If you've ever seen a fuchsia plant (Fuchsia spp.) in flower, you'll understand why it's sometimes called ladies' eardrops. Each blossom is made up of four arching sepals that surround drooping, bell-shaped petals, all on a long flower stem. For added drama, some cultivars have bicolor blooms, with sepals and petals in strongly contrasting colors. All types of fuchsias are simple to plant, requiring only good soil and some attention to a few details at planting time for the best results throughout the growing season.
The Best Soil
About 100 species are in the genus Fuchsia. Some perennial fuchsias grow outdoors all year in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, although several are less hardy and survive outdoors from year to year in only warmer areas, generally USDA zones 9 through 10 or 11. Hybrid fuchsias (Fuchsia x hybrida) include many cultivars that can be perennial but are usually grown as annuals. For example, one called 'Island Sunset' (Fuchsia hybrida 'Island Sunset'), which has variegated foliage, is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11 but also can be grown as an annual. Regardless of their specific type, all fuchsias need well-drained, organically rich, fertile soil to produce the best growth.
When planting fuchsias in your garden, add about 2 inches of compost to the planting area to increase the soil's fertility, mixing the compost well with the soil by using a trowel. It's also critical that the soil drains quickly because a fuchsia doesn't tolerate soil that tends to stay soggy after rain or watering. If your garden soil is rich in clay, mix in some coarse sand at planting time to improve its drainage.
If you plant a fuchsia in a pot or hanging basket, then use any loam-based, commercial potting soil, or plant the fuchsia in compost that doesn't contain peat. Choose a pot that has at least one drainage hole in its bottom to allow water to flow freely, and never let the container stand in a water-filled saucer.
The Planting Process
If you grow a frost-resistant, hardy fuchsia, then plant it either in spring or fall. If you plant in fall and winter could be severe where you live, then add 2 or 3 inches of mulch on the soil surface to protect the roots from cold. Planting a frost-tender fuchsia outdoors in spring is the best practice, but wait until nighttime temperatures remain above 60 degrees Fahrenheit for the best results.
If you're planting a fuchsia in the ground, set the plant into a hole that is about twice the size of the plant's root ball and that keeps the base of the plant's stem about 2 inches below the soil's surface. If you're growing a fuchsia in a container, set the young plant into a pot that is at least two to three times larger in diameter than the plant's root area, and keep the plant at the same soil depth at which it was in its nursery pot. In both cases, tamp the soil well around the plant's base, and then water the soil well.
Pendulous fuchsia blossoms attract hummingbirds.
Care for the New Plant
All fuchsia plants need partial shade to thrive and can be damaged by too much sun exposure, especially during the hot afternoon hours. They're also sensitive to strong wind, particularly on chilly days. So the best spot for a container-grown fuchsia provides shelter from sun and wind exposure -- on a covered porch or under a roof overhang, for example. A fuchsia in a hanging basket also can thrive when suspended from a branch on a patio tree that casts filtered shade on the plant throughout the day.
Fuchsias also require constant moisture, wilting quickly when their soil becomes dry. For the best results, water a fuchsia plant that is either in the ground or in a pot whenever the top of its soil feels dry to the touch. Watering a fuchsia often is especially important during the first few weeks after planting, when it puts out new roots that sustain it all season.