fuschia newbie - dumb question?

michoumonster(SF Bay area, CA)March 25, 2007

i just bought a fuschia plant at Lowes today. i put it in a hanging pot. i was wondering, is this a perennial or an annual? it seems the fuschias on this forum live several years? but the one at Lowes says it is an annual, so i am a little confused. the fuschia i got is called fuschia purple rose diva. does anyone know how i should treat it? ie, should i throw it out when winter comes, or save it, etc.? i don't have a green thumb, and don't know much about plants, so i apologize for my questions if they seem stupid. thanks very much!

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No need to apologize. Things can be confusing when merchants supply information that isn't accurate.

Fuchsias are shrubby and they live from year to year. However, plant merchants sometimes refer to fast-growing plants that bloom on new wood as "annuals" because people in climates too cold to overwinter them can treat them as such. They freeze to death and that's the end of that.

I would also suspect that your Fuchsia is probably relatively short, to be used in annual bedding. Now, this is confusing too: Fuchsias are naturally upright, but some have been bred to have weak stems so that they cascade out of a basket. The type that would work best for a basket would be referred to as a "trailing" Fuchsia. Yours might work fine but don't be surprised if it doesn't cascade down the sides of the basket.

Palo Alto is very mild and with irrigation your "annual" Fuchsia will live from year to year indefinitely.

Now, as for what to do with it; what little frost you ever have, you probably don't even get every year, and when you do get it, it's probably not enough to kill a Fuchsia even exposed in a hanging basket. If you are in a hard frost area (for example, in a cold air drainage pocket, or at some elevation), you could still overwinter it by just planting it in the ground and mulching it a bit.

Don't be surprised if it looks a little tired in the winter. It is fine, and will perk up quickly in mild weather.

Fuchsias respond quickly to fertilizer, being especially fond of liquid types, and will usually reward you with a flush of growth and blooms. They bloom on new wood. You can clip to train them. If they get senescent (the wood starts looking like it is dying of old age), you can start them from cuttings and start over again. Fuchsias are extremely easy to root from cuttings--as easy as old-fashioned Coleus were.

Fuchsias like mild weather. Not too hot, not too cold. They like bright open shade. They can stand a few hours of sun as long as it's not too hot (morning sun better than afternoon in that regard). Dry heat is very hard on them--possibly fatal. In dry weather you will probably have to irrigate your basket daily.

If you like Fuchsias, keep your eyes open for Fuchsias that your friends have that you like--they can probably be talked into a cutting. Also consider contacting a local Fuchsia society--they will have hundreds of varieties, probably with bigger flowers, in more variety of colors, than Lowes.

Mine are all uprights that I plant in the ground. Easier to take care of than in a hanging basket, which in my climate, that is colder than yours, I would have to protect for the winter, not to mention water it daily in the summer. I grow them along the north side of a fence, open to the sky but shaded from direct sun. They sit on a bank, and so their flowers are close to eye level. It is a very popular feature for my neighbors to look at.

Some of mine are wild species--not hybrids. They have some variety of form--for instance one of them in habitat would clamber up a tree almost like a climber. Another one has dainy fern-like foliage and tiny but brilliantly colored flowers, and one has berries that are considered tolerably palatable (usually Fuchsia berries are bland). Another one gets big as Fuchsias go--it can hit about 7 feet tall (and perhaps even wider) or so before its weak wood bends under its own weight.

You can grow some I can't--like the beautiful Triphylla types, such as the popular "Gartenmeister Bonstedt". Much too tender for me.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 11:32PM
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michoumonster(SF Bay area, CA)

wow, atash, thanks for all of the helpful info! your fuschias sound beautiful! do you have any pictures?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 11:55PM
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Thanks, Michoumonster. Gosh, you caught me with my pants down. It seems like I should have some photos and probably do have a very few (including, perhaps, one of the ill-fated Billy Greene which is the only Triphylla type I can grow and usually overwinter), but I haven't been diligent about photographing them.

I promise I'll do better this year!

You should be able to look these up someplace like


One you might like for your mild climate is Fuchsia boliviana. Annies Annuals (www.anniesannuals.com) has it. The blossoms are normally firey red, but there is a form called "alba" with white tubes and bright red petals that is rather striking. I have both forms. They are BARELY root hardy in my climate (and might even need a touch of protection in yours). A gloriously gaudy plant tho.

Have a look at some of the Triphylla types. A lot of them are named after people and things known to Carl Bonstedt who bred several very popular types of these: Gartenmeister Bonstedt, Mary, Coralle, Traudchen Bonstedt, and Thalia.

This website has lots of pictures:


I think the height of Fuchsia popularity was probably in the 19th century, when people outside of the main Fuchsia-growing climates would grow Fuchsia magellanica (a quite hardy species, big but with small leaves and narrow, elongated flowers; common in western British Isles and Pacific Northwest, but even more so in its native Chile where it forms extensive thickets) as a freeze-back. As late as the 1950s they were very popular from about San Francisco north to Vancouver, but went into decline in popularity. A lot of fine old cultivars, many of them with huge flowers or unusual colors, are hard to find now except by knowing someone who has a specimen, generally through Fuchsia society memberships.

Beware of wrong names. Extremely common with Fuchsias, perhaps because they are so easy to start that someone prone to losing lables or getting mixed up would start a big batch of them and sell or give them away under the wrong name, and everyone they gave them to would repeat the mistake (or compound it). Plus there are many hundreds of cultivars. Sometimes you also get identical Fuchsias with multiple different names, or variations of the same name, or named differently in different countries, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fuchsia boliviana alba

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 6:32PM
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I am in Upstate NY it gets very cold can theese still be weathered outside?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 10:09AM
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Hi michoumonster,never be afraid to ask questions as we all have to start somewhere. If you want to see photos of fuchsias then log on to (www.salfordboltonfuchsiasociety.co.uk)it is my local society and the website has very many photos, plus other information. I have just been on vacation to Florida (three weeks in June 08) but could not find anyone there who knew anything about Fuchsias.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 7:38PM
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Atash said 'your "annual" Fuchsia will live from year to year indefinitely'. How long realistically can a fuchsia that is brought in over winter (I'm in Canada) live? I have one that is at least 4 years old. I've started cuttings but I don't have a lot of room. Thanks.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 10:57PM
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