Fuschias

From fuchsia seedlings this year I have a royal display in a dozen 12" pots, and want to ensure a repeat performance next year. What is my best plan to over-winter them?
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On Thu, 24 Jul 2008 12:50:07 -0400, Alistair Macdonald wrote

Alistair,
It's fairly easy but might take a bit of practice the first few times depending on your general gardening experience.
In the Fall, slowly reduce watering. You should have stopped any feeding a few weeks before that. When the plants have dropped most of their leaves you'll know they're ready to be stored. Fuchsias won't go truly dormant but, as the weather cools and the days shorten significantly, the leaves might have started to yellow and thin out quite a bit by anyway. Gently pull off any remaining leaves and clean up all fallen leaves to cut down on overwintering any insects, like whitefly.
Store in a place that's cool but remains above freezing. About 35-45 F is ideal. As they're not actively growing, they don't even need to be kept in the light. Keep water to a minimum and give only enough to ensure that the stems remain alive and pliable. You really aiming to keep these plants in a semi-dormant state with the cool temperatures and the drier compost. You can test if you're doing a good job by scratching slightly at one on the stems with your thumbnail. If you see green underneath, they're fine.
In the Spring, cut back the stems. How much is up to you and depends on how big you want the plant to be or what special shape you might be training. Don't be afraid to prune. Fuchsias can be cut back quite severely as they'll break new growth from even older wood.
Take the plant from the pot and remove a good deal of the old compost. Repot with fresh. Don't pack it down around the roots and the remainder of the old root ball, but settle it in by tapping the pot gently on the potting bench. Fuchsias like loose, organic soil and this helps the new roots find a hospitable home and get off to a good start.
Water gently. You might do well to initially use a smaller pot and pot up as the extra soil can go sour quickly and start rotting the mostly still dormant roots. Do make sure that the new soil is kept evenly moist but not wet. The plants will probably need more water as they get going.
Set in a warmer, brighter spot and pinch out the new shoots every two to three leaves to encourage a bushier plant. Depending on the cultivar, flowering is about 8-12 weeks after the last pinch. Fuchsias are heavy feeders but you'll really want to wait until the plant is off and growing well. They appreciate more frequent but lighter feedings after that.
The exact timing of all this will depend. With my own fuchsias, for example, I've left them outside until the first frost anywhere from later November until the beginning of December. This year I was able to start setting them outside again in the middle of March. Your mileage may vary with your own climate.
Good luck! Theo
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