush out from the base, but it can take a few years for that to happen.
For fuchsias in hanging baskets, it is especially important to pinch out their growing tips, and regularly deadhead them to create bushier and longer-lasting blooms.
Fuchsia Pests and Diseases
While there are dozens of common garden pests that will damage fuchsias in Australian gardens, few actually cause lasting damage, and there are no common diseases other than fungal root problems.
Garlic sprays are useful deterrents for pests like aphids, mites, and slugs, and neem oil can be applied outside of flowering seasons to deter leaf-eating bugs.
To prevent root rot, avoid allowing fuchsias to become overly dry, or overly wet during the winter months. If you cover those three preventative care tips, it is highly unlikely that you will suffer from any lasting damage to any fuchsias you grow in Australia.
Fuchsia Frequently Asked Questions
Do fuchsias grow back every year?
Fuchsias are tender perennials but will grow back reliably in all parts of the country. In cooler regions, move tender fuchsias into the greenhouse or garage to protect them from frost, and they will reliably grow back the following spring.
When should fuchsias be cut back?
The best time to prune fuchsias to trigger new growth and boost flowering is actually spring, not autumn as with most deciduous shrubs. Pruning fuchsias in spring encourages much more rapid regrowth and reduces the risk of frost damage to cut stems over winter.
How do you keep fuchsias blooming?
To keep fuchsias blooming, simply deadhead them and add fertilisers that promote flowers and fruit. Fuchsias produce copious amounts of berries and are easily pollinated, so all spent flowers should be removed throughout the season to focus energy on new blooms.
Do you cut back fuchsias after flowering?
Do not cut back fuchsias after flowering. Fuchsias should be deadheaded as individual stems, and then cut back hard in spring to promote new growth, not after flowering in autumn or early winter.
How long do fuchsias live for?
Fuchsias are long-lived plants, despite their tender nature. In ideal conditions, fuchsias can live for well over fifty years. In our garden, we’ve got a thirty or forty-year-old plant that was planted by the parents of the women we bought the house from.
It is now about 2m tall, and blooms on every branch all summer and autumn, and reliably into winter.
Are fuchsias native to Australia?
Fuchsias are not native to Australia. The commonly known Native fuchsia is actually a plant called Correa reflexa, with similar foliage and flowers, but a much denser habit.
Is tomato feed good for fuchsias?
Tomato feeds work well for fuchsias, but only during their flowering stage. At all other stages, they should be fed with general-purpose fertiliser, or tropical plant fertiliser to support the whole plant. Tomato fertilisers boost flowering and berries.
Wrapping Up Our Fuchsias Growing Guide
Fuchsias might sound like quite picky plants, but we’ve got a thirty or forty-year-old fuchsia in our garden that was here when we bought the house. It rarely gets watered, even in hot summers, and is tough as old boots in winter.
The vast majority of the care advice in this article applies to young fuchsias, as once they are established, they will care for themselves with little help from us gardeners.