Growing fuchsias as bonsai is a fun and easy way to grow fuchsias. Bonsai is an old and beautiful, but exacting art form. Producing fuchsias in the form of bonsai can be a much more relaxing way to grow your plants. The end result need only please you, the grower. Gaining the right proportion between flower size, plant size and pot size is what will make it all pleasing to the eye. Using fuchsias that have smaller foliage and flowers as well as being short jointed will make the project much easier. The huge, double flowered fuchsias seem out of proportion when grown as bonsai and should probably be avoided. However, fuchsias with larger blooms can be used. Just make sure that the whole plant is larger to keep everything in proportion.
Solent Fuchsia Club member Peter Lewis cultivated this bonsai Magellanica Alba and achieved the following awards:
Winner: Solent Fuchsia Club Show 2006
3rd Best in Show: BFS London Show 2006 (The Blue Rosette)
‘Runner Up’ Best In Show: BFS Southern Show 2006
Winner: BFS London Show 2007
The Encliandra type of fuchsia are easy subjects for bonsai because of their tiny flowers and small leaves. But any fuchsia with small flowers will work nicely. Those with variegated or coloured foliage are attractive even without their blooms. Keep in mind that as fuchsia bonsai age, with the roots restricted in the small pot, the leaf size with will become a little smaller, but for just a few years. The flower size will stay about the same as normal.
When selecting a plant to shape into a bonsai form, either new cuttings can be used and grown on or older plants can be selected. A year or two of time can be saved by using older plants. Look to the back of the greenhouse bench for that forgotten or neglected plant or just a plant that is a few years old and already has a nice woody stem. If you choose to grow a cutting on into a bonsai shape, grow it in the normal way, except do not pot it beyond a 3” pot. By keeping it in a small pot, it will develop a woody stem faster.
Shaping your fuchsia into a bonsai is where the fun begins as it is transformed into your personal creation. It is suggested that you work with your fuchsia at eye level as this will make it easier to see what you want to do. This means either holding the pot in one hand or setting it on an eye level shelf. To begin with, take the leaves off of the bottom of the stems in order to make trunk visible. The final effect should be airy so that you could see through it. Thin out the branches, starting with the spindly ones, so that the main branch structure becomes distinct. Leaves that hang below the branch are often distracting. Aim for the plant to be bowing towards you with open arms without any branches pointing directly at you. Be light handed at first, let it sit a bit and then come back later to have another look. The shaping of a bonsai is an ongoing project and continual pinching and trimming will be done all through the growing season. Fuchsias have brittle wood that does not lend itself easily to traditional bonsai wiring. Inserting a wooden skewer into the compost or hanging a little weight, such as a metal nut or washer from an opened paper clip can easily move a branch. Within a few weeks it stays in place and the restraints can be removed. The ease of working with fuchsias means that a wrong cut will grow back in a matter of weeks.
The compost used for bonsai fuchsias, is regular potting compost with the exception of added grit to give good drainage. However, with careful watering the grit is not essential.
Many garden centres now carry bonsai style pots. There are some heavy plastic ones that are inexpensive and look quite attractive. Choose a pot that will be a little smaller than the canopy of the fuchsia. A pot depth that is ⅓ of the height of the plant will give a good proportion. If the pot has a large bottom hole it can be covered with screening or plastic canvas that is used for needlepoint. The colour of the pot you choose is a personal one. The only criteria are that it blends with the colour of the bloom. You don’t want the pot to be the first thing noticed by admirers. The fuchsia should be planted high in the pot so that the crown is above the rim of the pot. Place it off centre and leaning a little to one side. Placement will take a little experimenting with to find what looks balanced and is the most appealing to you. A bonsai is viewed from only one side so find which side is the most pleasing and that will be its ‘front’. As the plant ages, washing the compost away with a gentle stream of water will expose larger surface roots. This gives the impression of great age even if you have been growing for just a few years. If rocks are added to the pot, they should be buried into the compost and their size be in proportion to the fuchsia to look natural.
A fuchsia bonsai has such a small amount of compost to grow in that it will require continuous weak feeding. A balanced feed can be used all during the growing season at about ⅛ strength.