If you grow fuchsias (Fuchsia spp.), you probably recognize that the plant gets its common name -- lady's eardrops -- from its colorful, drooping flowers that resemble fancy, dangling earrings. But if a problem interferes with flowering or the plant starts looking wilted or damaged, it's crucial to identify the problem quickly so you can pursue the correct solution as soon as possible.
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A fuchsia plant works especially well in a hanging container and is usually treated as an annual, either outdoors or in the house. It can also grow outdoors year-round in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. It prefers a cool environment, with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and does best in partial shade, with protection from hot sun.
If you notice browning edges on a plant's leaves or flowers, and buds start dropping, this is likely due to scorching from too much sun, a problem you can solve by moving the plant to a more shaded spot.
This plant needs regular moisture and its soil should never dry out. Dry soil can lead to wilting and, if not corrected, could kill the plant. A container-grown fuchsia is especially susceptible to wilting, because its soil dries quickly in hot weather. Water the plant whenever the soil surface feels dry to the touch, and add a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch under the plant to help retain moisture. Keep the mulch back a few inches from the plant's stems to prevent fungal diseases.
Several fungal disorders can become a problem for a fuchsia plant, especially if it's grown in overly moist conditions. These include fuchsia rust, which produces unsightly yellowish-brown spots on the upper sides of leaves and orange blisters on the undersides, eventually causing the leaves to shrivel and die. Another fungal disease, botrytis, causes gray mold to form on stems and leaves. The stem eventually turns brown and collapses.
Both fungal diseases are best prevented by keeping plants well separated for good air circulation and by watering at the plant's base to keep leaves dry.
You can also control these two diseases by removing affected stems, using sharp shears to cut behind diseased areas and into healthy tissue. Remove infected cuttings from the area and dispose of them as trash, or burn them to destroy fungus if this is permitted in your area. Wipe your blades with rubbing alcohol between each cut to prevent spreading the disease to healthy areas.
Never leave a potted fuchsia in a water-filled saucer because waterlogged soil can promote fungal growth.
Several different pests might infest a fuchsia plant and cause damage, and catching this problem early can help save the plant from serious damage.
A tiny pest called the fuchsia gall mite gets its name from the swellings -- or galls -- that it causes on leaves. This pest isn't visible to the eye but you'll know it's there if you see galls. It also stops flower buds from developing and needs immediate control.
If you see galls on a plant, cut off any affected stems with sharp shears and dispose of them. Then spray the healthy parts of the plant with insecticidal soap to destroy any remaining mites. Dilute the soap at a rate of 5 tablespoons for each 1 gallon of water in a garden sprayer, shake well and spray until all plant parts are dripping wet. Only spray when temperature is below 90 F and, if the plant is outdoors, spray in the morning so it can dry quickly. Repeat the spray every two weeks as a precaution.
Some fuchsias are sensitive to insecticidal soap. Before you spray the whole plant, spray a few leaves of the plant and wait for 24 to 48 hours. If the leaves show no signs or wilting or browning after the 24 or 48 hours, spray the rest of the plant.
Several other pests that suck plant juices and cause loss of leaves and flower buds might also become a problem. They include aphids, small greenish, crawling insects, whiteflies, which are tiny white flying pests, and red spider mites, which aren't easily visible but leave behind webs on the leaves. All three can be controlled by spraying with insecticidal soap in the same way as for fuchsia gall mites.