Fuchsia

Does anyone grow fuchsia from seed? I looked at a few catalogs but none sold seeds.
Any help appreciated.
Chris
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Chris says...

Chris,
Honestly, I don't know why commercial companies even make the feeble attempt at offering seeds except to possibly to fluff out spring orders from people who just don't know these plants. Almost all the fuchsias you see in nurseries are complex hybrids and don't come true except from cuttings. And those strike VERY easily.
If you do want to try a few seeds for the fun of it, you'll most like likely have to collect your own from some ripe berries. Do make sure they're planted fresh, be aware that they're prone to damping-off... and be prepared to be very disappointed with the results. Also, breeders will sometimes make a cutting of the seedling as they feel a stronger plant is produced much faster.
Theo
PS If you're in the US I can give you the URL's for the three best specialists that offer hundreds of the most tempting cultivars by mail. Because of the summer heat, though, it's a little past the season for ordering by mail.
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Thanks. Reading up on them, I did find that most of them are hybrids, but I didn't realize they were so tough to bring up by seed. I found a nice one this weekend and broke down and bought it. Now I have to read up on care and feeding (um, maybe I should have done that before? Heh.)
Are there any general rules for fuchsia? I was told by a nursery man they were shade plants, but the one I purchased specified bright sun. And what's the best time to take cuttings? I figured in the Fall, but what do I know?
Chris
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Chris says...

Generally, most fuchsias do best in a bright position with lots of indirect light. Too much shade and they grow leggy. Morning sun is great but they do appreciate protection from the heat of the afternoon to keep them cool. A high tree canopy is sort of the ideal "natural" condition they thrive in. They'll usually take more sun if planted in the ground (the "uprights" are good for bedding) and the root zone is kept cool, well drained, and evenly moist. The so-called triphylla hybrids, with flowers that look like honeysuckle blossoms, can also take a bit more sun.
Keep most fuchsias evenly moist but not wet. Good watering is key. Lots of fuchsias are lost by letting them dry out too much or too often. They might eventually recover but will probably lose flower buds and/or shed leaves from the stress. There can also be a problem with overwatering as the roots eventually rot from the water-logged soil. Do especially watch watering when temperatures start getting into the 80's, especially if it's also humid, as fuchsias stop transpiring and the roots will suffer. That's why fuchsias don't really do well in the humid South. Frequent, light misting of the leaves helps to keep them cool during the heat. Fuchsias are heavy feeders and fertilizing should be done more frequently than with a lot of other plants, but also more lightly.
Fuchsias really are insanely easy to root. The best time is when they're resuming active growth in the Spring (they are woody shrubs and can be easily overwintered in a semi-dormant state), but I don't let other seasons stop me. Different cultivars act differently but most will root almost anytime
Quickly, here's what I do: I take a cutting that's about two or three inches long and has at least two leaf nodee. I pinch out the tip to encourage quicker branching, remove any leaves from the bottom of the cutting as well as any flowers or buds, and stick it into a small, narrow pot with a sterile soiless mixture. Many fuchsia cultivars have branches where the leaves occur in sets of three. Look for those when taking a cutting as the new plant will be bushier. If the leaves are larger, cut them in half.
I cover the pot with a small plastic bag poked with a couple of holes and cinch it around the top of the pot with a rubber band. This I place in a bright spot out of direct sunlight. I keep it evenly moist but not wet. The cutting should be up and growing in a couple of weeks. You can tell when it's rooted as it will start growing quickly. When you remove the bag do make sure to properly harden it off.
Pinch out the tips of the new branches every two or three nodes a few times to make the new plant bushier. Deepending on the cultivar, flowering will be about 8-12 weeks after the last pinching.
If you're experienced at rooting things you'll catch on right away. Otherwise practice!
Theo
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Thanks! That's a ton of info, all of it useful. I won't have time to do a cutting until the weekend but I'm looking forward to it now :)
Chris
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Chris says...

You're very welcome. Have fun with the propogation and do post a question if I can help with anything. I'm always happy to talk about fuchsias as they're my main plant addiction.
Theo
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