Fuchsias & Ceanothus Problems

Jul 29, 2019

Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County

Ceanothus (L) & Fuchsia (R)
Ceanothus (L)
Client's Request:  I have another garden question. We have a fuchsia and an unknown green plant (to the left of the fuchsia in the photo) in dire need of serious pruning in our West County yard. Both are at least 12+ years old if my research is accurate, I should have done a hard prune of the fuchsia in the early spring. Given it's summer now, what should I do with it? I would definitely like to make it look more attractive. 

And can you please identify the green plant for me and what I should do with it? The ones I see in our neighborhood look more like a low ground covering but ours has a large trunk and is very woody and unattractive. I am open to pulling it out if it can't be pruned attractively. 

Help Desk Response:   Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Help Desk with your questions on how to prune your fuchsia and the unknown plant next to it in your yard.

Fuchsia: I suggest that you hold off pruning the fuchsia until next spring. Your fuchsia looks like it is struggling as it only has sparse stems, leaves and flowers and the leaves look rather pale. If you were to prune it most likely you would be removing many of the leaves and without those it would not be able to produce its food. Flowers appear on new wood so do any pruning before spring growth begin but after the last frost. During this part of the season focus on providing good cultural care.

Fuchsias like to be watered regularly; you want to maintain a moist but not waterlogged condition.    

Fuchsias are heavy feeders so while blooming provide a monthly application of a balanced liquid fertilizer.  A balanced fertilizer is one with 3 numbers about the same. You may see 5-5-5 or 10-10-10.  The numbers represent the percentage of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus respectively in the product.

Unknown plant:  Your unknown plant is a ceanothus. There many varieties of ceanothus both upright shrubs and ground covers as you see in your neighbor's yards. Regardless of the type you have, I can provide you with general information on pruning and care. 

The part of the plant you are showing in the picture has nice green growth. Since I cannot see the whole plant I am unable to tell you if you will be able to make it more attractive. For pruning, wait until the blooms have faded and avoid cutting off any branches more than an inch in diameter.  While most Ceanothus can be shaped by tip pruning and cleaning out interior or low dead growth, it resents serious hacking. Ceanothus will not produce shoots from old wood, so never prune back severely to old wood. Prune from the inside, lightly thinning and removing a few lower limbs.

Ceanothus typically requires little if any water during the summer months so caution here because your fuchsia that lives right next to it requires regular water.

Following is a link to a UC website that will provide more information on the history, pruning, and care of ceanothus: http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/Plant_of_the_Month/Ceanothus_796/

Help Desk of UC the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (EDC)

Note: Contra Costa MG's Help Desk is available almost year-round to answer your gardening questions.  Except for a few holidays (e.g., last 2 weeks December), we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 2380 Bisso Lane, Concord, CA 94520. We can also be reached via telephone:  (925) 608-6683, email: ccmg@ucanr.edu, or on the web at  http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/. MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ignore.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Biog

By Steve I Morse
Author - Contra Costa County Master Gardener