This article was originally published on the web by the Southlakeland Fuchsia Society, however that website is defunct at July 2016. The copyright remains with the original author(s).
There are two types of over wintering methods. Dormant plants and plants grown in what we call the green leaf stage which means keeping the plants growing to get a early start for the next season. Firstly i will begin with the dormant plants.
To prepare these plants for winter after they have finished flowering in autumn cut the growth that they made this summer back by about 1/3rd to just above a leaf joint. Then you must take all the foliage off the plant, to do this is to reduce the amount of water you give the plant and leaf drop will occur naturally. The other way is to get a pair of small scissors and cut the leaves off then you will have a plant looking like the picture on the left of this article.
The plant should then be kept in a frost free environment this only needs to be 1 deg above freezing. Also you must keep the plant on the dry side because if you give them to much water at this time of year there is not much root activity in the pot and by giving the plant too much water will kill off what root there is resulting in the death of you're plant.
When spring comes around once again the dormant plants must be brought back in to growth. To do this get a hand sprayer filled with tepid water and spray the bare wood as this will soften it and you will begin to see the new growth buds appearing out of the old leaf joints but still keep the the compost in the pot only slightly moist until you have growth on the plant of a couple of pairs of leaves then you can start giving the plant more water.
I will now continue with the method of over wintering of plants kept in green leaf.
These plants must be kept slightly warmer than our dormant plants keeping them at about 40 deg F this will just keep the plants ticking over. One again as with our dormant plants do not give them to much water as the same applies that there will be little root activity in the pot. The idea of keeping the plants in the green leaf stage is to get you of to a flying start in the early part of the year as you will notice the surge in growth when the days get longer and the temperatures begin to rise. Not only do you get a early start with your plants you can also start taking those early cutting as soon as Jan, Feb. and March but at this time of year you must have some form of heating. I would recommend using some sort of bottom heat:e a propagator or soil warming cables at a temp of 60 deg F. Also keep a look out for any pests and diseases on the plants especially as the days get warmer See picture of plant in green leaf on left of this article.
We are at that time of the year when we are thinking of taking those early batches of cuttings to get of to a flying start to the growing season. The type of cutting i would recommend taking is a small tip cutting with the uppermost pair of leaves with a short stem cut off just below a leaf node. See picture on left.
There are many different ways of rooting your cuttings but the two methods i use are as follows.
Firstly the type of medium i root my cuttings in is a mixture of half peat based compost and half course grit as this allows good drainage for the cuttings. I insert the cuttings into a tray which has 60 small cells and when have filled tray i will give them a good watering and put the tray in a heated propagator with a bottom heat of 60 deg F and hopefully will have cuttings rooted an ready for potting on in about 4 weeks time. The other way to root your cuttings is fill a 2. 5 inch pot with the same medium as for the other method i have all ready described then insert 4 cutting round the edge and 1 in the middle then put the pot of cuttings into a lid of a coffee jar and then get the glass part of the coffee jar turn it upside down and screw into the lid thus giving you a mini greenhouse you can have on your windowsill but make sure you give it plenty of light but not direct sunlight as this will act like a oven and fry those small cuttings. Will take about the same time to root as the other method. You will know when they have rooted by the nice fresh green tips of the cutting. When the cuttings have rooted you can then pot them on into a two and a quarter inch pot. The best time to take cuttings is from Jan to May and then from Sept to Nov.
Once you have got the cuttings growing in their first pot all they will need is watering as there is enough feed in the compost to last them until you come to pot into the next size pot. The way to check if the plant needs moving to the next pot is to tap it out of the pot. To do this put a finger each side of the plant and then tip the pot upside down and then give it a sharpe tap and the plant will come out of it's pot. When you have got the plant out the best way to tell if it wants potting up is when the root's have started to curl round the bottom of the root ball it then needs moving on. You will keep potting your plants on until they are put into their final pot which can be of any size you like but for january cuttings i would aim for something like a 5 inch pot as a maximum. While you are doing this potting on you also have to stop the plants, by this i mean pinching out the growing points to make the plant more bushy thus having more branches means more flowers. You will find different people giving you different time's for the last date to stop your plants but get to know your plants and you will soon learn the plants habit but the rule of thumb is allow 8 to 10 weeks for single's and 10 to12 weeks for double's that is from your last pinch to the plant coming into flower. See picture top left of this article of plant in full flower in it's final 5 inch pot.
