When to cut back fuchsias to keep them flourishing

Snip this popular plant at the right time of year, and you’ll be treated to a stunning show the next time it flowers.

Fuchsias are a wonderful character to add to your garden’s stellar cast of low-maintenance garden flowers. If you fear short-lived bursts of flowers on plants that get killed off with the first sight of frost, then you’re in the right place. Pull up a chair, and we’ll tell you when to cut back fuchsias to secure the return of their ornate purple-pink pendant petals year after year. 

close up of pink and purple fuchsia flowersCredit: Shutterstock / Fabrizio Guarisco
Some fuchsias are best cut back before winter, others in spring

Though fuchsia plants fall into two categories – hardy and tender – both need to be pruned at specific times of year. That’s because their liberal lashings of flowers, which can last all summer long into autumn, will only appear on new growth. You’ll need to remove the old, dead stems every year. This is made possible by thoughtful cutting, and the way in which hardy and tender fuchsias prefer this to be done varies.  


What’ the difference between hardy and tender fuchsias?

We love hardy fuchsias. They’re generally an easy-going, reliable plant that (like most of us) can tolerate the unpredictable UK winter outside. Keep them happy with regular watering in well-drained soil and they’ll flower in sun or light shade. They’ll need shelter from cold winds, but otherwise will happily produce pairs of intricate, dancing flowers. Though they tend to grow upright (with some types creating excellent shrub forms), more compact varieties are perfectly comfortable in smaller containers.   

If you aren’t sure what type you have, and if you can’t find the label, then hardier fuchsias tend to form upright, growth and be woodier and shrub-like, with thick stems up to 2cm (1in) thick. 

They might look like hardy fuchsias, but when working out their nature, the clue is in the name. These plants are more delicate than hardy types, and generally won’t survive frosts without being brought inside for shelter. Tender types are a bit fussy – they prefer well-drained soil (but not too dry and not too wet). Don’t expect them to flower in full shade, either.   

Tender fuchsias have a laxer growing habit than hardier types. They are smaller and have softer, thinner stems. 

When to cut back fuchsia plants that are hardy

Don’t touch hardy fuchsias until winter is over

If you’re a fan of hardy fuchsias, which are hardy by name and hardy by nature, then you can chill out until – well, the chill is over. Do not cut, snip or prune these plants until the end of winter. Leaving the older growth sitting on top of the whole plant means you create a botanical jacket for the fuchsia to wear. The plant will be better insulated by not cutting until the frosts have gone away. You also limit the risk of disease and bacteria entering the plant through the exposed wounds you create when you cut a plant.  

Prune in spring instead

“Prune your hardy fuchsias in late March or April once the new growth begins to show,” says Mandy Bradshaw, writing for Thompson & Morgan. “In colder parts of the UK, leave it until all risk of frost has passed. Using sharp secateurs to prevent damage, cut back every stem to a pair of leaf buds around 7-10cm (2-4in) above the earth. 

“If an old plant needs rejuvenating, cut all the stems back to the ground to stimulate new shoots.” 

Bradshaw adds that fuchsias grown as hedges should be cut back to a pair of buds in early spring, to give an even shape. “Leggy hedges can also be reinvigorated by cutting back hard, possibly choosing alternating plants over two years so that the barrier is maintained.” 

Finding the perfect moment to cut back fuchsia plants in your garden will of course depend on the climate you live in.  

“I grow the hardy Fuchsia magellanica in my garden in south Devon,” says Saga Exceptional’s gardening editor Simon Akeroyd. “It is so mild here that we rarely get a frost. For this reason, I’m able to prune it in late January or early February, which encourages it into growth early and extends the flowering season over summer. Don’t try this, though, if you live in an area prone to spring frosts.” 

