Fuchsia species and hybrids

Fuchsias, resplendent in their Russian ballet costumes, are the showiest of pot plants, giving a brilliant performance all summer long. Yet they are easy to grow.

Each nodding flower consists of a tube which opens out into four petallike sepals which spread like a dancer’s skirt. Below these are the corolla, usually in a contrasting colour – red over purple is a basic combination – and long, conspicuous stamens. There are many hundreds of fuchsia hybrids, both single and double, and the plants can be bushy, trailing, or standard, the first two being the most graceful in pots.

A number of fuchsias are hardy in a warm position, notably the species from which most hybrids are descended, F. magellanica, a tall, small-flowered plant in red and purple more suitable for the open garden than a balcony or terrace. But some fine hybrids have a chance of outdoor survival in a favourable micro- climate, such as Trase’, with crimson tube and white corolla; ‘Eva Boerg’, a graceful plant with white over purple flowers on arching stems; and ‘Princess Dollar’, in cerise over a violet corolla, a bushy plant which is one of the most popular.

But overwintering fuchsias without benefit of a greenhouse is a chancy business, and most pot gardeners will throw caution to the winds and choose a gorgeous plant which they will grow for one summer only, planting it when the spring frosts are past, perhaps a cascading fuchsia for an urn or basket. (I do not usually care for hanging baskets, the sky being an unnatural setting for plants, but fuchsias do trail from them to good effect.) There is a lovely hybrid with white recurving sepals over a crimson underskirt called ‘Cascade’, and ‘Citation’ is a charming rose-pink over white.

Fuchsias should be grown in a loamy well-drained compost in sun or light shade. They need plenty of food and water, but do not swamp them, and pinch out the leading shoots to keep them bushy. The ‘hardy’ ones are well worth trying to keep through the winter. Protect the crowns with straw, and if they survive cut them down in spring.

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