Fuchsia magellanica

Fuchsias were and still are great favourites with house-plant growers. Their lovely flowers, composed of a tube with spreading sepals subtending a four-petalled corolla, come in various bright colour combinations, particularly the cultivars. It is interesting to note that flower-lovers also prize the ‘botanical’ fuchsias, and so even in homes one encounters fairly small-flowered but very handsome type species.

This does not mean that type species do not include among their number ones with large flowers. Fuchsia macrantha from Peru has blossoms (unusual in that they lack a corolla) which are up to 12 cm (4-3/4 in) long. On the other hand, there are also miniature forms. Anyone encountering, for example, F. minimi flora, which is a common shrub in the fir forest at the foot of Popocatepetl in Mexico, would certainly be hard put to identify this plant, with reddish flowers less than 0.5 cm (1/4 in) long, as a fuchsia.

Unfortunately, members of this genus, embracing some 100 species found mostly in the mountains of Central and South America with several reaching as far as New Zealand and Tahiti, require cold conditions in winter with temperatures close to freezing point. Many species tolerate light frosts, and even in central Europe it is possible to try and grow them permanently in the garden with only a light protective cover of evergreen twigs in winter. This applies also to the species, native to the Chilean coast of the Strait of Magellan and to Argentina. This shrub, reaching a height of 5 m (16 ft) in the wild, overwinters well, for example, in England and in Germany’s wine-growing region.

The first prerequisite for growing fuchsias successfully is overwintering them in a suitable cold place (even a cellar will do). During the growth period they should be put in a sunny or lightly shaded spot with plenty of fresh air; they will welcome being put out on the balcony or patio. The soil should be rather heavy and nourishing, for example a mixture of loam, rotted turves, leaf mould, sand and peat. The plants should be pruned fairly hard every spring. The primings may be used as cuttings which will root readily in a propagator at a temperature of about 18°C (65°F).

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles | Comments Off on Fuchsia magellanica

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