Sometimes you’re walking along the street and you see window boxes with flowers in it that are so vibrant and strikingly colored it seems almost impossible that something natural could hold such a powerful color.
This happened to me the other day! Walking down the street I came across a flower that was so brightly colored (a magenta flower?! Are you kidding?!) and fun that I simply had to do some digging and identify the mysterious wonder — and that is how I came to write an article about the fuchsia plant.
The genus fuchsia is comprised of hundreds of different flowering plants that grow as shrubs, ground cover plants, climbing vines, all the way to small trees. Once they are planted, they can live for many many years with almost no attention from you.
Fuchsia plants can be placed into a couple of different categories. Folks usually dictate their plant type choice around whether it has an upright and bushy growth habit, a trailing growth habit, or a tree forming growth habit.
Another way to choose a fuchsia plant is by whether you’d like your plant to be evergreen or deciduous, but that will be dependent on your growing region! Keep on reading to find out which fuchsia plant would work best with your lifestyle and local climate.
What do Fuchsia Plants Look Like?
Fuchsia flowers are known for being wonderfully decorative. They look like a combination of an exotic tropical fruit and a special candy. The normally have a pendulous, teardrop shape that are in bloom throughout the summer and autumn. They will remain well after the first frost as some are very cold hardy plants.
Each flower is comprised of sepals that are very bright red, and flower petals that are usually a dark purple color. This striking color combination between sepals and petals are designed that way to help attract pollinators, especially the hummingbird.
There are certain fuchsia species that bear flowers that can be anywhere from yellow to white, orange to dark red, and often with purple accents.
Depending on the species, a fuchsia plant will be either evergreen or deciduous. This means that they will either have leaves that will remain green and persist all year long, or they will fall away once the cold weather approaches.
A leaf is usually a lanceolate shape with a serrated margin. Leaves will grow either in alternating or opposite whorls along a branch or stem in groups of 3 to 5. Foliage color will also vary from species to species.
The growth habit between each fuchsia species will vary greatly. Some won’t reach any higher than a dozen inches, whereas most will hover around 0.2-4 metres in height. There are a couple tree species as well that can grow anywhere from 5 to 15 metres in height.
Once a fuchsia flower is fertilizer, it will bear fruit in the form of a small red berry. Fuchsia berries will be either dark red or dark purple and will contain many seeds.
These small berries are edible both by humans and animals, and this helps greatly with seed dispersal. They are said to have a flavor that is slightly tart like a citrus fruit with a kick of black pepper. They are often made into jams and jellies!
Where are Some Fuchsia Species?
Hummingbird Fuchsia (Fuchsia Magellanica)
Fuchsia magellanica is one of the cold hardiest fuchsia varieties there is. It is a member of the evening primrose family (same with epilobium), and it is also one of the largest of the fuchsia species as well.
The hummingbird fuchsia is native to the most southern parts of South America and has flower blossoms that stay in bloom for very long periods. This evergreen perennial, hardy fuchsia variety produces small tubular flowers that hang like pendants, and grow in many shades of red, purple, pink, and lavender.
Tree Fuchsia (Fuchsia Excorticata)
Also known as the New Zealand fuchsia, the tree fuchsia is actually the largest member of the fuchsia family, and is quite obviously native to New Zealand.
Fuchsia excorticata can be identified firstly because it’s a tree about 15 metres in height, and secondly by its bark that peels away in red strips to reveal more pale colored bark underneath.
The New Zealand fuchsia tree will produce flowers that hang down in a pendulous fashion with bright red or purple flowers, and very dark red berries that can be eaten cooked, mostly in jams and puddings.
Brilliant Fuchsia (Fuchsia Fulgens)
Brilliant fuchsia is a variety that it native to Mexico and Central America. This is a tropical plant that exhibits more of a shrubby, upright growth habit.
Fuchsia fulgens can grow to be over 1.5 metres in height and produces beautiful pendant, tubular shaped flowers that will be either dull red or a striking, bright scarlet.
Because of its woody stems, this variety makes an absolutely amazing garden plant. It can be used in containers and pots, it can be grown indoors or it can be incorporated into your wildflower garden. The possibilities are endless.
Scarlet Fuchsia (Fuchsia Coccinea)
Scarlet fuchsia is a deciduous shrub that will grow differently depending on the local climate and the general growing conditions of the plant. It can be either a shrubby bush or can climb up to 7 metres!
