Overwintering Fuchsias in a Cold Climate

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A hybrid fuchsia (Fuchsia x hybrida) can often bloom from late spring to late fall, but will need some sort of protection to survive the winter in temperate zones. Source: Lori Smoot, pinterest.ca

The genus Fuchsia, named for the German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (15011566), contains more than 100 species, many of which are tropical and unable to tolerate the slightest bit of cold, but the most widely cultivated variety, the hybrid fuchsia (Fuchsia x hybrida), of which there are more than 8,000 cultivars, is hardier. It’s a subtropical plant and prefers a cool fall and winter. In fact, most cultivars will even tolerate a light frost without much harm.

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The hardy fuchsia (F. magellanica) produces numerous tiny flowers and can even be used as a hedge in hardiness zones 8 to 10. Source: http://www.amazon.com

There is even a “hardy fuchsia” (F. magellanica and its hybrids), a shrub that survives in zone 7 if it is well mulched (otherwise, zone 8) and can therefore grow outdoors in much of Europe, as well as in milder regions of North America, even as far north as Vancouver, Canada.

That said, it’s pretty much the only fuchsia that is hardy enough to overwinter outdoors in temperate climates. You need to either treat the vast majority of fuchsias as annuals, letting them freeze in the fall (which is, in fact, what most gardeners do) or find a way to overwinter them safely away from hard frost.

Different Techniques

I have friends in Europe (zone 8) who overwinter their hybrid fuchsias by removing all their leaves and burying them in a trench in the garden, then covering them a thick mulch. (I’ve always felt that sounded like a lot of work!) At any rate, it won’t work for a lot of gardeners in temperate zones. In zone 7 and colder (and I live in the frigid zone 3!), the ground is likely to freeze deeply in spite of the mulch and that would kill the trenched fuchsias.

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F. triphylla ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ differs from hybrid fuchsias (F. x hybrida) by its long, tubular coral-pink flowers and its purple-backed leaves. It is also more tolerant of warm winter temperatures and can be readily grown as a houseplant. Source: http://www.monrovia.com

Fuchsias can also be overwintered indoors as houseplants, placed in front of a very sunny window, but that brings its share of problems. I only do this with honeysuckle fuchsia (F. triphylla) and its cultivars, like the classic ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’. This is a more tropical species than the hybrid fuchsia, adapting perfectly well to the warm temperatures (65 to 75 ° F/18 to 24 ° C) maintained in most homes over the winter.

Hybrid fuchsias (F. x hybrida) don’t make such great houseplants. They prefer a much cooler winter (40 to 50 ° F/4 to 10 ° C) and lose a lot of leaves when you bring them indoors in the fall, producing weak, etiolated growth over the winter. They just don’t do well under the combination of warm indoor temperatures and poor light (the sun is very weak during the late fall and winter). Also, they have a hard time tolerating the dry air that prevails in our homes over the winter.

If you’re still considering bringing hybrid fuchsia indoors over the winter, at least be very careful to treat the leaves with a suitable insecticide when you bring them in. Whiteflies just love fuchsias and will follow them indoors. You may not notice any right away, as whiteflies go into diapause (dormancy) in the fall, but when they wake up in March and start to proliferate massively, you’ll wonder why you ever thought it was a good idea to bring a fuchsia indoors!

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It’s possible to overwinter fuchsias in the form of cuttings. http://www.gardenersworld.com

A third option is to take cuttings rather than bring in adult plants. You should still swish the cuttings in soapy water (insecticidal soap is best) as you bring them in so as to kill any whiteflies that might be hiding on the leaves. Then, as you prepare your cuttings (read Rooting Cuttings Step by Step), apply a rooting hormone and root them in a pot of moist potting soil. The resulting plantlets seem to tolerate the warm temperatures of our homes better than adult plants. Nevertheless, the occasional pruning to reduce etiolation and stimulate branching might well be helpful.

Forced Dormancy

This is the method of choice for most gardeners. You need a frost-free location where temperatures remain between 40 and 50 ° F (4 and 10 ° C) through the winter. The spot can be in the dark or receive light: that matters little. You’ll often find such conditions in a basement, a root cellar, a slightly heated garage, a solarium or a covered veranda (lanai). The air can be either humid or dry: it doesn’t matter when the plant is dormant.

