Training a Standard Fuchsia
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plants are plants that have a clear stem usually of 2 to 3 feet
in height, sometimes more, with a "mop" of foliage
and flowers at the top of the stem.
They are usually the kinds of plants that produce the foliage at ground level. Giving them a clear stem elevates the leaves and flowers so making the plant more "architectural" and also makes a small ground level bush more accessible to the eye and nose as it now puts it in the range of a a gentle stoop rather than a full blown bending over to appreciate its charms.
Many plants can be subjected to this procedure, the instructions and pictures here are of Fuchsias, but the principles are exactly the same whatever plant is used.
process is quite straightforward being one of regular thumb
and forefinger pinch pruning. You do need to be able to
bring yourself to do this however as some people don't like
the idea of pinching out healthy parts of a naturally growing
plant for the purpose of making a particular shape.
You should start this process in the spring, it will be ready to flower at the top of a 2-3 foot stem in the second summer.
First of all you need to choose a young plant with a single stem (a rooted cutting such as described on this page is ideal), if it doesn't have a single stem, you need to pinch out the weaker one/s. Don't worry if this means removing half of the current growth, the plant will soon make up for it.
When the stem gets to about 15cm / 6 inches, place a stick into the pot, this should be as tall as you intend the finished plant to be. It will look a bit daft at this stage but don't worry, the plant will "grow into" the stick soon enough.
the plant grows up the stick it should be tied in every 7-10
cm / 3-4 inches. Take care not to tie the stem tightly to
the stick, a small loose loop is what is needed, the stem will
be quite soft at this stage and easily damaged.
As side shoots appear between the leaves and the stem, they should be pinched out, but not too soon, you can accidentally take the leaf off too if the shoot is small and difficult to take hold of. The plant needs its leaves on the stem to provide the energy for growth at this point.
Any flower buds that form should also be pinched out to prevent the plant from using energy up.
part of the process is all about growing a tall single stem
powered by the leaves that grow along its length and preventing
it from forming side shoots that will make it bushy or flowers
that will drain its energy.
When the plant is about 30cm / 1 foot high, it should be planted into a 2 or 3L pot with its stick attached. You could alternatively start in this larger pot to avoid repotting.
Continue to tie in (when you remember - see pictures!) as the stem could get too heavy and snap if you don't. Don't worry too much about side leaves on the stem that are naturally lost, it is better if they aren't, but different varieties will lose or hang onto their leaves at different rates.
Depending on how the plant grows, it may enter it's first winter in this state or a little more advanced.
the plant will reach the top of the stick, it will be trying
quite hard to flower by now, but don't let it. Pinch
out the buds that form and tie the stem in to the top of the
stick for one last time.
When the growing tip is 3 pairs of leaves clear of the stick, pinch out the top.
Your pruning regime will now change to encouraging the plant to form a bushy top. Allow side shoots to develop above the stick but still continue to pinch out side shoots lower down but allow the main leaves to remain. Continue to remove flowers, do not not allow the plant to flower in its first season.
the side shoots develop, pinch out the growing tips after 2
pairs of leaves. You are now trying to encourage side shoots
and a bushy habit at the top, not long shoots.
When the head of the plant has built up a good amount of leaf, you can finally remove the side leaves up the stem to clear it and make the plant look a lot tidier. The one in these pictures is still a bit too small at the top to have its side leaves removed.
These side leaves are providing food for the top growth at the moment though they are not very sightly. While the plant shape is developing still, they are best left in place.
Once the plant has formed a good leafy head you can stop pinching out the growing tips and allow it to flower, this will probably be around the middle of the second summer though will vary quite a lot depending on the variety you have used and it's particular growing conditions. The plant can be brought outside early in its second summer, but take care it cannot be blown over easily. A good heavy ceramic pot will help this.
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