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what are the little hard black specs on my fuchsia?

(17 Posts)
NotAnEMERGENCY Thu 22-Sep-16 11:16:02

They appeared on quite a few of the leaves (the upper side) recently. They look and feel like poppy seeds. They are not sticky at all. They are fairly hard so I don't think it's a live creature but I suppose they could be some sort of egg casing. I can't see any live creatures on the fuchsia at all. (Apart from bees! grin)

Some of the leaves seem to have gone a bit limp around the same time I noticed the black specs so I'm worried it's some sort of infestation but it doesn't sound like any of the things that have come up when googling.

Any ideas?

Ferguson Thu 22-Sep-16 20:32:02

A picture would be useful. But maybe it could be insect poo?

Tinklypoo Thu 22-Sep-16 20:38:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NotAnEMERGENCY Fri 23-Sep-16 21:48:48

Hmmm I'll try to remember to take a photo tomorrow. When I had a brief look earlier, I couldn't see so many of the black specks any more but the plant was looking worse (droopy leaves and sickly looking unopened flower buds).

The specks are no larger than 1mm. There was no buff/orange/tan colour when I took them off. I didn't really need to scrape them off; they came off pretty easily. The problem is that there's so many leaves affected that it would take ages to deal with each leaf individually.

I only got the fuchsia in June but I've had so much pleasure from it that I was really looking forward to seeing how it does next year and it'd be a real shame for it to fail now.

Tinklypoo Sat 24-Sep-16 09:46:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NotAnEMERGENCY Sat 24-Sep-16 10:42:25

I now have photos. First off, here's one of the whole plant to give you a general idea of the size. It has been flowering non-stop since I got it in June. There are still quite a few flowers and buds. I think there would be more but quite a few of the buds are now shrivelling up and dropping off before they even get to 5mm.

NotAnEMERGENCY Sat 24-Sep-16 10:51:42

Here you can still the little black specks. Today for the first time I also found these little brown specks you can see on the photo. Maybe these are the creatures doing the damage? (I don't know why they have only appeared now. The black specks have been there for a week or so. I'm pretty sure I would have noticed the brown things before if they were there then.)

The shape of the brown things does seem more like a 'head + body' shape (i.e. there's a sort of 'neck' where it's narrower) whereas the black things are just oval.

There are far fewer black specks on the plant now than there have been but the leaves themselves (and the buds) look more sick.

NotAnEMERGENCY Sat 24-Sep-16 10:57:15

Apart from the buds shrivelling up when they are still small, the full size ones seem to end up a funny shape like in the first photo here. Before the infestation of the black specks, buds were always a perfect symmetrical shape. Now they look a bit wonky and the colouration is also different. They tend to be paler in general but also more blotchy with patches of the darker pink.

The second photo shows a close-up of a leaf shrivelling up from the tip.

NotAnEMERGENCY Sat 24-Sep-16 11:02:35

This is the final photo. I couldn’t find any caterpillars but I did eventually find a bit of what could be (?) silky stuff from a caterpillar. There's not much other evidence of that on the plant though. Maybe it's just a coincidence?

I did break one of the wonky buds open but nothing unusual inside.

I do see caterpillars elsewhere in the garden sometimes so it's not like I'm caterpillar blind!

NanTheWiser Sat 24-Sep-16 18:25:14

Definitely caterpillar damage - the brownish specks are almost certainly fresh "poo" - called frass. The last pic shows the webbing these little pests make to protect themselves, and they are chewing through the leaves/stems, which is why the leaves are shrivelling. Not an easy fix, best done with a pesticide spray, but you will need to treat the whole plant, spraying under the leaves. Even then, you might not get them all, as they are masters at camouflage, and protection from the silk webbing.

NotAnEMERGENCY Sat 24-Sep-16 22:10:47

Thank you so much to everyone for all the suggestions/advice!

Ferguson Sun 25-Sep-16 20:48:21

If you overcome this problem, take care of the plant over winter and treat it gently next year to try and get the best from it. Fuchsias can be fascinating to grow, and are very easy to propagate.

You can train them a 'bush' plants, or take off side stems and grow them as tall 'standards'.

It will probably scare you at first, but to get maximum flowers next year, take off the early small buds; this will concentrate the plant to make more buds, which you can also take off. When you have a mass of buds, leave them to develop and open. They also benefit from feeding. Here is a good fuchsia site, and there are plenty of others:

NotAnEMERGENCY Mon 26-Sep-16 12:50:29

Yes, I took some cuttings back in June and five of them are doing really well. They seem desperate to bloom but I have been pinching off the buds as I want them to concentrate on roots this year.

I will definitely keep an eye on the mother plant over winter and it will get plenty of TLC.

Thanks also for the useful links!

NotAnEMERGENCY Mon 07-Nov-16 14:09:42


I looked into pesticide sprays but was a bit concerned because all those that seemed suitable against caterpillars were harmful to bees.

However, I was in luck! The very next day the fuchsia started looking a bit better again and since then seems to have completely recovered! I guess the caterpillars didn't last long enough to harm the plant enough to kill it.

The number of flowers was quite reduced in October because most of the buds shrivelled up due to the caterpillars. I also thought it was time for it to go into dormancy and wasn't expecting more new buds. But it seems to be waking up again and the number and size of the buds are increasing by the day. Is the plant just really confused by the weather? (My bluebells are starting to sprout too.)

New questions: When should I prune it? Can I plant it in my border now?

Different websites seem to contradict each other about when to prune (now or in spring). Does this depend on whether it is a hardy fuchsia? It was bought for me as a present from Sainsbury's. I'm not sure what sort of fuchsia it is but it looks a bit like Mrs Popple, Tom Thumb or Army Nurse (but single flowered). These are all on the 'BFS List Of Hardy Fuchsias'. If I prune it now, can I still plant it out in my border now too? (It should be warmer in the bed than in a pot, surely?) It has been outside in a pot since I got it in June. I've been waiting for my border to be renovated but it is now ready to accept plants again.

I think I also read somewhere that if you prune them before winter, you're supposed to cut them right back (all leaves off) and put them in a smaller pot. Do I really need to bother changing the pot? I think the idea is to then put it in a greenhouse though. I don't have a greenhouse though so it's either in a pot next to the wall of the house (for shelter) or in the bed.

Any thoughts or advice?

Trethew Tue 08-Nov-16 00:35:34

Hardy fuchsias are just that - hardy - and they will survive unprotected outdoors. I guess that your fuchsia is not a hardy variety and therefore will probably perish if left outside over winter. Even if it is a hardy, I would delay planting in the ground until next spring to be on the safe side.

The best time to prune fuchsias is in spring when there are signs of new growth. However, if you are trying to fit a lot into your greenhouse it may be necessary to trim them back to fit them in. Either way, the pruning is not critical, they will put up new shoots from the base as well as from the old stems, and they perform perfectly well if not pruned. I leave mine in their old pots and keep them barely damp over the winter, and repot and prune them in spring.

NotAnEMERGENCY Tue 08-Nov-16 12:00:54

Thanks for the advice, Trethew! Why do you suspect my fuchsia isn't a hardy variety?

Trethew Thu 10-Nov-16 12:35:50

Only because if it was bought from a chainstore it was almost certainly imported from the continent as a summer bedding plant. I'm happy to be proved wrong though. Also, I would have expected a hardy variety to be taller than yours after a summer's growth

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