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This article was originally published on the web at myweb.tiscali.co.uk/fuchsias/ however that website is defunct at July 2013. The copyright remains with the original author.

Fuchsia - overwintering - locations

GARAGE, SHED, OR OUTBUILDING

Line thick cardboard or wooden boxes with polystyrene tiles or old packing, etc, or better still use a box within a bigger box with a gap of approx. 10cm (4") all round, including the bottom. Fill the cavity with insulating material such as polystyrene sheeting or granules, old blankets or carpet, fleece. straw or scrunched up newspaper.

Line inner boxes with polythene. Place just moist plants closely together in boxes and fill in with moist peat. Plants can be placed upright, but I found I could get so much more in each box by placing them on their sides. Do check over a few times during the winter months. I admit though that I didn't bother doing this when I was using this method and survival rate was still pretty good. It will of course depend very much on how well you are able to judge the 'moist' and 'just moist' state of the rootball and the peat you are filling in with. If rootballs dry out plants will die. If surrounding peat is wet botrytis and rot will occur. So, to be on the safe side, especially if doing this for the first time, it is better to do the periodical checks!!

If placed in garage or shed, remember that the floor is the coldest place. So store well raised and away from the outside walls. Temperatures in garages, sheds etc. are likely to fall to below freezing at some stage during the winter but the box method should provide good protection. However, an eye should be kept on the weather forecast and during excessive cold period added protection can be provided by covering the box (or pile of boxes!) with several layers of extra insulation by way of fleece, old carpet, blankets, etc.

ROOM OR ATTIC IN YOUR HOUSE

The above box method can be used if storing in attic or other room (the coolest room really is best) in your house, as in their dormant state the plants do not need light until the growing cycle restarts in spring. Be sure to protect your carpet though. Again occasionally check and water if necessary.

UNHEATED GREENHOUSE

The box method can be used here as well. Alternatively plants can be stood or just laid on their sides under the staging and covered with moist peat - a generous layer of approx. 15-20cm (6-8") to provide adequate insulation. Again be vigilant, should severe frosts be forecast take additional precautions and provide added protection with extra fleece, blankets, carpet or newspapers. Again it be prudent to check plants occasionally.

It is also possible to just leave your plants on the bench, or have the insulated boxes open on the bench, and cover with fleece, blankets, carpet or newspapers during cold spells. It is easier to see if plants need watering, but also not quite as foolproof as you might misjudge the weather and be caught out by a snappy frost. It is, after all, so easily to just forget to put the covering on occasionally.

Don't forget that dormant plants ought to be kept cool. On sunny winter days, temperature can rise quite dramatically in small greenhouses, so beware and ventilate freely on fine days.

Lining the inside of greenhouses with bubbly plastic is quite popular. It certainly will certainly reduce the heat loss but has the distinct disadvantage of cutting out a lot of light and causing problems with condensation. Lack of light leads unfortunately to weak, leggy growth. The excessive humidity increases the botrytis risk. Cold and wet kills!! Great care needs to be taken to provide adequate ventilation. Some people are now experimenting with using the bubbly plastic on the outside to overcome the condensation problem.

COLD FRAME

Provide insulation all round by lining with polystyrene sheets, old carpet etc. and good layer of peat on the bottom. Or place plants well away from walls and fill the gap with straw, leaves, fleece, etc. Plants can be left upright or placed on their sides. Leave frames slightly open, except on very cold days. During real frosty spells additional protection needs to be provided by covering the whole frame, draping it over the sides as well, with carpet, sacks, blankets etc. Again the plants need to be checked occasionally especially to avoid drying out.

HEATED GREENHOUSE

As explained on the previous page, with the exception of young plants and plants grown on the biennial system, 35-40°F (2-5°C) is perfectly adequate. The dormant plants are after all supposed to be resting.

Plants can be left on the staging and are easily accessible, so you can inspect regularly for pests (the odd aphid) and diseases (botrytis). It is vitally important that regular checks are made at least once a week to ensure plants do not dry out. More plants die from drying out than are killed by frost. Use tepid water.

TRENCH IN YOUR GARDEN

Soil water level determines whether this is an option. If your soil is well drained dig out a trench about 50cm deep. Place plant on their sides in the trench. Carefully back fill the soil working it in between the stems. Make sure you have al least 15cm of soil above the plants. To provide extra protection, or in case your trench wasn't deep enough, you can build up a mould of soil over it. This might also help you to keep track of where you have buried them!

THE ALTERNATIVE WAY

Keen exhibitors, overwintering mature plants the traditional way, have been disappointed to find that their mature plants suffered die-back and uneven formation of new shoots. This resulted in part of the beautifully balanced framework that they overwintered ruined, making the plants unsuitable for future shows. To avoid these problems another way of overwintering was devised.

  • After the end of the flowering season (or your last show), usually sometime in September, prune back plants by about a third, usually a couple of leaf joints above the last stop. Check over carefully, tidying up cuts to just above a node and removing all weak growth. Prune back unripened wood to hard wood to avoid die back but ensure you retain a nice balanced, rounded shape (avoid a flat head!).
  • Some fuchsia folk do not defoliate at this stage, but give plant time to recover. Some natural leaf drop will of course occur and leaves will continue to be shed during the winter months. If not removed promptly they will decay and cause botrytis. Hence other growers favour stripping off all foliage, taking great care not to damage the leaf axils where the new growth sprouts from.
  • Repot. Tease away some of the old compost or with a sharp knife cut of some of the outer edges of the rootball. Replace plant in clean pot of same size teasing in fresh compost all round.
  • In a slightly heated greenhouse (in good light) the plants are kept ticking over in a semi-dormant state and gradually develop new rootgrowth, feeding on the fresh compost. No additional feeding is needed initially.

Exhibitors thus bring their plants back into growth early with a temperature regime of approx. 40°F before Christmas, increasing it to 45°F afterwards. Die-back is greatly reduced, plants seem to break more readily and evenly in spring and any growth made during the winter months is sturdy and short jointed. Stock plants will yield good material for striking early cuttings and extra stops will be possible on the mature exhibition plants.

The dedicated growers of course spend many winter hours in their greenhouses, lavishing plenty of TLC on their beloved fuchsias. Treating each plant as a treasured individual, they attend to watering, feeding, stopping, turning, etc. lovingly, exactly as and when required. Handling the plants so frequently, they will also snuff out any pest ordisease that dares to strike at the onset, not giving them a chance to get a hold and become a major problem.

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