Hardy fuchsias are in the minority in the UK. The vast majority of fuchsia plants grown are not hardy enough to survive our winters outside.
But due to climate change and our winters become milder, more and more fuchsias will survive outside without protection in the future. This is surely good news for UK gardeners as there are few garden plants that are as easy to grow and that provide so many blooms over such a long period.
Hardy fuchsias generally start to bloom in late May and continue to bloom into early winter. But if your garden is near the coast you may find that hardy fuchsias bloom in every month of the year!
Small Flowered Hardy Fuchsias
Now naturalised along the extremities of Britain [South West Peninsula, Welsh and Scottish coast and south western tip of Ireland] the smallest flowered hardy fuchsias have flourished. These are generally forms of Fuchsia magellanica and it is little wonder that it flourishes here when one considers that it comes from the southern most tip of South America. Fuchsia magellanica grows tall, often reaching as high as 2.5m, and it is very wind tolerant. This which would explain why it has been a popular choice panted as a windbreak to protect early flower and vegetable crops in the extreme south west.
Fuchsia magellanica Riccartonii has masses of tiny red and blue flowers, Hawkshead [see main image] palest pink to white and there are several varieties noted for their variegated or golden leaf colouration.
Large Flowered Hardy Fuchsias
There are perhaps a dozen or so varieties that are considered reliably hardy although none are suitable for cold gardens.
Most popular amongst these hardy fuchsias is ‘Mrs Popple’. This old variety has large has scarlet sepals and violet petals making it a showy shrub. Fuchsia Genii has similar coloured flowers but bright golden foliage.
One of the finest is ‘Chillerton Beauty’ which has soft pink sepals and violet central petals.
Having smaller flowers than most in this group ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ is a popular choice for planting which may be influenced by its name!
Where space is limited it is worth considering planting the hardy fuchsias ‘Tom Thumb’ or ‘Lady Thumb’. These are extremely compact growing but produce just as many flowers as the bigger varieties.
A variety with silver variegated foliage is popular but it has two names which can be confusing. It is well worth growing and is useful since it has a low spreading growth habit. Whether you call it ‘Tom West’ or ‘Sunray’, it is a very striking and reliable shrub.
All the above hardy fuchsias have single flowers. However there are some very showy double flowered ones too. ‘Garden News’ has soft pink sepals with rich red double central petals. ‘Madame Cornelissen’ has red sepals with full double white petals. Both are very showy and prolific hardy fuchsias.
What Hardy Fuchsias like
Soils that remain fairly cool and moist are preferred by hardy fuchsias. Those soils should also provide plenty of nitrogen and potash nutrients since hardy fuchsias are hungry feeders. It pays to incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil before planting and to apply thick organic mulch every year. It is a good policy to apply this in early winter as this will give added frost protection to the base of the shrubs.
Avoid planting in hot dry places. Hardy fuchsias are a good choice for cool and moist shady places.
Pests and diseases
Fuchsia Flea Beetle can spoil the look of leaves but is easily controlled with SB Invigorator or with conventional chemical pesticides.
A new pest on the scene is the fuchsia gall mite and there appears to be no chemical control of this worrying new pest at the moment. Plants infected should be destroyed. Damage caused by the gall mite results in distorted and gnarled growth.
During damp summers fuchsia rust can be problematic. Overcrowding and poor air circulation can encourage the spread of rust. Often this disease will also be found on the weed called Willow Herb [Epilobium sp] and so it is important to control this weed to reduce the likelihood of infection. Several garden fungicides will control rust so contact us for the current most effective treatment here.