Growing standards is not as difficult as many people think. You start off as you would for bush plants by taking cutting as i have explained in the earlier article but the difference is that instead of taking out the growing tip you take out the side shoots which are growing in the leaf axle's but leave the main leaves on the stem as these act as a food supply by absorbing the sun and moisture from the air. When removing the side shoots always leave three pairs at the top of the plant as this is an insurance in case you accidentally knock the growing tip out but once another pair of side shoot's appear at the top you can then remove the bottom pair of shoot's Keep removing the side shoots until you get to the height of clear stem you need for your standard. For exhibition there are different stem length's staring with a mini st which no less than 6" and not more than 10" of clear stem, a quarter st is 10" to 18", a half st 18" to 32"and a full st 32" to 48". For any one growing for pleasure i would recommend growing the quarter standard especially if you want to plant them in tubs or in the garden they wont be affected too much by the wind. Once you have grown the plant up to your preferred height it is now time to start forming the head. To do this let the plant grow another four pair of leave's and then pinch out the growing tips but not the side shoot's. Let the side shoots grow to four pairs of leaves and then pinch out the tips starting from the bottom shoots pinch out at four pairs of leaves next one up at three pairs and the next one at two pairs and the top side shoots pinch out at one pair of leaves. This will give you a nice rounded head. You can then pinch out side shoots at one or two pairs of leaves to form a larger head but remember to stop pinching at least 8 to 10 weeks for single's and 10 to 12 weeks for doubles for them to flower.
To start off a basket the way of taking cuttings is just the same as for pot plants. The best size of basket is 14" Firstly sit basket on a large plant pot or bucket then line the basket with a liner there are many preformed liners on the market also you can use the method that has been used for years which is spagnum moss but this is now very hard to obtain as you are no longer able to collect it from the wild and buying it is very expensive. The material i use is old compost bags turned inside out ie: black part to the outside but you must remember to puncture holes in this material for drainage. Next fill the basket up with a good well drained compost. Use a peat based compost as a soil based compost tends to be to heavy. The compost i use is made up of three parts peat based compost and one part 6mm grit. The amount of cuttings you put into the basket is up to you but this also depends on the size of your plants. If i was using plants that were growing in 2.25 inch pots i would put at least six round the out side an one in the middle, if using plants grown in 3.5 inch pots i would put four round the edge of the basket and one in the middle. Once planted give the basket a good watering to settle the plants in then let the plants grow to at least three or four pairs of leaves before stopping as you need those long trailing branches to cover the sides of the basket after that you can stop them at three pairs of leaves but this depends on the variety you are growing as some will need stopping more often than others but this will come with experience when you get to know your varieties. Use trailing varieties and here are a few examples ie: Harry Grey, Swingtime, Sylvia Barker, Alwin, Southgate, Natasha Sinton, La Campanella and many others to numerous to mention. The watering and feeding for baskets is just the same as it is for the growing of your pot plants which is water when needed and feed once a week with a liquid fertilizer of your choice. I use Chempak high nitrogen to bud stage and then a balanced feed for the rest of the season. Remember the last stop should be done at least 8 to 10 weeks for single varieties and 10 12 weeks for doubles before you want them to flower. Once flowering begins remember to keep removing dead flowers and seedpods to keep the basket flowering all season. Sometimes you do have to give the plants a little training to cover the sides of the basket by pulling the branches down you can do this by attaching wire to the branch and pulling down and clipping the wire to the basket or another way is to hang a clip on clothes peg to the branch and this will pull it down but this must be done when the growth is young and supple. See picture of basket in full flower at the top of this article.