Fuchsias
Fuchsias

Flowers of the Fuchsia genus are extravagantly rich in color and so evocative of petticoats and ballet tutus that many of us have childhood memories of plucking and twirling these hanging, tubular blossoms like dancers. Hummingbirds adore them due to their rich nectar and pigments in the red range, including cri oranges, pinks (rosy white to magenta), and purples. The genus includes about 110 species, which encompass creeping, climbing, trailing, and vertical, tree-like species. All thrive in partial shade, but some grow well in full sun in cooler, coastal settings.

Fuchsias love rich, moist, well-drained soil similar to that of their native settings in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Mexico and Central America, and throughout South America all the way to its southern tip. Given these characteristics and origins, they are fine garden companions for Salvias that prefer rich, moist soils, such as Anise Scented Sages.

Depending on their species, or their hybrid parent plants (intentional or accidental), Fuchsias are cold tolerant from about USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 6 (F. magellanica) to Zone 11 (F. triphylla). Most have difficulty surviving frost and are only perennial in mild winter areas. However, they are excellent annuals in some colder zones. Although not native to America, the USDA identifies some Fuchsias as being introduced but not invasive in California, Hawaii, and Oregon. So, parts of these states are comfortable perennial homes for certain species and their many hybrids.

Father John Plumier (1646 - 1704) - a member of the French Catholic Order of Minims and a revered botanical illustrator and engraver - was the first plant explorer to record the Fuchsia genus. He did this through his drawings of the species F. triphylla, which he found on Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic) during his third voyage to the New World around 1695. 

Pacific Horticulture notes that Fuchsias were being hybridized in Europe by the 1840s. It adds that in 1854, a San Francisco exhibition introduced 24 hybrids to California gardens, and a floral love affair blossomed. In the 1980s, many Fuchsias in North America succumbed to South American gall mites. But by 2006, horticulturists succeeded in creating a number of hybrids that resist these predators.

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(Peppermint Stick Fuchsia) Nestled in mid-green foliage, the flowers of Fuchsia ‘Peppermint Stick’ have light red sepals and corollas of purple splashed with pink. This mid-20th century hybrid was one of the first fuchsias with tricolor flowers.

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Look for many more Fuchsia varieties in 2021.