Featured product

Fuchsia magellanica, Jacksons Nurseries

RRP: £9.99

Fuchsia magellanica, Jacksons Nurseries

If you have a fuchsia hedge

Hardy fuchsia plants can make wonderful hedges, offering opulent bell-studded boundaries for much of the warmer months. Using fuchsias in this way means you’ll need to be considerate of its overall shape, which serves a purpose.

“Prune back the side branches to healthy shoots or buds in early spring, just as the new growth begins,” the RHS advises on its website. “The aim is to keep the sides neat so that it does look hedge-like, but there will always be some arching, wayward stems as these bear the star attraction: the flowers.” 

Sometimes an abundance of leaves and new stem growth mean things get a bit messy and overcrowded. Some hard pruning of these larger plants will need to take place to restore order.  

“Prune plants with congested stems down to the ground in early spring; for them to sprout again shortly after,” adds the RHS. “With hedges, prune down alternate shrubs, to help maintain some form of boundary; then prune the remaining shrubs in the following year.” 

When to cut back fuchsia plants that are tender

Cut tender fuchsias right back before overwintering

Tender fuchsias need a little more TLC when it comes to their winter routine. They are more vulnerable to frost and need to be brought inside – whether that’s to a greenhouse, a bright and warm spot indoors or under a cold frame.  

“Fuchsia plants that need to be overwintered undercover should be lifted by the end of September before the first frost, potted up, and cut back by about half,” says Bradshaw. “Remove as many of the leaves as possible. 

“When spring arrives, prune out all the weak growth and cut back all the stems to the lowest pair of good buds. As the side shoots grow, pinch out the growing tip after every three sets of leaves until plants reach the size you want. Pinching out the growing tips will help to produce a bushier plant with plenty of flowers.” 

Do your secateurs make the cut?

You can help to maintain the health of the fuchsia plants you’re cutting back by using a pair of goodquality secateurs. If your current pair needs to be revived, we can tell you how to clean secateurs, as well as how to sharpen secateurs. Sometimes, no amount of elbow grease can make a difference, so if you’re in the market for a brand-new pair, here are the best secateurs we’ve tried and tested.  

How to cut back fuchsia plants like a National Trust gardener

Gethin Crump, head gardener at the National Trust’s Penrhyn Castle and Garden, looks after an incredible 80m (262ft) long fuchsia arch within the property’s Walled Garden.

The cultivar grown to wind its ways around the arch is Fuchsia magellanica ‘Riccartonii’.

“Hard pruning is usually done in late February into early March, when we spur prune back to the main framework of the plant,” Crump tells Saga Exceptional.

“We continue to prune out any unwanted young shoots (these maybe growing in the wrong direction, damaged by wind, unhealthy-looking shoots). We also tie in the stronger young shoots over the metal arch, which will in later years become the new framework of the plant as we take out the older stems. The fuchsia arch is very labour intensive for us as we try our best to maintain the arch framework, so that our visitors can walk under the structure easily and safely.”


Looking after the fuchsia arch in the winter

The team ensures the fuchsia is protected over winter by wrapping hessian netting (or whatever else is to hand) around the base of the plants. This is to provide some protection for young emerging roots, as shown in the picture above.

“The soil surrounding the plants is fed with chicken manure pellets and a layer of garden compost (made on site),” Crump adds. “This is done in spring, when the soil has a bit of moisture and warmth. The mulch then locks this into the soil in readiness for the summer weather (when it eventually arrives!).”

Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her


Rosanna Spence has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures.

Rosanna loves nothing better than getting under the skin of a topic and is led by an unwavering curiosity to share information and stories that inform and inspire her readers – a mission that has taken her around the world. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller, i-escape.com, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

She turned her attention to the Homes sector as a result of an ongoing renovation and improvement project, which takes up a fair amount of her time outside of work. When she’s not comparing carpet samples or debating the pros and cons of induction hobs, you’ll find Rosanna exploring Bristol’s food and drink scene, obsessively watching horror films, or donning some walking boots and heading for the hills.

  • linkedin