Choosing a compost for Fuchsias is not as simple as it may at first seem. Today there is an almost overwhelming choice of different media on the market, varying in price, purpose (specialist uses), quality and, increasingly, green credentials. A potting compost must allow healthy root growth, letting the plant fulfil its potential. It needs to provide anchorage for the plant and have good structure - which means open enough to allow aeration for gas exchange at the roots and drainage of water, yet also providing a suitable moisture-holding capacity. Composts must also, vitally, deliver a steady supply of nutrients to the plant. Many people quite rightly automatically reach for a bag of multipurpose compost, probably buying on price. Proprietary composts will suit most needs and have been carefully developed for their stated use, but some growers prefer to blend their own to meet their particular requirements. Using differing amounts of constituent materials alters the compost characteristics: more perlite, vermiculite, grit or sharp sand increases drainage and aeration; a higher percentage of loam makes a heavier, nutrient-rich mix for longer-term planting.
Advantages and disadvantages: Peat-based growing media hold a lot of water initially, but dry out more quickly than loam-based composts. Water in the peat is easily available to plants. They tend to be well aerated and less prone to water-logging. They are light and pleasant to handle. They also provide a 'warm' growing medium, which gives quicker root growth. Peat-based composts are more prone to drying out and sometimes a heavier planting medium (such as a loam based compost) will be better, for example when planting tubs for exposed situations in a garden.
Coir-based multipurpose compost consists of waste coconut fibres, mainly from Sri Lanka, with various added ingredients. Like peat, coir is pathogen free, consistent in its performance and used for potting and propagation mixes. It does not hold on to nutrients well, but is good at retaining water. More expensive than peat, and sometimes contaminated with salt, coir's 'product miles' lower its green credentials considerably.
Wool-based compost, is a recent addition to the market, but is not yet available nationwide. It uses waste wool from sheep shearing, is high in nitrogen and is moisture retentive. Wool is often mixed with composted manure or bracken in the final product. It is an interesting niche product and development work continues.
Advantages and disadvantages: Loam-based composts are less prone to drying out, but the water they contain may not be as readily available as in peat-based growing media. Water-logging is more likely to be a problem with loam based composts, as they are less free draining. They are also 'colder' and less pleasant to handle, as well as being heavier (Bags of loam-based composts can be difficult to carry).
These have a low level of nutrients and are especially suitable for seed sowing and rooting of cuttings. Sowing composts tend to be used by more experienced gardeners to raise their own plants.
These contain higher levels of nutrients and will support actively growing plants for around six weeks, without any extra fertiliser. Thereafter, supplementary feeding will be required.
Potting composts are used either to re-pot plants that have outgrown their containers or for potting on cuttings which have developed a reasonable root system. They are also suitable for use in hanging baskets and containers.
Hanging Basket Composts
Although either multi-purpose or potting compost could be used in hanging baskets and containers, growers may prefer to use a compost especially formulated for use in hanging baskets.
Hanging basket composts contain higher levels of nutrients and wetting agent.
Some hanging basket composts also have water absorbing granules. As hanging baskets are densely planted and have a high demand for nutrients and water, these are useful features.
Levington actually manufacture a specific Geranium & Fuchsia Compost and claim it to be a rich potting compost formulated specially for growing summer flowering plants such as geraniums and fuchsias. It is stated that it is enriched with extra nutrients that feed for up to 8 weeks and thus give more vigorous plants. Absorbs 50% more water than ordinary multi purpose composts and incorporates a unique Waterlock system that helps to keep plant roots moist for longer. I can't comment on this as I've never used it.
Matching your plant to the most suitable medium is key to successful establishment and growing on. While blending your own is of use for specific needs or to suit your own watering regime, ready-mixed composts are the simplest option for the majority of growers, and the range available suits most situations.
Also Click Here to see our new page on the use of Mycorrhizal Fungi as and additive to your compost