Garden Gate: Fuschia flower's history as beautiful as the plant

Joette Reger

I’ve always thought that the fuchsia flower was one of the most beautiful things that gardeners could put into a hanging basket but then I learned that they have a history too. A most interesting English article at opened my eyes to the background of this plant.

It seems that the first fuchsia was discovered in the Dominican Republic in the late 17th century by Father Charles Plumier, a missionary and botanist of the time. He named the plant Fuchsia triphylla coccinea after Leonard Fuchs, a German botanist who had died a full 100 years earlier. Fuchs pronounced his name “Fooks” but we lose the German pronunciation and go with “fu-sha” these days.

Many varieties of fuchsias were soon discovered. But then the hybridizers got to work making the varieties of fuchsias that we most commonly see today. It took years and years of long hours pollinating and cross pollinating and selecting the hundreds of seedlings that, after even more waiting, produced the first unique fuchsia flower.

Fuchsias were at the peak of their popularity in Victorian times when the head gardeners of large houses grew pillars, standards and pyramids to line the driveways. One such gentleman was James Lye, head gardener at Clyffe Hall in England. He became a well-known hybridizer, grower and exhibitor of fuchsias and produced fuchsia plants that were 5 feet across the base and 10 feet tall.

Our American Fuchsia Society was formed in 1929.

Fuchsias may be deciduous or evergreen depending on their variety and growing conditions. They are versatile as they will tolerate sun or semi-shade. Fuchsias can be used in borders, beds, window boxes, hanging baskets and patio containers. Look for them in all shapes and sizes. There are trailing varieties, upright varieties, climbing varieties and standards.

Ever notice the small purple fruits on mature fuchsia plants? They are edible. These citrus-flavored berries have a peppery aftertaste. They can be added to a salad or used in jams to sweeten them.

Fuchsia plants will love you more if you place them into good quality, well-drained composted soil. Pinch out the growing tips of each plant while they are still small to promote bushier growth and more flowers. They do need afternoon shade in our part of the world. Water regularly but don’t let them sit in water. Hanging baskets should be watered once a day. They will bloom more vigorously with a regular weak feeding of a blooming product when watered.

For your calendar

The Jefferson County Office of the Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Service and Jefferson County Horticulture Committee will co-sponsor a T-Budding and Grafting Seminar on Saturday, April 21, from 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Extension Office at 1225 Pearl St., Beaumont. Grafting tape and knives will be for sale, as well as a limited supply of graftwood. The cost is $10 per person. Speaker B.L. Childers is a local grafting and citrus expert, as are the visitors from the Weslaco Citrus Center. Updates on citrus greening disease will be presented as well. Call Peggy at (409) 835-8461 to let them know you are coming.

Joette Reger is an avid gardener and prides  herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. She can be reached by e-mail at joreger [at] msn [dot] com and on Facebook at “Gardengate with Joette Reger.”