If you are looking for a wonderful plant to brighten up dark, gloomy parts of the garden then a fuchsia should be high on your list. This plant genus consists of about 100 species, with thousands of hybrids and cultivars. They come in a variety of forms, most with bicoloured ballerina flowers ranging from red, white, pink and purple.
Although generally winter dormant, fuchsias are frost tender with delicate new spring growth which needs protection against frost burn. As well as needing protection from frost, the new growth is also wind sensitive, so staking the plant when needed, and placement in an area protected from high winds is ideal. Fuchsias are a perennial which like to grow in full or semi-shade, but they can withstand morning sun, and prefer moist, well-drained soil. Fuchsias are prolific flowering plants, making it a good idea to feed them a slow release fertiliser such as Oderings Total Replenish, as they start to form buds, but be careful when fertilising as too much or too strong a fertiliser can burn them. Fuchsias are also relatively pest free, with the occasional issue of whitefly, aphids, rust or mildew, but with a sensible spray program these are easily managed.
Fuchsias are one of the few plants that provide large, bright flowers in shade. They are great for growing in tubs or the garden as they come in a good height range, from 30cm to 1m. There are also many with a cascading habit, which are great for baskets. Fuchsias are also a great plant to use if you want to standardise, because they are fast and easily grown. When creating your own standard, pick a plant or cutting which has not had the top bud nipped out. Plant the fuchsia and insert a 1.2m bamboo cane close to the stem and loosely attach the cutting to the cane. As your cutting grows keep taking off the lateral branches and continue to secure the fuchsias stem to the cane. When your plant has reached the height of the stake, nip out the top bud; this will prevent it growing any higher and will encourage the plant to branch out, creating a head. Keep nipping out the end buds of these branches until it forms a neat, balanced umbrella.
Whether you want a garden specimen, a pot plant, a hanging basket centerpiece or to standardise your own, these shade loving, dancing ladies will impress you with their delightful beauty and stunning colours.