How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Hardy Fuchsia
Are you curious about hardy fuchsia? These beautiful shrubs brighten the landscape with their immensely showy flowers in vibrant colors. In ideal conditions, they can bloom continually from late spring until fall. In this article, gardening enthusiast Liessa Bowen will discuss the proper care and maintenance of these spectacular plants
There are over 100 species within the genus Fuschia and numerous named cultivars and hybrids. Most varieties of fuchsia come from Central and South America, although there are at least a few species from New Zealand. Hardy fuchsias are part of this diverse group that also includes tender varieties.
Many people associate fuchsia flowers with tender tropical perennials that will not tolerate frost. This type, however, can be grown as a perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 10.
Hardy fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica) is native to the mountainous regions of Central and South America. It has naturalized outside its native range, including in parts of the western United States, Central America, Hawaii, and Australia.
There are many cultivars with vibrant, brightly colored flowers. Cultivars also display some different growth forms, including larger and smaller varieties. These plants have simple, opposite leaves. They are generally shrublike with stiff, woody stems. Proper pruning can train some varieties to grow into small upright trees.
The flowers are pendant-like with a broadly tubular opening. The drooping flowers are typically bi-color with distinctive sets of both petals and showy sepals. Fuchsia flowers are not only long-lasting, they are superb for attracting hummingbirds and insect pollinators.
If you want to try growing your own, you’ll want to be sure you have the right environment for this plant to thrive. Let’s dig a little deeper and learn more about the care and maintenance of hardy fuchsia plants.
Hardy Fuchsia Plant Overview
Plant Type Deciduous shrub
Native Area Central America, South America, New Zealand
USDA Hardiness Zone 6 to 10
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type Rich, Well-drained
Plant Spacing 5 feet
Suggested Uses Pollinator garden, Shrub garden, Shade garden
Plant With Azalea, Hydrangea, Begonia, Coleus, Ferns
Bloom Season Summer
Flower Color Red, Pink, Purple, Yellow, White, Bi-color
Attracts Hummingbirds, Butterflies, Bees
Problems Aphids, Spider mites, Whiteflies, Deer
Resistant To High humidity, Shade
Height 2 – 10 feet
Growing a hardy fuchsia in your landscape can be very rewarding if you have the right environment. These plants will tolerate full sun in climates with cooler summers and mild winters, but in warmer climates with harsh midday sun, they prefer some shade.
Watch out for harsh winters with excessive cold. If you experience a particularly cold winter, add some extra mulch over the roots to help protect them. You can also plant the root mass a few inches deeper than normal. This doesn’t guarantee that your plants will survive the winter, but it can help.
These plants do not appreciate arid climates. The dry air and soil will cause the plants to quickly shrivel, brown, and die. If you live in a place with dry air and dry soil, you will have better luck growing something that is more suitably adapted to your local conditions.
Once your fuchsia is established in a permanent location, it will be a medium-maintenance plant. You should prune it yearly to maintain a desirable form and encourage flowering.
Fuchsia is easy to propagate, and stem cuttings are the best way to do that. You can grow these plants from seed, but since many fuchsias are cultivars, the seeds won’t grow true to the parent type. Fuchsia seeds are also very finicky and difficult to germinate and grow.
You can take cuttings anytime, but you will have the best success in the springtime when your plants are most actively growing. When your plant starts to develop fresh new growth in the spring, take a couple of softwood cuttings.
- Cut a fresh green leafy branch tip about four inches long.
- Strip off the lower couple of leaves to have about two inches of bare stem.
- Dip this lower bare stem in a rooting hormone – powder or liquid.
- Place the lower couple of inches into fresh, clean potting soil.
- Your pot should have a functional drainage hole (or holes) in the bottom.
- Water the soil and keep it moist but not soggy.
- Keep your cutting in a warm and well-lit location.
- When your cutting starts to develop fresh new leaves at the top, you know it has rooted successfully.
- Keep the cutting growing in a pot for several more weeks until it has grown some more root mass.
- Transplant your cutting outside on a cool, overcast day, and continue to keep it moist and protected from direct sunlight.
If you have a fuchsia plant and want to plant it outside, follow these simple steps.
- Choose a location with partial shade and consistently moist soil.
- Add some organic compost to enrich the soil.
- Dig a hole slightly larger than your potted fuchsia’s root mass.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and transfer it into the ground.
- Fill in the gaps around the roots with fresh soil and gently tamp it into place.
- Water your plant well.
- Add a layer of mulch around the plant to help retain soil moisture and discourage weeds.
- Keep your plant moist.
How to Grow
Fuchsia plants are relatively easy to grow and care for if you can provide the proper environmental conditions.
Fuchsia grows best in partial shade and does well with full shade as long as there is some dappled light each day. One to six hours of indirect sunlight is best for these plants. The leaves can burn in intense, direct midday sun, especially in warmer climates.
Fuchsia needs consistently moist soil. Do not allow the soil to dry out, and also don’t allow the roots to sit in wet soil conditions. If you don’t get much rainfall or are experiencing drought conditions, do some supplemental watering.
The soil should be nutrient-rich and well-drained. These plants prefer acidic soil with a pH of less than 6.0.
In addition to nutrient-rich soil, fuchsia plants will appreciate extra fertilizer to support growth and flowering. Apply a balanced flower garden fertilizer during the growing season. Carefully follow the directions on the package of the product you are using.
