Epiphytic Fuchsias

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com
Thu, 13 Jul 2006 07:24:55 PDT
Joe Shaw asked about Fuchsia suitable to his Houston, Texas climate. 

Do you know the old Fuchisa triphylla hybrid called Gartenmeister Bonstedt?
This won't get you the sort of bragging rights that come with rarities such
as the wild forms of Fuchsia decidua and F. fulgens, but if you are looking
for a heat/humidity tolerant and very ornamental Fuchsia, a plant with real
├ęclat,  this is it. Superficially, it is similar to Fuchsia fulgens. 

In this area, rooted cuttings are commonly available in the late winter or
spring from dealers in bedding plants. 

I grow it as a pot plant; under those conditions it forms a roughly three
foot bush which begins to bloom in July (now). Our weather conditions are
not that much different from yours at this time of year: 90+ degrees F
during the day and 80 degrees F at night with suffocating humidity and often
no significant cool off. This Fuchsia can take those conditions well.

It will bloom from now into the new year, long after it has been brought in
for the winter. And it blooms profusely - there will be hundreds of flowers
in hanging clusters during the next five or six months. During the winter it
loses most of its foliage - perhaps more in response to the dry household
conditions than to any natural growth cycle - and  I let it dry out
gradually and water it enough to keep it alive. It seems to be very
forgiving. There will sometimes be flowers long after most of the foliage
has fallen. After its winter rest it may require a bit of trimming to remove
dry, dead growth. 

It's also very ornamental. The flowers are about two inches long and
tubular, an odd shade of glowing red which is hard to photograph in my
experience. The individual flowers are superficially similar in size and
color to those of Lonicera sempervirens. Hummingbirds love it.

Incidentally, the foliage of this plant has a red-bronze flush against which
the flowers contrast beautifully. 
I seem to remember reading in a German gardening magazine that it can be
wintered by digging a pit, putting the plant in horizontally, and then
covering it completely. I have not tried this. I wouldn't be surprised if it
survived the winter here outside right against the house wall with a very
heavy mulch - but then you would lose the taller branches. You should have
no trouble bringing the crown of the plant through a winter in Houston,
although I'm not sure what will happen to the taller branches. 

During the summer it grows out on the deck with am eastern exposure; it gets
sun in the morning, bright indirect light for the rest of the day. 

But for this plant I would have given up on Fuchsia long ago. 

By all means save a spot for Fuchisa decidua and F. fulgens in the hope that
they will be available and grow for you. But in the meantime, give the
Gartenmeister a try. I doubt if you will be disappointed. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where the first flowers of
the year are appearing on Gartenmeister Bonstedt. 

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