Think of Fuchsias and your mind instantly pictures the showy, maybe somewhat overblown, flowers of the commonly seen cultivars used in hanging baskets and containers. I have absolutely nothing against these plants; they’re floriferous and colourful, and the flowers as individuals are captivating in their detail, often with ruffles and convoluted folds and twirls. Fuchsias do what they do very well, although I do wish gardeners would let them enjoy good living in light shade rather than stuffing them into woefully small containers (hanging baskets are the worst!) in full sun. This treatment is in no way the fault of the plant!
Fuchsias do have a lot to offer gardeners, including those gardeners like myself who are drawn less to conspicuous frills and more to subtle charm in their garden plants. Of the more subtle Fuchsias it is F. magellanica that rules supreme; the species and cultivars have long pendulous flowers with a waxy calyx guarding the thin and delicate petals within. In some cases the calyx and the petals have a complementary colour scheme, like the red calyx and purple petals of F. magellanica itself, or might match each other as seen with F. magellanica var. molinae ‘Alba’, which is blush pink in both calyx and petals. F. magellanica, its forms and also hybrids, are established certainly across the milder regions as a garden plant, sometimes even being used as hedging plants in coastal regions of western parts of Europe.
Fuchsia magellanica is pretty enough, especially when it’s allowed to grow into a free-standing shrub and show off its flaky bark, but the foliage is fairly uninteresting. It’s absolutely fair to say that Fuchsias are plants grown for their flowers, not their leaves…
The foliage of Fuchsia hatschbachii caught my attention many years ago, when I worked for a nursery that had a large range of Fuchsias. We sold most of the range in small pots; if you’re looking after endless numbers of tiny Fuchsias your eye picks up subtle differences in foliage, like the tiny leaves of the various F. microphylla cultivars or the distinctive leaves of F. hatschbachii.
For me the long, narrow, pointed leaves of F. hatschbachii are their own reward. This is a handsome species, the waxy foliage providing useful interest when the plant is not in flower. When the flowers do come they’re long and slender, with red waxy tepals guarding purple petals within (very much like a narrow F. magellanica)
Despite coming from the Brazilian state of Paraná this species is surprisingly hardy, certainly in USDA z8. A precautionary mulch is a good idea, and is for many hardy Fuchsias, but this is certainly not a plant that needs to be kept warm for winter (with the caveat that it is planted deep; shallow-planted or potted Fuchsias may prove less than hardy in all but the mildest areas).
I will concede that there’s not all that much difference between F. hatschbachii and F. magellanica at first glance, but the nuanced differences do, for me, make F. hatschbachii the better plant. This plant might make 1m in height during a year, usually less, but makes a nice plant to combine with the ferns and foliage plants in my semi-shaded garden.