I love hardy fuchsias. They are some of the most rewarding plants to grow. They are easy to propagate, flower well and are not the least bit temperamental.
They are named after a 16th Century German herbalist and physician called Leonard Fuchs. Lots of gardeners struggle to spell fuchsia but if you think of his name and stick and ‘ia’ on the end you have it!
In mild areas or at the seaside they can grow into huge shrubs. Elsewhere hard frosts see off most of the top growth in winter, then new shoots burst up from the soil in the spring, maturing into small shrubs about 2-3 feet / 60-100cm tall.
At this time of year rooted cuttings are cheap. Grow them on for a few weeks under cover, changing the pot to a slightly larger one as they grow, then plant them out in May. Choose a sunny spot in well-drained soil.
Make sure you pinch out the shoot tips frequently. It delays the flowers a little but they will become bushy little plants which produce more flowers in the long-run.
Once they are mature you can leave them to it. Simply sprinkle a handful or two of fertiliser around them in the spring and again in the summer.
There are lots of lovely varieties. “Mrs. Popple” is tall with red and purple flowers. “Mrs. W. P. Wood” is paler with pearly flowers. I have a soft spot for “Whiteknight’s Pearl” which is a beautiful pale pink.
If you have a smaller plot, try “Tom Thumb” or “Alice Hoffman”.
It’s a little-known fact that the berries and inner petals of fuchsias are edible (though it’s worth noting that ‘edible’ doesn’t mean they necessarily taste good!). However, there is now a variety bred especially for eating. It’s called “Berry” and produces fruit with a flavour something like a sweet fig. The fuchsia berries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. They don’t have a long shelf life so pick them when they are soft and squishy and eat them fresh, or freeze small quantities as you collect them, until you have enough to make fuchsia jam or add to muffins, much as you might add blueberries.
DID YOU KNOW. . . ?
- Fuchsia can survive for hundreds of years. Oldest known fuchsia (that still lives) was planted in 1899.
- Native Americans used root of fuchsia as a source of black pigment for colouring of wool.
- Fuchsia is a symbol of "good taste" in Japan, and "confiding love" and "amiability" in the western societies.
- Indigenous people of New Zealand (Maori) were using blue pollen from the flowers of Fuchsia excorticata as a source of make-up.