Native to wet, mountainous areas mainly in the tropical Americas, these colorful shrubs have a hard time in most parts of the South. While they do fine in the Upper South and higher elevations of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, most suffer in the hot summers elsewhere in our region.
F. x hybrida. HYBRID FUCHSIA. Zone US; USDA 6 (if overwintered indoors); or grow as annual. The vast majority of fuchsias sold in garden centers fall into this group. Hundreds of selections offer a wide array of color combinations. Sepals (top parts that flare back) are always white, pink, or red. Corolla (inside part of flower) may be almost any color in the range of white, blue, violet, purple, pink, red, and shades approaching orange. Plant form varies widely, from erect shrubs 36 ft. high to trailing types grown for hanging baskets. You can also buy fuchsias trained as espaliers and standards (single-trunked tree form). Hummingbirds find the flowers irresistible.
The following hybrid fuchsias are among the most heat- tolerant. 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' grows 2 ft. tall and wide, with reddish bronze leaves and drooping clusters of intense orange-red, long-tubed flowers. The Angel Earrings series includes upright, semitrailing, and trailing plants with showy flowers in various combinations and white; sizes vary in height from 15 to 20 in. and in width from 20 to 40 in.
Hybrid fuchsias need porous, water-retentive soil containing plenty of organic matter; those in hanging baskets require frequent watering. Give sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon; protect from any wind. To keep blooms coming, feed every other week during growing season with water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer. Blooming decreases during hot weather. To overwinter indoors, cut back severely; then place beside a sunny window. Watch out for whitefliesspray the leaf undersides from time to time with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil just to make sure these pests don't take up residence.
F. magellanica. HARDY FUCHSIA. Zones MS, LS; USDA 7-8. A tender shrub that dies down to the ground each winter, then resprouts in spring. Native to Chile and Argentina. Grows 3 ft. tall and wide. Blooms profusely in summer, bearing drooping, 112-in.-long, red-and-purple flowers. Plant in rich, well-drained soil; mulch heavily in late fall. 'Riccartonii' (F. 'Riccartonii') is an especially cold-hardy form. F. m. gracilis 'Aurea' has golden leaves that make a striking contrast with the flowers. F. m. molinae has pale lavender-pink flowers.