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A fuchsia plant, pruned back, cleared of its leaves and ready to overwinter indoors in a cool but frost-free spot. Source: fuchsiabonsailady, gardenweb.com

When frost threatens (I actually prefer my fuchsias to undergo a touch of frost: it seems to shock them into a deeper dormancy), bring the plants indoors. Prune back the stems by about a third. Clear the plants of any remaining leaves (they will have lost a lot after undergoing cold autumn temperatures). By removing all the leaves, you can be sure you don’t bring any whiteflies indoors, as they overwinter on the undersides of leaves.

Maintenance during dormancy is minimal: simply water enough so that the soil does not dry up completely. For that purpose, you may only need to water about once a month.

At the end of March or in April, move the plants indoors to a windowsill or set them in a heated greenhouse, ideally in full sun. Begin to water more assiduously. Soon you’ll see new growth appear. As new leaves grow and the plant fills in, its watering needs will increase. Shortly, you’ll be watering your fuchsias just as much as any other houseplant. When growth picks up, you can also start fertilizing them again: use the fertilizer of your choice at one quarter the recommended rate.


With the treatment described, your fuchsias should be in full growth and even starting to bloom just in time for their summer season. Put them back outdoors, preferably in partial shade, keep watering and fertilizing, and just watch them bloom their heads off!

Only January, Yet Already Time to Sow Seeds?

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It’s only January! Surely it’s too soon to sow seeds? Source: worldartsme.com, rdkate.blogspot.ca & mzayat. com

The new year has barely begun, yet now and over the coming month it’s already time to start certain seeds indoors.

This is a very select group of especially slow-to-mature plants. January is far too early for most seeds (think March or April instead), but you need about four to five months of indoor culture to bring the following plants to the right state of growth for outdoor planting.

  1. Agastache (Agastache foeniculum)
  2. Datura (Datura metel)
  3. Fairy Snapdragon (Chaenorrhinum origanifolium, syn. glaerosum)
  4. Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflora)
  5. Spike dracaena or cabbage palm (Cordyline australis, syn. indivisa)
  6. Tritome (Kniphofia )
  7. Tuberous Begonia (Begonia × tuberhybrida)

No Easy Feat!

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Artificial light is almost essential for seeds started in January. Source: laidbackgardener. blog

Starting seed in January in the Northern Hemisphere is not simple. The days are short, the sun is weak and, in many areas, the weather is gray more often than sunny, meaning light is seriously lacking. Also, temperatures in front of the average windowsill are cool, yet almost all seeds need warmth—and fairly even temperatures—to germinate well. As a result, you pretty much have to start these under artificial lights, such as fluorescent or LED plant lights, and in the warmest part of your home.

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Germinate the seedlings under glass, possibly over a heating pad, as above. Source: www.amazon.fr

Always start winter-sown seeds “under glass” (under some sort of transparent covering) to maintain high humidity and stable temperatures and in a room that is at least moderately warm (72 to 75˚ F/21 to 24˚ C) or place the seed containers on a heating pad (one specifically designed for plants). Use a timer to set the day length of your lamp at 14 hours to simulate the long days of summer and place the containers of freshly sown seeds about 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) below the lamp. Now, wait patiently for germination to occur. (One reason that certain seeds need early sowing is that they are slow to germinate.)

Seeds That Require a Cold Treatment

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Many tree, shrub and perennial seeds need a cold treatment before they will germinate. Source: laidbackgardener. blog

January (or December or February) is also a good time to start seeds that need a cold treatment (cold stratification) to germinate well. This group includes most trees and shrubs from cold and temperate climates, but also many perennials and even a few annuals.

These seeds will not germinate until they have received a given number of days of cool, moist conditions, from as little as one or two weeks to four months or more, information you would (hopefully) find on the seed pack.

The number of weeks given is the minimum requirement for that species, but there is no maximum. So, if you keep seeds that need, say, a two-week treatment in the cold for two months, that’s not a problem. That’s nice to know, because the information on the minimum cold treatment for seed X is not always available, especially for seed you harvested yourself. If you don’t know, I suggest giving seeds of perennials a six to eight-week cold treatment: that’s usually enough. For trees and shrubs, I’d recommend three months.

Simply sow these seeds in a container as you would any other, then seal them inside a clear plastic bag and pop them into the refrigerator or cold room for at least the minimum number of weeks. Afterwards, move them to a warm, well-lit spot, on a windowsill or under lights, for germination to start.

100 Seeds That Need a Cold Treatment

Here are 100 plants that germinate best with a cold treatment (there are thousands of others!). Check the seed envelope or the seed supplier’s web site for more information.