If grown in a warm place, fuchsia coccinea can be an evergreen plant, providing brightly colored foliage no matter the time of year. They also have pendulous flowers that blossom all the way from June to September. Additionally, they produce beautiful, small red berries that are edible and delicious.
Where is Fuchsia a Native Plant?
The vast majority of fuchsia species are native plants to South America. There are a handful that are native to Central America and Mexico, and there are a few other handfuls that are native to Tahiti and New Zealand as well.
There are a couple of species that be found growing rather profusely in the wild in the Andes mountains. They are usually happiest in areas where temperatures are mild and the air is full of moisture.
When growing in USDA zone 6 or 7 they can be grown outside in the garden all year long. When growing in USDA zone 10 or 11 they should be uprooted and brought inside over the winter until spring arrives again.
What are the Growing Conditions of the Fuchsia Plant?
If I had to choose my favorite thing about the fuchsia plant, it would be the fact that it can be entirely neglected and will both survive and thrive that way. These plants are shockingly low maintenance and growing fuchsias can be accomplished by any gardener.
Fuchsia plants can tolerate any type of soil. The only requirements it asks are that the soil is very well drained and it has a rather neutral acidity level – or 6 or 7 in pH level.
The moisture level of the soil with vary depending on the species of fuchsia as well as their native growing range, and the local climate where the cultivar has been planted!
It never hurts to plant a fuchsia in some rich soil either. If you happen to have a property with poor soil quality, simply incorporate some organic compost to the mix to turn it into rich soil!
Fuchsia plants prefer to exist in partial shade or dappled shade. They can sometimes be intolerant of heat and full sun exposure can damage their leaves and flowers. Ensure they always get afternoon shade in the heat of the summer.
When choosing a spot in your garden to plant your fuchsia, pick a spot that is either directly under a tree with a large canopy with some open pockets for partial shade. If you’re keeping them indoors, place them behind a sheer curtain in a south facing window.
The watering requirement for a fuchsia plant is moderate. A younger, unestablished plant will require a little bit more water during its growing season, and can be watered 2 or 3 times a week.
A well established, mature plant should only be watered once the soil has dried out completely. It is always better to under-water a fuchsia plant than over-water it.
The temperature level that a fuchsia plant can tolerate will vary from species to species. Many of them will be happiest in temperatures occurring between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas there are some that prefer to exist in very mild climates.
In places that experience very hot summers, flowers will sometimes wait to blossom until autumn as they prefer cooler night time temperatures, and will express this preference through profuse blooming!
Fuchsia plants will respond very well to fertilizer. They can be given a nitrogen high fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks during their active growing season. Cease fertilizing after flowers have blossomed.
Though no pruning has to be done in order to maintain a tidy growth habit, but a fuchsia plant has some other pruning requirements to keep the plant healthy and ready to bloom.
Once a branch has completely finished blooming and flowers have produced their fruit, branches can be clipped back with shears. This way new shoots can grow in unencumbered the following spring.
All in all, fuchsia plants are awesome. Once they are planted they can pretty well live forever without hardly any care from you. Just remember to bring them inside if you experience serious winters and don’t let them bake in the sun!
How are Fuchsia Plants Used?
Fuchsia varieties and cultivars make for absolutely perfect garden specimens. Their varying growth habits allow them to be used in nearly any application. There are many hybrid fuchsia varieties available that will allow nearly any gardener in any USDA zone to have their own.
Upright and bushy varieties can be planted in baskets, planters, and pots, whereas trailing and climbing varieties can easily be trellised or trained as hedges. A potted fuchsia will be happy indoors as a container plant or outdoors in a hanging basket. If you can imagine a place, it can exist there happily.
Not everyone knows this about the fuchsia plant, but the little red berries they produce in the late summer are completely edible and can be rather delicious if prepared properly!
Fuchsia berries are said to have the tartness of a citrus fruit with a peppery kick. They can be a little bit too intense to eat fresh, and so they are often cooked down to accentuate the sweet aspect of them. They are often prepared as a jam or jelly.
That being said, a single fuchsia plant does not actually produce that many berries, and so once would need to have many many plants in order to have an actual sizeable berry harvest.