Every couple of years, we make some standard fuchsias here at New Leaf Greenhouse. It takes about 9 months to make a nice standard, or tree fuchsia, and it's lots of fun. We like to offer them in our retail store, and independent garden centers buy them. We don't represent them as being suitable for planting in the ground here in the Northwest - they are a strictly a container plant that needs heat in the winter to live over, even if they are hardy varieties like June Bride. That's the variety that is depicted in the image.
We start with a clean, vigorous tip cutting in late May or June. Once rooted, the cutting is planted in a 4" pot. Some growers treat the cutting with gibberelic acid to promote stem elongation, but we have never found that to be necessary. After the cutting has gotten hold of the soil, and has begun to grow, we carefully pinch off each shoot that arises in a leaf axil. I prefer to cut the shoot off leaving about a 3/16" stub. If the shoot is torn away, there will be a proliferation of shoots from that point as the wound heals.
As many of you have probably observed, fuchsia are quite unique in their ability to generate bud after bud in their leaf axils. Most plants, geraniums in particular, have only one bud in each leaf axil. This ability generate shoot after shoot is one of the reasons that fuchsias are so much fun to grow in hanging baskets. Properly fed, they will grow and bloom beautifully on all those new shoots, generally about six weeks following a pinch.
The plant is tied very loosely to the support with green vinyl plant tie material. Do not use wire ties.
The most important part of raising standard fuchsia is this - never remove the leaves that come directly out of the stem. If those leaves are removed when the shoots are trimmed away, the stem - the future trunk - will not grow straight and strong, and the plant will not have enough vigor to make a good standard. You can see that the young standard fuchsia in the picture has a number of leaves up the stalk. These leaves often become large and leathery. We leave them on the plant until well after the stalk has reached the top of it's stake - about 48" tall from ground level - and the shaping of the head has begun.
For commercial production, the container used for the standard fuchsia is very important. This is the container configuration that we have worked out over the years here at New Leaf Greenhouse. We like a square container to start with. They are less "tippy" than many round pots. We cut a 2"x 2" stick of pressure treated lumber to the exact width of the pot. Then, we drill a hole in the 2"x 2" that will accommodate a piece of 1/2" EMT conduit. The conduit threaded through the 2"x 2" and a long screw is passed through it to secure it. Then, the 2"x 2" is screwed to the sides of the pot, using finish washers on the outside to join to the plastic pot in a stronger fashion.
This container protects the standard if it falls over, and the standard can be moved easily by grasping the conduit. We have had standard fuchsias at New Leaf Greenhouse that have lived for many years, one attaining a trunk diameter of more than 2". Using a plastic pot, pressure treated lumber, and an aluminum support ensure that the pot will last as long as the tree fuchsia lives.
Can a standard fuchsia live for years in it's original container? Yes... providing that it is fed properly. And if you don't have a greenhouse, the fuchsia will have the have the right place to overwinter. Perhaps I'll do a post soon about winter care of fuchsias, and standard fuchsias in particular.