Fantastic for pots and borders, fuchsias are the first choice for shady situations and they will perform in any weather, says Adrienne Wild

Fuchsia

Fuchsias are wonderful perennial plants ©iStock

Sunshine and showers are perfect fuchsia- growing conditions, so providing we don’t have a sudden drop in temperature this summer, you can expect beautiful hanging baskets and colourful containers.

There are hundreds of stunning hybrid fuchsia varieties to choose from and the exquisite two-tone flowers come in a kaleidoscope of colours, from the deepest purple to delicate shades of blue, as well as flaming reds to the palest pink, so they can be chosen to match any patio scheme.

Fuchsia flowers vary greatly between petal-packed doubles boasting more than eight petals, more refined semi-doubles and teardrop-shaped singles, which have just four petals.

The blooms are often described as resembling tiny ballerinas – especially as they dance on the breeze!

There are trailing and cascading forms, which are perfect for hanging baskets and useful for spilling over the rims of large patio pots. Plus more upright bushy forms, which are good pot fillers, and make ideal bedding plants.

For wow factor look out for the turbo-charged, trailing giants, which have blooms up to 10cm across. Fuchsia ‘Bicentennial’ is outstanding and naturally self-branching, ensuring a stunning display of bright orange-red flowers with minimal fuss.

Other ‘giants’ to watch out for are ‘Voodoo’, which has scarlet petals merging into purple ruffled skirts, ‘Bella Rosella’, with double blooms in shades of pink and ‘Deep Purple’, which has giant sculptured flowers in a rich deep purple.

With a few nips and canes for support, bush fuchsias can be cleverly trained into fan shapes and even a pyramid – just use your imagination. Most impressive though are standard fuchsias, which are easy to grow provided that you have plenty of patience and somewhere warm to keep them during the winter.

The plants are started off from cuttings taken during July and early August.

Upright-growing varieties are best for the job, and for guaranteed success, try ‘Celia Smedley’, which has white and pink blooms and is one of the easiest to train. ‘Winston Churchill’, with its pink and lavender-blue double flowers, is also a good choice, as is ‘Hawkshead’, which is one of the best white-flowered types.

The idea is to grow a tall, straight stem, anything from 30-100cm, with a bushy head, so in the first year it’s necessary to keep the young plant tied into a cane and to nip out all side shoots. Don’t remove those leaves that are growing directly from the main stem, as these will be used to feed the plant naturally with energy made from sunlight.

When the ideal stem length is reached, pinch out the growing tip to encourage side shoots and allow quite a few of these to develop before removing the leaves on the stem. Plants will now be ready for ‘pinching’.

Taking out the growing tip will force side shoots to be produced, and repeat pinching once shoots have developed six or seven pairs of leaves will create a bushy, well-rounded head that for years to come will be laden with flowers all summer long.

Although there are hardy garden types, most fuchsias are tender perennials, meaning that they can only be planted out in the garden at the end of May, when the risk of frost has passed.

At the end of the summer, plants must be brought back indoors when the temperatures fall to around 4°C, otherwise they’ll lose their leaves. Tender plants that are subjected to sub-zero temperatures always die.

Fuchsias perform best in a sheltered spot, which is in full shade for half a day or dappled shade all day. It’s worth noting that pale-coloured and double blooms need more shade than red, single blooms, which thrive when given a bit more sunshine.

Luckily they require very little skill to grow. For maximum flower power, though, you will need to pinch out the growing tips occasionally and remove any dying flowers as they start to wither and pick off any blooms that have seedpods developing at their base.

Allowing the seed-filled darkish-red fruits to ripen, which by the way are edible but not always tasty, will sap the plant’s energy resulting in fewer flowers being produced.

On hot summer days, and especially if it’s windy, plants will probably need watering in the morning and evening. Be vigilant as it’s important not to allow fuchsias to dry out otherwise the leaves will lose their firm freshness, becoming dull and ‘floppy’. Seriously parched plants may also drop buds and flowers.

Throughout the summer months, feed plants every seven to 10 days with Phostrogen, which encourages flowers without promoting excessive sappy growth. And always remove yellow and damaged leaves promptly.

Watch out for pests and diseases, especially aphids and grey mould, which is a problem when there is insufficient air circulation. Plants growing under glass may also fall victim to red spider mite and whitefly.

It’s a fact!

Fuchsia flowers are edible and can be used in salads and as cake decorations.

6 of the best fuchsias

1. RHS award-winning ‘Army Nurse’ has royal violet-purple semi-double blooms on compact stems, making it a good choice for pots and borders. Frost hardy.

2. Upright and exotic-looking, ‘Thalia’ produces slender scarlet, tubular flowers that are held in clusters against a backdrop of dark foliage.

3. The most popular of all the blue and white basket varieties is ‘Blue Satin’. The vibrant blooms become a little more mauve as they mature.

4. Trailing ‘Swingtime’, which has large, double, white-frilled skirts that contrast with bold red sepals bloom all summer.

5. Unlike traditional fuchsias ‘Bella Vera’ has outward and upward-facing flowers, meaning there’ll be no more hidden blooms.

6. Perfect for patio pots, ‘Annabel’ is bushy and upright and covered with double blooms that are soft pink and crystal white.