Renovating a Fuchsia Bed

My garden includes a small collection of fuchsias in a northeast-facing bed, where the plants thrive in open shade most of the day, after a little morning sun. Large, very beautiful Bolivian fuchsias (Fuchsia boliviana), both red and white forms, provide the background and uncertain varieties of smaller upright (not trailing) fuchsias are in the foreground.

The bed also has a wonderfully fragrant winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Marginata’), which thrives in the same exposure.

The bed also had—until quite recently—a licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare), which has very attractive woolly grey-green leaves.

All the plants had become quite large and the bed was overly full of plant life, so I began a renovation project.

The winter daphne doesn’t like pruning and it had retained a nicely mounded form, so I left it alone for the present.

I soon decided, however, that the licorice plant had to go. It’s an asset, there’s another specimen elsewhere in the garden, and this bed should focus on different varieties of fuchsia. The licorice plant, which grows rapidly, has fleshy branches and shallow roots and was easily removed without digging.

Fuchsias flower on new wood, so to control their size they can be pruned heavily, down to six–to-ten inches. The right time for this pruning, and for installing new plants and relocating existing plants is the early spring, after which the plants begin what the American Fuchsia Society refers to as their “aggressive growth cycle.”

I appreciate the height of the Brazilian fuchsias, so I didn’t cut them down, but I did renew the smaller plants. A couple sessions of tearing out and heavy pruning transformed the bed from a botanical tangle to a sparse mini-landscape.

It became evident that the licorice plant had dominated the middle of the bed, the winter daphne had occupied one end of the bed, and the smaller fuchsias were clustered at the other end. Given the project’s good seasonal timing, I relocated three fuchsias and installed a new fourth plant to create a more even distribution within the bed.

My local garden center had just received a shipment of fuchsias in gallon cans, so I could take my pick from the new inventory. Several different plants were all labeled only as upright, medium size plants: the wholesale nursery accepts only orders for “assorted fuchsias,” with the effect of downplaying the unique identities of the several varieties. I like to record the genus, species and cultivar of each plant in my garden, but this practice makes that difficult.

In any event, my renovated fuchsia bed should look great in a few weeks.

Enjoy your garden!

Fuchsia boliviana (red form)