Fuchsias are much-loved for their hanging, bell-shaped, bi-coloured flowers that look like colourful, dancing skirts. The flowers last all summer long and there are thousands of varieties available, in shades of white, candy pink, magenta, purple and red. Some varieties have golden or variegated foliage, or purple or red-tinged leaves, too.
Fuchsias are shrubs that hail mostly from Central and South America, where they’re pollinated by hummingbirds. They were first discovered growing in the Caribbean in the 1700s by a French botanist, Charles Plumier. He chose to name the plant after a German botanist from the century before, Leonard Fuchs.
The outer set of petals are actually sepals, which protect the flower petals beneath. These are often purple (to attract the aforementioned hummingbirds) but breeding has created a huge range of colour combinations. Both the flowers and the small purple berries that follow them are edible. The flowers can be crystallized and used to decorate cakes and desserts, while the fruits of some varieties have a citrussy, peppery taste and can be used to make jam.
Depending on the variety, fuchsias are extremely versatile and can be grown as standalone shrubs, climbers, informal hedges or standards, as well as bedding plants in pots and hanging baskets for patio displays.
How to grow fuchsias
Fuchsias are easy to grow as long as you give them some sunshine and well drained soil, in a sheltered spot. For the best results, feed and deadhead them and keep their soil moist. Prune hardy fuchsias back hard in spring. Pinch out the stems of tender fuchsias in spring to encourage more flowers. Tender fuchsias need protection over winter.
More on growing fuchsias:
- 10 fabulous fuchsias to grow
- How to grow fuchsias in a container (video)
- Best fuchsias for pots and containers
- Hardy fuchsias to grow
Growing fuchsias: jump links
- Choosing fuchsias
- Planting fuchsias
- Caring for fuchsias
- Fuchsia pests and problems
- Where to buy fuchsias
- Fuchsias to grow
Fuchsias can be hardy or half hardy (tender). Hardy fuchsias can survive the winter outside and are usually grown in a permanent spot in the ground as a specimen shrub or climber. Some, such as Fuchsia magellanica, can be grown as an informal hedge. They usually start flowering in May and continue until autumn. In very mild areas, they might flower all year round.
Many fuchsias are half hardy (tender) types, used as bedding in pots or borders for summer and autumn displays. Bush types have an upright habit that makes them useful for pots and borders while others have a trailing habit, perfect for hanging baskets or spilling over the edge of a pot. Half hardy fuchsias are killed by frost so need to be brought indoors over winter, or treated as annuals and discarded at the end of the season.
Hardy and tender fuchsias can also be bought or trained as standards. They’re best grown in containers as whatever the type, they need winter protection.
Where to plant fuchsias
Plant fuchsias in sun or partial shade. A scorching, south-facing spot can be too much in the height of summer. Choose a sheltered spot, as the pendent flowers are easily blown off, especially on the larger flowering varieties. Fuchsias can cope with any type of soil, but it must be well-drained.
Many fuchsias grow extremely well in pots. Fuchsias with a trailing habit are ideal for growing in hanging baskets or containers, and bush types can be trained as standards. You can buy ready-grown plants, or, if you’re patient, try it yourself – it can take a number of years. Remove the lower side shoots in spring and support the plant with a cane. If growing standard fuchsias in containers they’re often better with no underplanting as they’ll soon fill the pot.
In this clip from Gardeners’ World, Monty Don explains how to grow a standard fuchsia in a pot:
How to plant fuchsias
Plant hardy varieties in spring or early summer. Dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter before planting, and firm and water in well. Add a thick layer of mulch, such as well rotted manure or garden compost, to lock in moisture and feed the plant. Water regularly until established. Hardy fuchsias suffer if moved, so make sure you’ve picked the perfect spot.
Plant out half hardy fuchsias in late May, when all danger of frost has passed. Harden them off (gradually acclimatise them to conditions outdoors) for a week or two beforehand. If planting into pots, use a peat-free multi-purpose compost with added slow-release fertiliser. Water plants in well.
How to care for fuchsias
Once established, fuchsias growing in the ground should be fairly self sufficient in terms of water, but they may need a good soak in dry spells. Water fuchsias in containers regularly, keeping the compost moist but not soggy. Allow any excess to drain away.
Mulch hardy fuchsias in the ground each spring with well rotted manure or garden compost – this will lock in moisture and will feed the plant. You could scatter a feed (such as fish, blood and bone) around the base, too. Feed fuchsias in pots regularly with a high potash liquid plant food (such as tomato food) throughout summer to encourage more flowers.
Dead flowers often fall off of their own accord, but deadheading regularly will ensure the plant keeps producing plenty of flowers.
Prune hardy fuchsias in spring, once new growth has begun to appear. Don’t worry if some of the stems have died back – this is normal. Cut the old stems back to a pair of buds low down on the plant. Fuchsias should never be pruned in autumn – pruning before winter can open the plant up to pests and diseases and leave plants open to frost damage.