  1. Abies (fir)
  2. Acer (maple, mosts species)
  3. Aconitum (aconite)
  4. Alchemilla (lady’s mantle)
  5. Allium (ornemental onion)
  6. Amelanchier (serviceberry)
  7. Aquilegia (columbine)
  8. Asclepias (milkweed, some species)
  9. Astrantia (masterwort)
  10. Baptisia (false indigo)
  11. Buddleia (butterfly bush)
  12. Caltha (marsh marigold)
  13. Caryopteris (bluebeard)
  14. Cercis canadensis (redbud)
  15. Chelone (turtlehead)
  16. Cimicifuga (bugbane)
  17. Clematis (clematis)
  18. Cornus (dogwood)
  19. Corydalis (fumitory)
  20. Delphinium (delphinium)
  21. Dicentra spectabilis, now Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart)
  22. Dictamnus (gas plant)
  23. Dodecatheon (shooting star)
  24. Echinacea (purple coneflower)
  25. Eremurus (foxtail lily)
  26. Eryngium (sea holly)
  27. Eupatorium (Joe Pye weed)
  28. Filipendula (meadowsweet)
  29. Forsythia (forsythia)
  30. Fragaria (strawberry)
  31. Fuchsia (fuchsia)
  32. Gentiana (gentian)
  33. Geranium (perennial geranium, cranesbill)
  34. Goniolimon (German statice)
  35. Helianthemum (rock rose)
  36. Helianthus (perennial sunflower)
  37. Heliopsis (false sunflower)
  38. Helleborus (Christmas rose)
  39. Hemerocallis (daylily)
  40. Heuchera (coral bells)
  41. Hibiscus moscheutos (perennial hibiscus)
  42. Hypericum (St. John’s wort)
  43. Iberis (perennial candytuft)
  44. Ilex* (holly)
  45. Incarvillea (hardy gloxinia)
  46. Iris (iris, many species)
  47. Kirengeshoma (waxbells)
  48. Knautia (knautia)
  49. Lathyrus (perennial sweet pea)
  50. Lavandula (lavender)
  51. Leontopodium (edelweiss)
  52. Lobelia (hardy lobelia)
  53. Lonicera (honeysuckle)
  54. Macleaya (plume poppy)
  55. Magnolia* (magnolia)
  56. Malus (apple, crabapple)
  57. Mazus (creeping mazus)
  58. Mertensia (Virginia bluebells)
  59. Muscari (grape hyacinth)
  60. Myrrhis odorata (sweet cicely)
  61. Nepeta (catmint)
  62. Oenothera (evening Primrose)
  63. Opuntia* (beavertail cactus)
  64. Paeonia* (pivoine)
  65. Penstemon (beard-tongue)
  66. Persicaria (fleeceflower)
  67. Persicaria orientalis, syn. Polygonum orientale (kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate)
  68. Phlox (phlox)
  69. Physalis (Chinese lantern)
  70. Picea (spruce)
  71. Platycodon (balloon flower)
  72. Primula (primrose)
  73. Pulsatilla (pasque flower)
  74. Quercus (red and black oaks)
  75. Ranunculus (buttercup)
  76. Ratibida (prairie coneflower)
  77. Rosa (rose)
  78. Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan)
  79. Sambucus (elderberry)
  80. Sanguinaria (bloodroot)
  81. Sanguisorba (burnet)
  82. Saponaria (soapwort)
  83. Saxifraga (saxifrage)
  84. Scabiosa (pincushion flower)
  85. Sedum (stonecrop)
  86. Sempervivum (houseleek)
  87. Sidalcea (prairie mallow)
  88. Staphylea* (bladdernut)
  89. Stokesia (Stokes’ aster)
  90. Syringa (lilac)
  91. Thalictrum (meadow-rue)
  92. Tiarella (foamflower)
  93. Tricyrtis (toad-lily)
  94. Trillium* (trillium)
  95. Trollius (globeflower)
  96. Tsuga (hemlock)
  97. Vernonia (ironweed)
  98. Veronica (speedwell)
  99. Viola (violets)
  100. Vitis (grape, some species)
*Some species in this genus require a double cold stratification: that is, two cold treatments separated by warm one, to germinate well. Try two to three months of cold followed by two months of warmth, then again two to three months of cold. When you expose them to warmth after these repeated treatments, most will germinate quite readily.

Good growing!20180103 ENG worldartsme.com, rdkate.blogspot.ca & mzayat.com.jpg