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Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean

How to grow a Fuchsia standard

Training tips for a special display

Fuchsias can be easily trained to grow as trees, also called standards. An upright variety will yield an upright standard; a trailer will develop into a weeping standard. Think of them as a bush or basket on a stick.

1. Root an early green tip-cutting of a strong, vigorous cultivar.

2. Pinch your side-shoots as they form in leaf axil. Do not remove the leaves, they feed the plant. Protect the growing tip from injury.

3. Carefully stake and tie the cutting as it grows.

4. Fertilize regularly. Shift from small to successively larger pots. Do not allow the plant to become pot-bound or it will stop growing. Rotate it a half-turn every 3 days.

5. When the plant has reached the desired stem height, stop pinching out the side-shoots. Allow four more sets of leaves to grow. Pinch out the main growing tip. An average sized standard measures about 3-4 feet. Miniatures can have a stem as small as 8-12 inches.

6. The last phase of training consists of pinching and shaping the crown or head. Pinch out growing tips after 2 sets of leaves have formed. Repeat the procedure as you would with any bush or basket. Now apply clothes-pins or wires to weight the branches. Change the wires or clothes-pins every third day or so to a new branch or "further out" on the same branch. Continue the procedure until the plant is heavy with buds—then remove the wire or pins. Note: For a weeping standard with very heavy blooms you may need to fasten a wire-bonnet to the top of the stake to support the branches.

7. Grow in a bright, sheltered spot where the stem cannot be damaged by wind, sun-scorch, or frost. Prune heavily in spring. Check stake and ties frequently. Re-pot or replace potting mix at least every other year. This process could take 2 or 3 years for a plant to mature into a nice standard. Remember, only a well-fed fuchsia is a happy fuchsia!