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Although the majority of Fuchsia species are found in South America, there have become such a perennial favourite with the English gardener that you can be forgiven for thinking that they are some kind of hybridised, native woodland plant. Of course they are not which is why most of the more colourful and ‘blousy’ cultivars around today have almost no hope of surviving the winters of our northern European climate.
There are a number of ways to winterize fuchsias but they all end up doing the same thing and that is to allow the plant into fall into a dormant condition. Whatever you decide to do the plant is going to have to come under cool protection and you will need to start preparations once you start to see seasonal leaf fall on the local deciduous plants – this will be around September. You will want to make sure that from this point on that all the fuchsias you want to protect have been lifted and potted on. Now these plants will be quite happy remain outside but you will want to slowly reduce their watering and lay off the fertiliser.
Now the actual timing for when fuchsias eventually come in will depend on the following three factors.
1. If they get hit by a surprise frost.
2. If they start to lose their leaves.
3. If you decide that it is too cold for them to stay outside any longer.
To maintain their dormancy they will need to be moved into a cool position such as a garage, basement, unheated porch or conservatory. Wherever they go it is the temperature that is important - they need to be above freezing yet below 6 degrees Celsius - around 2-3 degrees Celsius is best. While they are dormant, light is not important and certainly do not apply any fertilisers. The compost should be kept moist at best but never wet or water logged otherwise you are likely to lose the plant to fungal rots. It is quite normal to have the soil around the edges of the container completely dry through the entire dormancy period – but pay attention to the centre of the root ball as some water – however little – will still need to be applied on a month to month basis.
Come March they can be moved to a warmer, brighter position, but one that is still under protection. Watering can be gradually increased as the plant revives and begins to produce new growth.
After a couple of more weeks the plants can be acclimatised by placing them into a bright position outside but not in direct sunlight. Once the threat of late frosts are over the fuchsias can one more be planted outside into their final positions.