There are over 100 species of fuchsia, but most modern varieties are hybrids of just a select few.

Varieties of Fuschia Perennials

by Brian Barth

Fuchsias (Fuchsia spp.) are a surprisingly diverse group of plants. All are technically perennial plants, hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 6 though 11 collectively, but most are frost tender and commonly grown as annuals. However, if you bring tender specimens indoors for winter, they will survive in a dormant state and can be enjoyed again the following year. There are also cold-hardy varieties that can be grown as shrubs in the ground.

The Hardiest Fuchsia

Hardy fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica) is native as far south as the southern tip of Chile, making it much more cold hardy than the majority of fuchsias that hail from subtropical regions of Central and South America. It can be grown in USDA zones 6 to 9 and, like all other fuchsias, grows best in cool weather. The deciduous shrub grows between 4 to 10 feet tall and wide, and can grow in full shade or sun -- though it will not be happy if it gets baked by late afternoon sun. The flowers appear from May until October and are a favorite of hummingbirds.

On the Fuschia Trail

The trailing fuchsias are most often used in hanging basket displays. "Dark Eyes" (Fuchsia "Dark Eyes") is known as one of the fuchsia cultivars most resistant to the fuchsia gall mite that can devastate other varieties. This beautiful trailing variety has double red and violet flowers that hang upside down from the branches. "Dark Eyes" needs partial shade and cool temperatures to grow well. "Southgate" (Fuchsia "Southgate") is a similar trailing variety, but it has pink flowers instead. "Sir Matt Busby" (Fuchsia "Sir Matt Busby") also has a comparable growth habit, but sports red and white blossoms. All these trailing types are hardy outdoors to USDA zone 9.

Upright Types

For a heat-tolerant, upright variety, try "Gartenmeister Bonstedt" (Fuchsia "Gartenmeister Bonstedt"). It's hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11 and covered in coral-red tubular flowers for much of the year -- it blooms almost continually in frost-free climates. It grows up to 3 feet tall and wide and also sports bronze foliage that highlights the flower color well. "Dolly's Dress" (Fuchsia microphylla "Dolly's Dress") is a more cold-hardy variety that can be grown in USDA zones 7 to 9. It's a deciduous shrub that grows to 5 feet tall and wide and bears plump, bright pink flowers.

Overwintering Tender Fuchsias

All fuchsias can be grown as perennials if protected from subfreezing temperatures. The first step is to harden off the wood, which means reducing fertilizer applications in late summer and stopping altogether in fall. Before the average date of first frost in your area, bring your fuchsias indoors. They'll be fine in an unheated garage or basement as long as the temperature stays above 35 degrees. The cool temperature will send them into dormancy, which means they won't even need light to live through the winter. Check the soil moisture regularly, however -- if it dries out completely, the fuchsia may never wake up in the spring.

About the Author

Brian Barth works in the fields of landscape architecture and urban planning and is co-founder of Urban Agriculture, Inc., an Atlanta-based design firm where he is head environmental consultant. He holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. His blog, Food for Thought, explores the themes of land use, urban agriculture, and environmental literacy.

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