Growing Fuchsia Bonsai

2 year old plant ready for shaping and wiring

Plant pruned, repotted and lightly wired

Exposed surface root – Later nebari

Peat based compost - Loam - Horticultural grit - Perlite and a small amount of horticultural charcoal

Loxhore Mazurka. 6 years old

There are basically two ways of achieving this:

(a) From rooted cuttings.
(b) From an established plant which has been growing in a pot or in the garden.
Most important look for small to medium sized flower varieties.

Method (a)
Take a tip cutting in the normal way, before doing this make sure your plant is in good condition and has been watered at least a couple of hours before taking any cuttings. Tip cuttings are best taken from new growth, between a quarter and half an inch long. Plant in a peat based compost, you can add fine perlite but this is not absolutely necessary. If using a propagator 60f/15c. They will root perfectly well without a propagator, it just takes a little longer. Watering is best done in the mornings, if they are too wet at night you run the risk of the cuttings getting botrytis and then they will rot-off.

When rooted pot up into a 1 or 2 inch pot. Pot-on when roots appear through the drainage holes. Keep moist, never over water.

If you put a small plant into a small bonsai pot it will stay small and the main stem will never thicken enough to become a trunk. Therefore carry on potting-up as the plant grows. After the 3 inch pot size add 20% of horticultural grit and 5% of perlite to the soil. Carry on potting up until they are in the 5 inch pot size. According to the variety it can vary between 1 and 5 years before they are ready to be transferred into a bonsai pot.

During this time shaping can begin. When using wire on fuchsia main stems/trunks and branches be very careful, the reason being is that they mark very easily and can also become very brittle. Wire more on the ‘loose’ side than on the ‘tight’ side. Patience is required. It is better to wire once on the ‘loose’ side, and at a later date remove and then re-wire again to get the shape you are aiming for. ‘U' shaped and ‘S' shaped wire can be used for thinner branches, for training in a downward or upward direction respectively.

A technique known as ‘pinning’ can also be used for lowering/raising a branch. Cut a piece of wire a bit longer than the space between the said branch and trunk. Cut both ends of the wire to a sharp point, position the wire by pushing one end into the trunk and the other end into the said branch. 

During the growing season use quarter strength of any balanced feed NPK 20-20-20 every watering. During growth keep removing large leaves, new leaves come back very quickly and smaller in size. If plants remain in the same growing pot for more than 6 months, renew the bottom third of soil, also removing any roots in bottom third.

Six months before it is time for a plant to go into a bonsai pot begin to pot-down, that is gradually transferring to a smaller pot size, so that the plant gets used to living in less soil with less roots.

Method (b)
If a plant has been growing in the garden or in a large pot for several years, have a good look at the branch/stem structure, bearing in mind the ‘bonsai’ aspect, look for thick and even contorted stems. You may even find this type of plant at your local fuchsia nursery, especially towards the end of the ‘fuchsia season’.

Scrape away the top soil, you may find some nice thick roots coming directly out of the lower part of a particular stem which later could be used as ‘nebari’(surface root/roots.) Remove all flowers and foliage. Cut out unwanted stems, cut back remaining lateral stems anything between a third/half, according to the size of the plant and your intentional shape for a bonsai, remembering that the new growth will shoot much lower down on the remaining lateral stems.

Dig out of the garden or remove from large pot, remove soil and any tap-roots, leave as many fine white roots as possible. Plant into a growing pot with new soil, allowing plenty of room for remaining roots to recover and grow. Place out of direct sunlight and keep moist. After four weeks, water once with a high nitrogen feed, and mist/spray daily, preferably with rain water, this helps new growth to come back more quickly.

Then carry on as above for a 5 inch pot.

Soil mix for bonsai pot - 50% peat based compost - 25% loam - 20% horticultural grit 5% perlite and a small amount of horticultural charcoal (helps to keep the soil 'sweet')

During summer months outside, place in a well ventilated position, protect from hot pm sun, eg use green shade netting. Water in the mornings, keep moist, never let them dry-out completely. Constantly remove any large leaves and dead or dying flowers. Continue with shaping. Remember, the removal of growing tips will delay flowering between four to six weeks according to the variety.

Feed during the growing season with a balanced feed, NPK 20-20-20 at a quarter strength twice weekly. A monthly feed of Sequestrene (iron chelate, magnesium and manganese) helps to produce healthy foliage.

As fuchsias are deciduous carefully remove any flowers and foliage that are still on your fuchsia bonsai in late Autumn, and prune back anything between one quarter and one third of lateral branches (except for the encliandra type fuchsias, only give a light trim).

Give them a real good clean. Remove any moss and debris from the top of the soil.
If necessary,  ie if the bonsai is becoming pot bound, re-potting can take place now instead of the following Spring. This is only advisable, if you are going to keep your fuchsia bonsai in a heated greenhouse throughout the winter, in other words 'keeping them in the green'. Once cut back and cleaned they will immediately begin to grow again, so repottting now means less risk of damaging top growth than if you were to wait until the Spring to repot.
Never remove more than 1/3rd of the total amount of root at any one time, try to leave as many of the finer roots as possible.  When repotting is completed spray branches and stems preferably with collected rain water in the mornings, this helps new foliage to come back quickly. As soon as new foliage appears start shaping again.

If you are going to wait until Spring to repot,  treat with Provado against any vine weevil larvae that maybe lurking in the old soil.

In frost prone areas place in a greenhouse for the winter and keep at a temperature of 45f/8c. If you don't have a greenhouse, a west facing windowsill indoors in a cool room is ok. Keep them just moist not soaking wet.

In Spring/early Summer do harden-off the foliage before placing your fuchsia bonsai permanently outside again. When the weather is suitable, put outside during the day, returning them to the greenhouse for the night, until night temperatures stay above 45f/8c.

Make your Bonsai Garden more inviting with a water fountain from Fountain Crafters, read more

Dutch Fuchsia Society
Member of the
Dutch Fuchsia Society
British Fuchsia Society
Member of the
British Fuchsia Society