Also called Cape Fuchsia or Cape figwort, Phygelius x. rectus is a hardy perennial shrub native to South Africa. It forms an upright mound of bright green foliage 60 cm to one metre tall by about 1.20 metres wide and once established, is drought hardy for short periods. The fuchsia-like flowers form in showy panicles from mid-summer through to mid or end of the autumn and are in shades of salmon-red through to orange, with a yellow throat. There is also a creamy yellow version called P. x. rectus 'Moonraker'.
Phygelius is a member of the Scrophulariaceae family related to snapdragons and fox-gloves. It needs an organically rich, well-drained soil and will increase in size but sending up suckers. It can be invasive if growing in ideal conditions but it is easy to remove the suckers which will provide new plants if potted up. It can also be propagated from soft wood cuttings in the spring. Besides making a good border plant it can also be grown in a container which will prevent it from spreading.
After a couple of years, the base of the Cape Fuchsia may become quite woody so it is a good idea to cut it back hard every spring. Although not frost tolerant, it should survive in cooler, inland areas if given a thick layer of mulch in the autumn.
Dead-heading will promote new blooms which attract bees and butterflies. According to English botanist and botanical illustrator W. J. Hooker, the genus name could possible come from the Greek word 'phyge' meaning 'flight or avoidance'. He wrote in 1855 that this was because “it has so long escaped the research of botanists”.
A present that keeps on giving
Maria Hillen is very grateful to her nice neighbours for this pot of petunias which she was given for her birthday earlier in April. “Now over a month later it is getting more and more beautiful by the day and smells beautiful too” she says.