Fuchsias add colour to borders, pots and hanging baskets. With a long flowering season, they range from upright bushes to trailers and large standards. The flowers include singles, semi-doubles and doubles, and can be upward or outward facing.
There are thousands of different types of fuchsia, having been bred from a handful of wild species found in Mexico, the West Indies and New Zealand.
The first to be named was F. triphylla, found in the Dominican Republic, probably around the end of the 17th century. The discoverer, Father Charles Plumier, was a French Franciscan monk and botanist who named the plant after Leonhart Fuchs - a 16th-century German doctor and herbalist.
Colours vary from pinks, purples, whites and reds to sober or flashy multicoloured mixtures (true yellow is still elusive). Several (for example Fuchsia magellanica) can even be grown as hedges.
They basically divide into the hardy ones that can be left outside all year, the bushy or upright and tender kind for pots, and the dangling, trailing ones for hanging baskets.
All of the flowers have three parts: the upper tube; the sepals beneath that often point out like wings (they look like petals but aren't); and the corolla (the real petals) - the skirt-like growth underneath the sepals. Each can be a different colour in some varieties.
These involve little effort, apart from a spring pruning to generate new growth.
Hardy fuchsias: Plant them in spring, with the roots slightly deeper than if they were in a container, to offer extra protection during winter. In colder areas of the country, place them at the foot of a sunny, sheltered wall in well-drained soil, and provide winter protection.
Prune hard in spring, leaving just 15cm to 30cm (6in to 12in) of stem, from which new growth will shoot. Plants grown as hedges should be less severely pruned, although a portion of the old frosted wood should always be removed. Only prune when new breaking buds are visible.
Container plants: The majority of fuchsias are tender and therefore prone to frost damage. However, they can be grown easily outside from June to early autumn, before being brought into a frost-free greenhouse over winter. Grow new young plants in John Innes No2, and pinch out the young shoots regularly to encourage bushiness. These can be used as cuttings.
Stop pinching out after late spring or you'll postpone flowering. Begin feeding the plants six weeks after you've re-potted them. Either use an all-purpose feed or high-nitrogen fertiliser in spring, to encourage leafy growth, followed by a high-potash feed once buds appear. Promptly remove fading flowers throughout the summer.
In early September, reduce watering to let the older wood mature. By the end of the month, the plants should be kept almost dry. Stand them in the greenhouse and remove any remaining leaves. Then stop watering. And don't prune until the spring, when new shoots will begin to grow from the base and all the older wood can be removed. Re-pot immediately.
Greenhouse growing: Any fuchsia can be grown year-round in a greenhouse. This is essential for species such as the red-flowering F. triphylla or F. procumbens, which has a prostrate habit and yellow flowering tube, to perform well. Plant them in pots of John Innes compost, or directly into the ground. Except for this species and triphylla types, which need a minimum winter temperature of 7°C (45°F), most, including the cultivars, can be over wintered successfully at just 10°C (34°F). If you want the flowers to keep blooming over winter, maintain a temperature of at least 13°C (55°F).
Greenhouse humidity, watering, and ventilation: This is best created by soaking the floor during hot weather using a watering can, and mist-spraying the plants. Never allow pots to dry out, and avoid the full intensity of the midday sun. Also, open greenhouse vents on hot days, as fuchsias dislike stagnant air.
Standard fuchsias: Begin by allowing one stem from a young plant to grow upwards, pinching out the side shoots as they appear. Once the stem has reached the desired height, allow three pairs of leaves to grow at the top, and pinch these out to create bushy growth.
Look for attacks of whitefly or greenfly. The bugs can either be squashed manually or treated with a proprietary spray.