Planting and Care of Fuchsia
These tender shrubs are natives chiefly of Central and South America, and New Zealand. They belong to the Evening Primrose family, Oenotheraceae. Fuchsia was named in honor of Leonard Fuchs, a German professor.
Between seventy and eighty species have been described, but few are grown in gardens. Gardening books and nursery catalogues published fifty to eighty years ago enumerate more than five hundred varieties of Fuchsia, an indication of the great popularity of this plant at that time; nowadays the varieties in cultivation are less numerous.
Fuchsias are favorite plants for cultivation in the greenhouse, in house windows, window boxes, for hanging baskets, and for planting in. summer flower beds. They are favorite garden plants in California.
Outdoor Fuchsias. Where Fuchias are hardy enough to be grown outdoors they are truly magnificent. They grow into tall shrubs and may be planted to form hedges.
In less favored but still relatively mild parts of North America, Fuchsias may be killed to the ground during winter; as a rule, however, new shoots push up from the base of the shrubs in spring. In such places Fuchsias ought to be planted in a warm and sheltered position in well-drained soil, and the bases of the plants should be protected before cold weather sets in. Fuchsias thrive in ordinary garden ground that is well drained; before planting is begun the soil must be dug and decayed manure or compost added.
How to Prune. If grown against a wall, Fuchsias are pruned in spring, to such an extent as may be necessary to keep them within bounds; long thin branches should be shortened and old weak ones may be cut out. Long side shoots on the main branches must be shortened to within a few buds of the base of the past summer's growth. The purpose is to train in as many main branches as are required to cover the wall space, to shorten the side shoots in the way explained, and to cut out weak branches and others for which room cannot be found. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring.
Fuchsias grown in the open garden are pruned at the same time. If all the old branches have been killed by frost they must be cut off near the ground; if only parts of the branches have been killed, they should be cut back to the sound, undamaged portions. If it is wished to have large Fuchsia bushes, and the climate is mild enough to allow of their passing safely through the winter, little pruning need be done beyond thinning out branches which cause overcrowding and cutting off the thin ends of long branches. The flowering season of hardy Fuchsias is summer and early fall.
The Hardiest Fuchsias. A relatively hardy kind is Fuchsia magellanica (macrostemma), from South America. In mild districts it forms a large bush 6-12 ft. or more in height, and bears small flowers with red calyx and purple corolla.
Of this kind there are several varieties, e.g., con-ica, 3-6 ft.; discolor, dwarfed and compact; globosa, a roundish flower; gracilis, a small-leaved variety; pumila, neat and dwarf; and Riccar-tonii, which is hardier than F. magellanica. It makes a beautiful hedge or large bush in milddistricts and bears crimson and purple flowers. A variegated form of the variety gracilis is less hardy, but makes an attractive summer bedding or cool greenhouse plant.
F. magellanica Riccartonii survives outdoors in sheltered places and blooms freely in the vicinity of New York City.
On a sunny, sheltered slope of the rock garden, Fuchsia procumbens, a trailing NewZealand plant, may be grown in regions where winters are fairly mild; it has small yellow, violet and green flowers followed by large plum-red fruits, which add to its attraction. It is also excellent for growing in pots and hanging baskets in a cool greenhouse or sunroom.
More Tender Fuchsias. Hybrid varieties of Fuchsia are now chiefly grown in greenhouses and outdoors in mild climates, but several of the original wild kinds are worth cultivating.
These are the best of them: F. fulgens, from Mexico, orange-red; F. splendens, scarlet flowers tipped with green; F. simplicicaulis, a tall shrub with long slender shoots, which bear rose-scarlet flowers; F. corymbiflora, with clusters of scarlet flowers, and F. triphylla, which has reddish flowers. All are suitable for cultivation in a cool greenhouse.
Summer and Winter Management. If grown in the greenhouse during the summer as pot plants, Fuchsias must have cool airy conditions, for they are not hothouse plants and do not thrive in a hot, moist, close atmosphere; free ventilation should be given in mild weather.
When the leaves fall in autumn, watering must be discontinued gradually, and finally, when all the leaves have fallen, the soil is kept dry except for an occasional moistening to prevent its becoming dust-dry. In February the branches should be shortened by about half, and the plants ought to be repotted if it is intended to have large specimen plants. If kept close and moist, in a temperature of 50-55 degrees, the Fuchsias will soon start into fresh growth. The shoots ought to be stopped several times to ensure bushy well-branched plants.
Taking Cuttings of Fuchsias. If an increased stock is desired, the shoots should be taken off when about 3 in. long and used as cuttings.
The lowest leaves are removed and the base of the shoot is severed beneath a joint; the cuttings are inserted in a propagating frame in the greenhouse; where they will form roots quickly. Cuttings of Fuchsia may also be taken in August, but it is not always an easy matter to find suitable shoots at that time of year; they are usually set with flower buds. Fresh shoots, however, will develop if a few of the branches are shortened. Cuttings inserted in August should be kept in a frostproof greenhouse during the winter.
Repotting in Spring. In March or early April the rooted cuttings must be potted singly in 3-in. flowerpots, using a compost of fibrous loam, five parts, and one part each of leaf mold and sand with a sprinkling of wood ash.