Pruning will help your plants develop an attractive form and promote flowering. Fuchsia blooms on new wood, so if you want to see the most flowers, you’ll want to do annual pruning. Using sharp pruners, prune plants in late winter or early spring before they develop fresh spring growth.
Adding a hardy fuchsia to your landscape will add some color and tropical flair. Small varieties can be easily incorporated into a shade garden with ferns and perhaps some shade-loving annuals. Larger varieties would be right at home with some other shade-loving shrubs, such as azalea, hydrangea, or American beautyberry.
If you have a water feature in your garden, such as a fountain, small stream, or pond, a hardy fuchsia plant will look fabulous, draping its colorful flowers over the water. You can also plant one near a walkway so you can enjoy the flowers. Grow it with other hummingbird favorites, and you can enjoy non-stop hummingbird activity.
Check out some of these beautiful fuchsia cultivars. Each cultivar will thrive in similar growing conditions but has unique physical characteristics.
‘Alice Hoffman’ produces abundant bright pink and white bicolor flowers. It is hardy in Zones 7 to 10. This is a smaller variety that rarely grows more than two feet tall. If you are looking for a compact plant that is more container-friendly, this would be a good option.
‘Hawkhead’ is a relatively small, rounded bush-like fuchsia variety that grows to about three feet tall. It produces more slender, delicate-looking white flowers than the average fuchsia flowers. ‘Hawkshead’ is hardy in Zones 7 to 10.
‘Debron’s Black Cherry’
‘Debron’s Black Cherry’ is a cultivar that produces thick, juicy-looking flowers in deep pink and purple. This is an upright shrub that grows to five feet tall. This cultivar is less cold tolerant and hardy only in Zones 8 to 10.
This is one of the more cold-hardy varieties of fuchsia. ‘Gracilis’ can be grown as a perennial in Zones 6 through 10. This cultivar grows to about three feet tall with long arching branches. The branches are lined with bright reddish-pink dangling flowers with deep purple centers.
‘Whiteknights Pearl” develops clusters of solid pale pink flowers at the ends of long, arching stems. This plant grows three to four feet tall and is hardy in Zones 7 to 10.
Pests and Diseases
Fuchsia is generally a trouble-free plant, but you may occasionally encounter problems with insect pests. The three most common pests that feed on this plant are spider mites, aphids, and whiteflies. Deer will also munch on the tender leaves.
Spider mites are microscopic mites that congregate in large numbers along plant stems and leaves. You may also see them clinging to fine webbing between the plant leaves. Spider mites feed on plant juices and cause the leaves to curl, turn yellow and brown, and eventually die. Spray them with a jet of water to dislodge them.
Aphids are tiny insects that suck plant juices. They will cause plant leaves to curl and yellow. In heavy infestations, leaves will die. Aphids have soft bodies that are typically green, pink, or gray.
They mass in large numbers on the undersides of leaves and along plant stems. You will likely see these insects clearly in dense bunches if you have an aphid infestation. Spray aphids with insecticidal soap or spray a jet of water to dislodge them and disturb their feeding.
Whiteflies are tiny white flying insects. They suck plant juices and typically congregate on the undersides of plant leaves. They will cause plant leaves to turn yellow or brown and eventually die.
Encourage beneficial insects in your garden by planting plenty of pollinator-friendly plants nearby. Many insect predators will eat whiteflies. Spray heavily infested areas of your plant with insecticidal soap, but be careful not to spray beneficial insects.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I encourage my fuchsia plant to flower throughout the summer?
You may notice that in hot summer climates, your fuchsia quits flowering for a while. If your plant is in a pot or container, try moving it to a cooler and shadier location for the hottest months. Also, give it plenty of water to help keep the roots moist. Fuchsia doesn’t appreciate sweltering weather, so if the temperature is boiling, even in the shade, you can expect your fuchsia to take a summer siesta and revive again when the weather cools.
Is hardy fuchsia an invasive species?
Hardy fuchsia has become invasive in some locations with mild climates, competing with and choking out native vegetation. Check your specific location to see if hardy fuchsia is considered an invasive species where you live. If it is, try growing something else instead. If not, enjoy your fuchsia!
What is the difference between hardy fuchsia shrubs and tropical fuchsia houseplants?
Hardy fuchsias are larger, woodier, shrubbier, and frost-hardy. Some hardy fuchsias can grow into small tree-like forms. The tender herbaceous perennial fuchsias are smaller, more delicate, not frost-tolerant, and can be grown indoors as houseplants or outdoors during the summer in hanging baskets. There are over 100 species of fuchsias, which are quite varied and diverse.
Can I grow a hardy fuchsia in a container?
As long as you have a good location for your plant, hardy fuchsia should do well in a container. Make sure you have a large container that can support a plant the size of a shrub or small tree. Also, since containers dry out more quickly, ensure you can keep the soil moist during the summer.
Hardy fuchsia is a spectacularly showy plant. It may not be possible to grow it in many locations, but if you live in a mild climate with cool summers, you may have no problem growing hardy fuchsia. Give this plant a bit of shade and rich, moist soil, then do annual pruning to keep it tidy and full of flowers. Check out some of the different cultivars for extra inspiration because there are brilliantly colorful combinations in fuchsia flowers.