Hybrid fuchsias, with their petticoated, poodly pom-pom flowers, just might be the horticultural definition of gaudy. How many other plants can you think of that have their names pinned on a color (especially one so vivid)? Of course, if the numbers mean anything (10,000 named fuchsia hybrids with millions sold each year), my opinion is certainly in the minority. But when it comes to plants, what excites me the most is a simpler, more subtle beauty—like that possessed by species fuchsias, parents of those flashy hybrids.

7 SPECIES FUCHSIAS TO TRY

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F . GLAZIOVIANA

In its native Brazil, this beautiful evergreen can be a compact shrub or climb up to the tree canopy. In cultivation it reaches 6 to 12 feet, and is a good choice for topiary or hanging baskets. Unpruned it can be a scandent climber. Small flowers, less than an inch long, are abundant.


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F . FULGENS

Sometimes called the flame fuchsia for its bright orange-red flowers with chartreuse tips, this species (like many fuchsias) is a favorite of hummingbirds. A deciduous winter bloomer, it typically reaches 3 to 4 feet tall, and has tuberous roots that store water during dry seasons.


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F. MICROPHYLLA SSP. APRICA

This little-leaved variety of the species has small pinkish red flowers, less than half an inch long. This is a good choice for pot culture; even small plants grown in small containers will still cover themselves in blooms.


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F . PANICULATA

This vigorous species can reach 24 feet in the wild, and about half that in cultivation, with a spread of 18 feet. This species is known for its large clusters of flowers up to 10 inches across. While resistant to fuchsia gall mite, F. paniculata hosts the pest; beware of placing it near susceptible varieties.


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F . MICROPHYLLA SSP. HIDALGENSIS

This small, spreading shrub is similar in habit to F. microphylla ssp. aprica, only with white flowers. Both subspecies have attractive, glossy green leaves.


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F. SPLENDENS

Sometimes called the candy fuchsia, this vigorous species, with long, pendulous multicolored flowers, can become a shrub in its native habitat. A fall and winter bloomer, it stores water in its roots and may drop its leaves during dormancy.


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F. PROCUMBENS

This evergreen species has upward-facing, yellowish blossoms (unique among fuchsias) and eye-shadow-blue pollen, but the flowers are small, and the prostrate, creeping plants rarely reach more than 4 to 5 inches off the ground. Native to sandy banks on the New Zealand coast, this unusual fuchsia forms 2- to 4-foot-wide mats of heart-shaped leaves, and is a good candidate for a hanging basket. The flowers are sometimes followed by thumbnail-size pink fruits.

AppealDainty ballerina flowers of red, pink, white, lavender or yellow perch like jewels on trailing or arching stems, making them perfect for containers and hanging baskets. Where climate permits, plants grown in the ground can develop into shrubs covered with these delicate beauties or even work as groundcovers.

ZonesMost fuchsia species are native to well-watered tropical forest regions of Central and South America, with a few found in New Zealand and Tahiti. In cultivation, the plants thrive outdoors in cool-summered, frost-free climates, such as Northern California, the Pacific Northwest and the United Kingdom, where fuchsia shows are a regular summertime event. In cold-winter climates fuchsias can be treated as annuals, or potted plants can be stored dormant in a cool basement or garage, or wintered over in greenhouses.

ExposureSummer heat often spells doom for the plants, which is why that basket of hanging fuchsias purchased on Mother’s Day often poops out by July. By providing dappled shade and protection from drying winds, and by paying attention to watering and misting, gardeners in hot climates can sometimes cajole the plants into surviving, if not thriving.

SoilWhether grown in the ground or in containers, fuchsias benefit from a well-drained soil and a weekly feeding with half-strength water-soluble fertilizer.

CareFuchsias can be grown from softwood tip cuttings; rooting time varies from two to four weeks. Cuttings taken from the more vigorous species can grow to blooming size in a single season. Some species can also easily be grown from seeds, which the plants produce in the attractive berries that follow the flowers. Many species have strong resistance to the fuchsia gall mite, a microscopic insect that deforms the leaves and flowers of many hybrid varieties. Difficult to control without strong pesticides, the mite is especially pernicious on the West Coast of the United States. Aphids can also deform fuchsia growth, but being visible to the naked eye, these pests are easier to control.

Designing with Fuchsias

  • Fuchsias respond well to pruning and pinching, either to control their growth or shape them into hedges, standards or topiaries. Since they bloom on the new wood, any pruning should be done before the fresh spring growth begins.
  • If left unpruned, some species will become large shrubs or small trees. Others will become “scandent,” sending out long branches that will scramble up into overhanging trees or through adjacent shrubs, which can create beautiful, serendipitous combinations.
  • Smaller types are appropriate for container culture, including hanging baskets, which tend to display their dainty, dangling blooms neatly at eye level.

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