Grow

Fuchsias- showy but delicate

Fuchsia

Fuchsias are named after the 16th century German doctor, Leonhart Fuchs, who gained horticultural credibility by publishing a herbal guide in the 1540s but never actually laid his eyes on a fuchsia. It’s useful to know his surname, though, because it helps us remember how to spell the plant’s name– simply ‘Fuchs’ with an ‘ia’ at the end.

There are more than 100 species of fuchsias in nature (including Fuchsia procumbens, a lovely, ground-covering native with upturned red and yellow flowers), but most garden fuchsias are hybrids that have been bred for their showy flowers. These flowers are often quite large and pendulous, which means they’re easily damaged. The clue, then, is to keep the plants in a sheltered position that isn’t exposed to strong winds.

Most garden fuchsias prefer gentle conditions with plenty of water, good drainage, no temperature extremes and protection from the hottest sun.

Some of the pendulous varieties are ideally grown in a hanging basket or pot so that the flowers can be seen from below. Fuchsia flowers usually have sepals (the petal-like parts at the top of the flower) that blend or contrast in colour with the softer single or double petals that flair out below. Stamens protrude from beneath the petals, looking like a bunch of skinny, dangling legs. The effect can be totally charming – like a cluster of full-skirted ballerinas waiting to move onto the stage.

Growing fuchsias

As mentioned, fuchsias need to be in a protected situation. Choose a well-drained spot – not too hot or too cold – and improve the soil before planting by digging in some compost or aged organic matter. Because fuchsias don’t like drying out, it can be helpful to mix in some pre-moistened peat moss as well.

Feed

Fuchsias aren’t rapid growers so their fertiliser requirements are fairly moderate. An occasional sprinkling with Dynamic Lifter pellets will keep in-ground plants happy. Potted fuchsias can be fed a couple of times a year with Acticote or Nutricote pellets.

Prune

Because fuchsias flower on new wood, it’s helpful to prune regularly and thereby encourage new flower-promoting growth. Cut plants back hard in late winter (spring in cold areas) and give a tidy up in mid-summer. Pinch back the soft growing tips to encourage bushiness.

Pests and diseases

Caterpillars are attracted to soft fuchsia leaves. Squash by hand, or treat serious infestations with Success. Watch for sap-sucking pests, especially on plants growing in dry spots under leaves. Use Nature’s Way Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental to treat thrips and aphids. Nature’s Way Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental is a ready-to-use combination solution that controls mites, aphids and other insect pests.



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