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When the growing season winds down, you should prepare your hardy fuchsias for the chilly weather. If you’re unsure of the best approach to take, it’s important to learn the best approach to cutting them back before winter arrives.
Cut back hardy fuchsias for the winter by trimming them lightly in autumn. Clip off any diseased or dead branches above the nodes, where the leaves emerge. Also, remove any lingering blooms. Then, before the first frost, eliminate all the leaves on the ground, where bugs and fungi can overwinter.
In this post, you’ll discover helpful tips for preparing hardy fuchsias for the cold months. You’ll also learn how to protect your plants until spring arrives. Read on if you want a profusion of dazzling blooms, dancing their way through the next flowering season.
1. Choose Suitable Hand Pruners
One of the most crucial things to consider when cutting back hardy fuchsias is using the right kind of pruners. Hardy fuchsias have woody stems, so you’ll need sturdy and sharp pruners to do the job effectively.
I recommend using anvil secateurs (link to Amazon) because they work well on woody stems (source). Alternatively, you can also use ratchet clippers because they typically have more ergonomic handles, making the pruning process less tiresome. These ratcheting pruning sheers (link to Amazon) are a great option.
Remember to clean and sterilize the pruners to prevent microbial infections before trimming your plant. Plants become more susceptible to winter injury when sick, and they’ll also become less likely to grow back healthy in the following spring.
2. Remove Sick or Dead Stems
About one to two weeks before the predicted first fall frost, you can start pruning your hardy fuchsia, starting with sick or dead stems. The remaining stems will insulate your plants during winter.
Hardy fuchsias bloom on new growth, so don’t worry about cutting back old stems, especially those that are decaying or infested with pests. Numerous pests can feed on your plant and cause significant damage (source).
To ensure they don’t come back the following year, you should remove visibly infested plant matter.
To lower the risk of winter injuries and future microbial infections, always cut the stems at an angle of approximately 45°. This angle makes it easier for the plant to heal, prevents moisture from sitting on the wound, and reduces the surface area available for microbes to enter.
3. Cut Back Only Up to 30% of Your Plant
Although hardy fuchsias are tolerant to pruning in the fall, limiting the cuttings to only 30% of the plant is best. You can use this opportunity to partially enhance the shape of your plant and improve air circulation.
Conservative pruning will guard your hardy fuchsias against the cold. That’s because the stems help to insulate the plants, and removing most branches will make your fuchsias vulnerable to winter damage.
Don’t worry about the remaining stems because you can cut them back more thoroughly in the spring. The main purpose of autumn pruning is to eliminate sick and decaying stems to prevent reinfestation the following year.
4. Remove the Cut Leaves and Branches from the Ground
Clear the area of any debris to ensure that the pests won’t have any hiding spots. You can rake the fuchsia leaves and branches and burn them.
Depending on your city’s waste management regulations, you could either burn them yourself or send them to the appropriate facility.
5. Mulch the Base of the Plant
After thoroughly clearing the area of plant debris and weeds, you can add mulch to the base of your plant for added insulation. Hardy fuchsias can overwinter in your outdoor garden, but they can use a little help, especially if your area has harsh winters.
Ideal mulches include straw, wood chips, bark, and shredded leaves. These types help to insulate the ground and your hardy fuchsia’s roots. While some stems may die, much of the plant should rebound in the spring.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind for mulching:
- Zone 7 or 8: Apply 4 inches (10 cm) of mulch before the first frost.
- Zones 9 and 10: The temperatures in these regions are warmer, so give mature plants a 2-inch (5 cm) layer of mulch.
- For a fledgling plant: Use 4 inches (10 cm) of material. Since established fuchsias have strong root systems, they handle winter better than young ones.
Winter Care of Hardy Fuchsias in Temperate Zones
For gardeners living in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7-10 and most of the UK, hardy fuchsias can survive the winter outdoors (source). Still, your plants need the following conditions to endure the chilly months:
- Temperatures above 32 °F (0 °C).
- A sheltered location, protected from the wind.
- Well-draining soil.
- A layer of mulch around the plant base.
Hardy fuchsias also have different care requirements during winter, especially with watering needs and wind or freeze protection.
Watering Hardy Fuchsias in the Winter Months
Since hardy fuchsias go dormant in winter, they need little water. Watering them once every three to four weeks should be adequate.
However, if your area has low precipitation, check the soil sooner, ensuring it doesn’t become bone dry. Always use tepid water when watering your plant.
Fertilizing Hardy Fucshias in Winter Isn’t Necessary
As mentioned, hardy fucshias enter dormancy during the winter, and have reduced nutritional needs during this time. Aside from watering them every three to four weeks, you don’t need to fertilize them.
Your first fertilizer application should be in the spring when new growth starts.
Shielding Hardy Fuchsias From a Sudden Freeze
Even in regions with mild winters, cold snaps are possible. So, track your weather forecast daily, and if freezing conditions are predicted, take the following precautions:
- Assess the soil before the temperature plummets. If it’s dry, give your plants a generous drink of water. Moist roots are less prone to freezing than a dry root ball because wet soil holds heat better than parched ground.
- Cover each fuchsia bush with protective material. Examples are burlap, tarp, or plastic sheeting. If the weather forecast includes harsh wind or snow, prop the material with stakes. Then, anchor the coverings with weighty objects, such as bricks.