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Fuchsia refers to a genus of about 100 varieties of flowering shrubs and other plants native to South and Central America, New Zealand, and Tahiti. Some varieties have also been naturalized in areas of Ireland and Great Britain. Fuchsia is often grown for its decorative flowers, which hang down from the branches and are said to resemble elegant earrings. Most fuchsia plants are low growing shrubs ranging from 0.2 to 4 meters (about 0.6 to 13 feet) in height, but one notable tree variety native to New Zealand can reach a height of 15 meters (nearly 50 feet). The leaves of the fuchsia plant may be evergreen or deciduous, depending on the particular species.
Fuchsia flowers have four long and slender sepals surrounding four shorter petals and long stamens. They range in color from white to dark purple and may also be bright pink, red, orange, or yellow. Most fuchsia flowers feature a combination of two or more colors. The color and shape of the flowers originally evolved to appeal to the plant's main pollinator, the hummingbird.
Fuchsia plants yield edible fruit as well as flowers. Fuchsia berries are quite small, only 5 to 25 mm, and contain many seeds. They may be red, red-green, or dark purple, and they have a peppery, grape-like flavor.
As many varieties of fuchsia are difficult to grow in non-tropical areas, quite a few hybrids exist and are popularly grown in gardens and greenhouses around the world. Fuchsia hybrids must be grown with the use of cuttings, as seeds do not produce the desired plant. Many fuchsia cultivars have been developed with the appearance of the flowers in mind. One such variety is the double fuchsia, featuring flowers with twice the regular number of petals.
While fuchsia is often grown outdoors, it is also popular as an indoor potted plant in some regions. The flowers look especially beautiful when planted in hanging baskets. Whether grown indoors or out, fuchsia must be protected from heat and direct sunlight.
Fuchsia plants prefer daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 20 degrees Celsius) and nighttime temperatures about ten degrees (5 degrees Celsius) cooler. The plants should be watered whenever the soil is dry during the growing season in spring and summer, and gradually less often throughout the fall and winter. Fuchsia can survive winter outdoors as long as the temperature does not drop below 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 10 degrees Celsius). During the growing season, pinch each shoot after it has yielded two sets of leaves in order to promote branching.