In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2000
Regional Report

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Fuchsias in full bloom near the walkway.

Fuschias Love Cacti?

Sounds like a mismatch. Fuchsias bring to mind lush, tropical climates with lots of water, shade, moist air, and water-retentive humus-rich organic soil. Cacti and succulents elicit thoughts of sparse, dry deserts with little water, lots of glaringly hot sun, arid air, and fast-draining nutrient-lacking sand. So how could these plants flourish in my garden side by side? With attention to planting site, soil mix, irrigation techniques, and periodic monitoring.



The Best Location

When we moved back to my childhood home Pasadena, I decided that the perfect new home for my terra-cotta-potted collection of a hundred or so cacti and succulents would be on the asphalt walkway that approaches our front door. This spot faces east, and absorbs the early morning sun and heat year-round, but the area is shaded by the garage wall from noon on. I walked by it each morning and afternoon, so I could frequently enjoy the colors and textures of the plants and easily monitor the pots for watering during the summer.

Plant Combinations

In the garden bed behind the asphalt walkway, I planted six colors of bougainvillea, a snail vine (Vigna caracalla), and a golden clematis (Clematis tangutica) against the garage wall, turning it into a rainbow of blossoms from Mother's Day through Christmas.

Adding the Fuchsia

When pruning back my fuchsia 'Gartenmeister', I rooted cuttings by taking 4- to 6-inch cuttings, removing all but the top set of leaves, and placing them in a moistened potting mix until rooted. While the mother plant grew happily under our home's broad front roof overhang, where it was protected from late-morning direct sun, I thought I'd try one of the rooted cuttings where it would get more sun. I planted a single cutting in the soil between the bougainvillea and the potted succulents. The soaker hose in front of the fuchsia provided it with sufficient moisture, while the bougainvillea stayed dry (which encourages more blooms). With the compost-rich soil, morning-only sun, and humidity fostered by the bulky bougainvillea foliage, it grew mightily, even more beautifully than the mother plant.

You never know when you'll be pleasantly surprised by a plant combination you wouldn't have thought possible. That is what experimenting is all about, especially when you have plenty of your own self-propagated plants to play with.


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