My Fuchsia is Dying

(Question)

My fuchsia is dying and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I water it once a week, it never sits in water. It’s on the western side of the house getting indirect light. I’ve noticed some white bugs, mold? On a leaf so I’m getting really worried.

 

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your inquiry.

I am so sorry to hear about your ailing fuchsia, it is very difficult to watch a favourite plant sucumb to pests or diseases. You never mention if your fuschia was recently purchased or if you are overwintering the plant. Due to lower light levels and humidity in our homes, it is not unusual for plants to drop their leaves once they are brought indoors after a summer of active growth. For this reason the best thing you can do to over winter fuchsia is to put them into dormancy, which is kind of a rest for plants.

Normally, you don’t need to do anything to get a plant to go dormant. This usually happens on its own, though some indoor plants may need to be coaxed. Most plants can detect the shorter days towards the end of summer or early fall. As cooler temperatures begin to approach soon after, plant growth will start to decline as they enter into dormancy. With houseplants, it may help to move them to a darker and cooler area of the home in order to allow them to go dormant. Once a plant is dormant, foliage growth may be limited and even drop off, but the roots will continue to grow and thrive.

Before you bring your plant indoors carefully spray the fuchsia plant with water to knock off any pests that may be hiding in its leaves. The next step in how to winter fuchsia plants is to find a cool, dark place in your home to store the fuchsia. The temperatures should range from 4-7 C and cut back watering. The plant will lose its leaves and appear dead, but remember that it is not.

Continue watering the plant about once every three to four weeks. The soil should be moist but not soaked. The last step to overwintering fuchsias is to bring it out of dormancy. About a month before your last frost date ( May 9 here in Toronto), take your fuchsia out of its storage location. Cut all the branches on the plant back by half. This will encourage new growth. Place your fuchsia in a location with bright filtered light, away from direct sun, and resume normal watering. Once your last frost date has passed, you can move your fuchsia plant to a shady area outside and care for it as you normally would. It may also help to acclimate the plant first-  bring the plant out into a shaded area,  gradually increasing the hours it spends outside.

There are some pests that affect fuchsias. Without a photo it is difficult to know exactly what pests you have, however, you mention white bugs which could be mealy bugs.

Infestations of mealy bug are usually first noticed as a fluffy white waproduced in the leaf axils or other lower leaf surface. Heavy infestations may result in an accumulation of honeydew. This makes plants sticky and encourages the growth of sooty moulds, giving leaf and stem surfaces a blackened appearance. Severe infestations will reduce plant vigour and stunt growth. Heavy infestations may cause premature leaf fall.

The first step in controlling this pest is to isolate the plant in question so that the pest does not spread to neighbouring plants. Heavily infested branches should be removed and destroyed. Place the plant in the shower and knock off  the insects with a brisk spray of water. This procedure may have to be repeated a number of times. Wash the plant with insecticidal soap that is available from your local garden centre. Remember that this will have to be repeated every 7-10 days until all the generations of mealy bugs/ white fly have been destroyed.

Good Luck