In the spring a gardener's fancy lightly turns


In the spring a gardener's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of fuchsias. "Help! I love fuchsias. They're my favorite flower. Where can I get seeds or starts?" went a lament just this past week on social media.

First off, fuchsias aren’t ordinarily grown from seed as they’re complex hybrids that won’t come true. While it's fun to try growing fuchsias from seed, you certainly won’t get much of any worth any which way. Fuchsia hybridizers can go through hundreds of controlled crosses before they hit on anything worth keeping.

Plants, then. Being on the West Coast, especially in the Pacific Northwest, we're blessed with many area nurseries that carry a wide assortment of fuchsias this time of year. Much of the PNW is a practically perfect climate for growing fuchsias, potted and as winter hardies. You'll find them all over at nurseries here in the spring.

To a lesser degree this is true of potted fuchsias grown only as summer annuals in many other parts of the country too cold to overwinter fuchsias in the ground. Especially of those luscious hanging baskets that quickly fly in for Mother's Day sale and then fly out again just as fast. Which starts other laments. "Help! My lovely basket is dropping flowers and leaves…." But that's a tale for another day.

For mail order here in the US, however, there are really only a couple of options with much diversity. The biggest is the Fuchsia Farm (formerly Earthworks) in Covington WA and then, to a lesser degree, Taylor Greenhouses in Portland NY.

There used to be many more specialty nurseries that shipped fuchsias but as shipping fees have skyrocketed and owners have closed down or passed on, they've vanished from the garden landscape one by one. You’ll still find the odd fuchsia offered by mail here and there, though.

That said. the seasonal chorus comes from many parts of the US. Even from corners of the country where much disappointment generally follow the fuchsias .Even if you're thinking hardy ones, USDA Zones are practically worthless there. Fuchsia were rated USDA Zone 7-9 by somebody or other. Yeah, right.

That first lament of spring above came from the state of Georgia. The US is a huge country with thousands of climates. Those bands of average minimum winter temperatures across it on the USDA map are pretty. But also pretty useless. For a lot of plants they don't take in very important considerations like summer highs and humidity.

Take the Pacific NW and Georgia, for example. We're e both in USDA Zone 9+. But we couldn't be more different. We may be at opposite ends of the same temperature range but we are universes apart. We couldn't be more different in the winter and, especially, in the summer.

We're a little more akin to the United Kingdom or New Zealand. Georgia's summers are basically humid subtropical. That means Georgia is unfortunately not the greatest climate for easily growing fuchsias. It’s not so much the heat but the heat combined with that interminable summer humidity and those high dew points for weeks on end, especially at night, that make it difficult Fuchsias can’t transpire effectively under those conditions and will slowly suffocate. Soils can also stay too wet which leads to root rot with fuchsias.

It's possible but growing in places like Georgia is a delicate balancing act of watering and fresh air. Higher, cooler elevations are a plus if you’re up higher. Still, even very experienced gardeners I know find growing fuchsias in the South a struggle. Even as far north as Philadelphia. That humid subtropical tendency extends in a wedge from the South all the way into New York City at its upper tip.

If you are intent on lusting after fuchsias in climates like Georgia anyway, you might check Plant Delights in Raleigh, North Carolina. They offer one fuchsia from the
 Angel Earrings series (March 2024) that’s done fairly well for them. The Angels Wings were bred by Suntory (yes, the Japanese whiskey company) specifically for the hot & humid summer conditions of the Japanese market.

Another tried and true sturdy stalwart is  Fuchsia 'Lord Beaconsfield'. It's been used for the stunning fuchsias baskets at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania in their August display in the Orangerie for years. They're tested many other fuchsias but this cultivar just takes it so they keep returning to it. I see that the venerable Logee's Greenhouses in Danielson, Connecticut currently offers 'Lord Beaconsfield' in their  catalog (March 2024).

In the end, good luck!

(Illustrations. 1. Detail. Jean-Honoré Fragonard,
The Swing, 1767, oil on canvas (Wallace Collection, London), 2. Fuchsia 'Pink Fantasia', 3. USDA Climate Zone Map, 4. Fuchsia 'Tennessee Waltz', 5. Fuchsia 'Lord Beaconsfield', 6. Fuchsia 'White Eyes'.)