In spring, pinch out the tips of shoots of young half hardy fuchsias to produce bushier plants that will flower more freely.
Tender fuchsias should be lifted from the ground or pots in autumn and overwintered in a cool, frost-free place, such as a cool greenhouse, porch or conservatory. Remove any dead or diseased growth, cut back by around half to keep them compact, and reduce watering. Once they’re dormant and have dropped all their leaves, you can put them in a frost-free garage or shed. In spring, top up the pots with fresh compost and slow-release fertiliser. Hardy fuchsias can be kept in the garden or in pots over winter, but may need some protection in cold areas or during severe winters. Apply a thick mulch in autumn to protect the roots and cover with fleece if necessary. Standard fuchsias should always be overwintered somewhere frost-free, even if the variety is hardy, as the main stem is prone to frost damage.
In this Golden Rules video, Mike Clare of Potash Nursery gives his three top tips for growing fuchsias. He explains how to feed and pinch out fuchsias, and describes the best spot to grow them in:
Tender fuchsias are easy to propagate from softwood cuttings in summer. This is a good way to increase your stock and a useful way of overwintering plants if you don’t have much room to store plants indoors.
You can also take hardwood cuttings from hardy fuchsias in autumn.
Growing fuchsias: problem solving
Fuchsias are rarely troubled by slugs, but vine weevil is a common pest of fuchsias, especially if you’re growing them in pots. Adult weevils nibble notches out of the leaves but it’s the white grubs that do the real damage – they feast on the plant roots underground and can kill the plant before the problem is spotted. Apply a biological nematode control (which you can order online) in August. Chemical solutions can also be applied in August or September. Always read the label.
Fuchsia gall mite is a relatively new pest in the UK. The flowers are deformed or fail to develop, and the tips of the shoots may be swollen or discoloured. It won’t kill the plant, but it doesn’t look very attractive. Some varieties, including Fuchsia magellanica, are more susceptible. Cut off any infected growth when you see it and bin or burn it – do not add to the compost heap. A biological control, Amblyseius andersonii is available; the pest is resistant to chemical pesticides.
Advice on buying fuchsias
- Before you buy a fuchsia, check whether it’s hardy or tender. Tender fuchsias need protection in winter, in a porch, conservatory, greenhouse, or garage or shed
- Also check its habit – some trail, making them perfect for hanging baskets, while others are more upright. Some are climbers
- Also check that you have the right conditions in your garden – fuchsias do best in a sheltered spot in sun or part shade, and well drained soil
- In early spring, you’ll find plug plants (young plants) at the garden centre or online. This is an economical way of buying them but they’ll need to be grown on indoors before being planted out after the last frost
- Most nurseries and garden centres sell fuchsias in spring and summer, but for the best selection, visit a specialist nursery or buy online
Where to buy fuchsias online
Great fuchsia varieties to grow
Fuchsia ‘Army Nurse’
A hardy variety with red sepals and with semi-double, purple flowers from June to September. It’s well suited to growing in a mixed herbaceous border as well as containers.
Height x Spread: 50cm x 50cm
Fuchsia ‘Lady Boothby’
A hardy, climbing fuchsia with striking bicoloured flowers in aubergine and carmine-pink. It was bred from a Brazilian species in 1939 and named after the founder of the British Fuchsia Society. Grow up a trellis, arch or fence or at the back of a mixed, herbaceous border.
H x S: 3m x 90cm
Fuchsia ‘Alice Hoffman’
A small, hardy fuchsia with bronze-tinged foliage and semi-double flowers with pink sepals and white-pink petals. Grow it in a mixed herbaceous border in part shade, or in a pot on a sheltered, part-shaded patio.
H x S: 60cm x 60cm
A pretty red and white trailing variety, ideal for pots, window boxes and hanging baskets. Half hardy.
H x S: 30cm x 30cm
Fuchsia ‘Dollar Princess’
A hardy plant that flowers from June to November and looks good in a border or pot. It has double dark purple flowers and bright pink sepals.
H x S: 45cm x 45cm
Fuchsia ‘Bella Evita’
Specially bred for containers and window boxes. Pink flowers and sepals from June to October. A half-hardy type.
H x S: 40cm x 45cm
A showstopping variety with masses of slender, lipstick pink flowers. A tender variety that is perfect for hanging baskets and pots.
H x S: 45cm x 45cm
When is a fuchsia hardy?
Some fuchsias are hardier than others. In order for a fuchsia to earn the description of ‘hardy’ it has to survive five consecutive years growing outside all year. Find a list of plants that have achieved this on the British Fuchsia Society website. It’s worth noting that the ‘hardy’ label is not a guarantee of winter endurance in all parts of the country – it’s purely a guide.