Fuchsia Baskets & How to Feed Them
Do you have a new addition to your porch or patio? Fuchsia baskets are an annual hit—bursting with blooms, they add colorful pizazz to porches. A fuchsia’s baby-fist-sized blooms and trailing tendrils take lots of energy to grow. Here’s how to keep your fuchsias well-fed for magnificent flowers all season long (and it’s easier than you think).
Do you have a hangry fuchsia?
Fuchsias may be the mother of all basket plants, but a more accurate moniker would be “the teens” of the flower basket family. They are picky, constantly hungry and fickle. Sun, heat, food and watering all need to be ideal for the fuchsias to flourish.
Also not unlike teenagers, fuchsia baskets bring much joy and so much more anxiety to their loving caretakers. Before you know it, you either have a lush and happy camper, or an under-watered, over-heated, scraggly basket case. Literally.
While sick fuchsias may never look quite as pretty as it did before, there’s a reason they say,“It takes all kinds.” Slightly gangly, lopsided fuchsias who’ve suffered the sun’s hot glare can still bloom beautifully all summer long if you follow these instructions.
P.S. We can all agree that geraniums are total grandmas, right?
Fuchsias are heavy feeders
Fuchsias need a lot of food (i.e. fertilizer) to grow new leaves and support heavy blooming. The three major compounds used by plants, nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K), when in their chemical form in fertilizer are called nitrogen, phosphate and potash. You may see it labeled this way on some brands.
Nitrogen promotes green growth. Phosphate helps trigger flower development and bud setting, and encourages healthy root development. Potash helps the plant build stronger cell walls and in this way aids the overall health of the plant. Stronger plants are less susceptible to stressors like over- or under-watering, pests and common diseases.
What does N-P-K do exactly?
There’s a trick to remembering what N-P-K stands for. “Up, down and all around.” Nitrogen helps above ground growth, phosphate works below and potash promotes all-around health.
What do numbers on fertilizer mean?
The three numbers on the label are telling you the percentage (by weight) of “NPK” in the fertilizer.
A “balanced” fertilizer simply means the NPK numbers are all equal. A 3-3-3 fertilizer is the same as a 10-10-10, the latter simply has a higher percentage (by weight) of the major nutrients.
When you want lush, green growth, choose a fertilizer in which the first number is highest. For more buds and flowers over foliage, you can look to fertilizers in which the second number is highest. Almost all fertilizers will have potash, where some others may have little or no nitrogen or phosphate, depending on the intended use.
How often do I use fertilizer?
To keep up with their rapid growth, fuchsias will eat you out of house and home. No, it’s not that bad. Real teenagers are much worse. Fuchsias need a watered-down feeding once a week. In the “biz” we call it “weekly, weakly.”
Fuchsias, and this is true for most plants, will do much better with weaker feedings more often, versus full-strength feedings spread farther apart. Dilute your chosen liquid fertilizer to half strength before using every week.
It’s perfectly fine to fertilize more often than weekly, particularly if you’re watering more than once a day. Frequent watering flushes food and nutrients out of potting soil. If you decide to fertilizer more than once a week, dilute to a quarter-strength or weaker.
What do I do if my basket is already sunburned?
First, move the plant. Choose a location that gets more shade, especially mid-day and afternoon shade. Though you may not think of it as scorching, the afternoon sun can get quite hot.
Unless the basket has dried out completely (you’ll know because the poor remaining leaves will crumble into fragments and dust in your hands), you can still save it!
Put it on a normal watering schedule. When it’s hot, water once a day. When it’s really hot, water twice a day. And of course, when it’s raining you’re off the hook for a few days. Once a week, use a balanced, liquid-soluble fertilizer.
Don’t use a high-phosphate fertilizer. Your plant lacks the energy to heal, let alone bloom. Help it out with a balanced fertilizer, with equal parts nitrogen and potash and help its leaves and overall health. You should see some fresh green growth and new buds within a week or two.
My Fuchsia looks healthy. Now how do I get more blooms?
Ah my friend, you want any fertilizer where the middle number is the highest. The ideal would be a 1:2:1 ratio (3-6-3, 10-20-10, et al.). These fertilizers provide enough nitrogen (N) for healthy leaves, enough potassium (K) for overall health and extra doses of phosphorous (P) to encourage your plant to sprout buds and bloom.
At every watering, use a diluted liquid fertilizer with a 1:2:1 ratio, or some other highest-middle-number fertilizer.
Do bloom boosters really work?
Bloom boosters do work, but not that well for fuchsias. That’s because fuchsias need healthy green growth in order to support all those flowers/future seeds.
A bloom booster will send the plant into bud-producing overdrive, but they often lack the nitrogen fuchsias need for healthy leaves (Ex. 0-10-10, 0-60-30, et al.).
Use a bloom booster with your primroses, verbena and other flowering annuals, and a balanced or 1:2:1 fertilizer for fuchsias.
Why can't I just keep this basket going until next spring?
Fuchsias in baskets are typically frost-sensitive perennials, used as annuals. The first hard frost kills the plant to the ground. Given some water and a cool, but not freezing, location (like an unheated garage) they may, indeed, sprout new growth when the weather warms.
However, you may not actually want that plant come spring. McLendon’s Garden Centers and many other Northwest nurseries will have healthier, happier fuchsia starts and baskets already blooming.
The amount of fertilizer and time it will take to rebloom your old fuchsia can be put to better and more efficient use with a younger plant.
What do fuchsias eat?
Use fertilizer at half strength weekly, or weaker still if feeding daily.
Give me a little historical context
Fuchsia are named for a preeminent “father of botany,” German scientist Leonhart Fuchs (fook-s). Two hundred years after his lifetime, in the early 1700s, Charles Plumier classified an exotic, colorful flower he found in the Caribbean isles and named them Fuchsia (fook-si-a).
Did you see what happened there? Unless you grew up around a Fuchs family, you probably learned the common pronunciation, “fyoo-sha.” This is technically incorrect.
While many scientists to this day present the name as “fyoo-sha” the correct pronunciation of the Latin name is indeed, “fook-si-a.” You won’t impress many friends by calling out their faux pas, but at least you’ll know you’re right.
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