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Overwintering fuchsias

Fuchsias are spectacular summer-blooming flowers, especially in cool, semi-shaded areas protected from hot drying winds. It is possible to keep fuchsia plants from one year to the next, but they will not continue to bloom profusely and grow over winter as they did during the summer.

Fuchsias respond very strongly to annual changes in seasonal light levels (day length and light intensity). Beyond October it is practically impossible to keep them blooming. The low sun and shorter days tend to induce 'semi-dormancy', a period of reduced functioning in the plants.

In order to keep fuchsias over winter, gradually taper off watering in October and November. The soil should not become bone dry or dusty in winter, but should be watered only occasionally during the plant's rest period.

Temperatures during this rest period are important. Temperatures of 45°-55°F are ideal. The higher the temperatures above this range, the more likely the plants will produce spindly, elongated growth out of season. Plants overwintered at 70°F will have poor, feeble growth, and will be especially susceptible to spider mites and white fly infestations.

Keep the plants in a cool, light room, pruning them back in mid-March (see diagram). Fuchsias bloom on new wood, so it is important to encourage vigorous new growth in spring and summer for better flowering. If they grew a lot during the past summer, you may wish to transplant them to larger containers at this time.

After pruning, the plants can be moved to slightly warmer temperatures (65°F days, 55°F nights). Resume fertilizing with a product meant for blooming plants, but mixed ½-strength. When all danger of frost is past, the fuchsias can be moved outside again for the summer. Choose a semi-shaded spot that gives protection from the afternoon sun and heat in midsummer

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