By Michael W. Aldron
The word triphylla, from the Greek, tri meaning three and phyllon meaning leaf, cannot, however, be taken too literally when talking of triphylla hybrids. Many don’t have three leaves at each axis, all however, do have the common bond of having F. triphylla (the species) as a parent.
Distinct from these first generation hybrids are the ‘triphylla type’ hybrids, the majority of which are the result of crosses between species such as F. boliviana, f. corymbiflora, F. fulgens, etc. Please note all have the distinctive long tube so predominant in triphylla flowers.
All parents mentioned are subtropical in their natural habitat and consequently, triphylla and triphylla type hybrids are frost tender. Most will not appreciate a low of 5C, but put them in a spot where they catch the morning sun and you will be rewarded by their vibrant leaf and flower colour. These hybrids, I believe, are amongst the most beautiful fuchsias in the world.
Gartenmeister Bonstedt with its flame red to scarlet flowers and bronze to purple under leaf colour must rate top marks as a border plant for many house gardens or public parks the world over.
Gartenmeister Bonstedt, (Bonstedt), Germany, 1905. A lot of triphylla enthusiasts state that it’s the foliage that interests and excites as much as the flowers; shades of green to red, bronze, copper, blue and purple are all found on the crown or the reverse side of leaves.
F. triphylla types retain, even after multiple crossings with other hybrids or species, recognizable characteristics that have come from their parent or grandparents. Flower colour and structure and environmental preference are a common bond but with each characteristic there are exceptions.
Most triphylla types have long, tube shaped, single flowers and brilliant red to orange colours but Leverkusen has short tubed pink flowers and Traudchen bonstedt is pale cream colored.
Most triphylla types flower at the tip of a growing tip in bunches called racemes but Trumpeter flowers in the leaf axils as do most other fuchsias. Most triphylla types have an upright habit but Trumpeter and Mantilla vary from the norm by making excellent baskets.
The first of the triphylla hybrids is regarded as Thalia, introduced in 1855 by Turner, (a Slough, England nurseryman). There is however, doubt that the Thalia we know today is the same plant as the white tubed 1855 cultivar. More likely, today’s Thalia is another of the famous Bonstedt introductions. Although very similar to Gartenmeister Bonstedt, Thalia has a thinner tube, more orange in colour and a pointed leaf. (Ed. Thlia was amongst the very first of the triphylla type introduced into the Adelaide Bontanical Gardens in the 1850s. Although I can’t be certain, it was probably the white and not the red variety that many of our local members grow that is so much at home in many South Australian cottage gardens).
In 1893, another German, Herr Vieweg, introduced Rubin, a cinnabar red triphylla of F. boliviana x F. triphylla parentage. Carl Bonstedt of the Gottingen Botanical Gardens introduced Mary, another thin tubed red variety in 1894. This was a magnificent scarlet red triphylla. Lemoine of France introduced Triphylla Hybrids in 1895. Messrs Veitch of Exeter, England, introduced Superba in 1895 but the main work of triphyllas early in the 20th Century was carried out in Germany. Otto Nordenskjold by Rehnelt in 1903, Otto Kurnze and Christmas Gem by Rottengen. Otto Furst, Gartenmeister Bonstedt, Koralle and Trandchen Bonstedt, all by Carl Bonstedt in the years 1904 and 1905.
A trickle of true Triphylla Hybrids has been released over the years. In 1976, John Wright, a well known English hybridizer, author and fuchsia specialist, released White Knights Ruby. Always remember, a true triphylla must be a direct descendant of F. triphylla, the species.
Generally speaking, triphyllas are easy to grow although late starters, tending to take longer to flower after their final stop (12-14) weeks). When they do flower, there are plenty of flowers over a long period of time and the recommended 2.5cm (1”) allover trim will be delayed after the cultivars as they continue to flower beyond the norm.
Triphyllas are more tolerant of direct sun and cope with our winters very well, although they do best if given as much sun as possible. They are not shade lovers at any time of the year. Generally speaking, triphyllas will flower over winter if pruned at the appropriate time and cuttings taken in spring appear to roots more easily than at any other time of the year. As mentioned previously the best cutting is a softwood tip, and inserted in the soil so just the pair of leaves show. Pot up as soon as roots are large enough to do so safely. Feed weekly with a weak feed of 20-20-20 and pot up as often as necessary as the plants tend to check and stop growing if pot bound. Pinch out every 3rd set of leaves.
Too much or too little water and the lower leaves fall off. One way to overcome this is top’ drop pot’ where you put a little compost in a pot about 5cm (2”) bigger than the one it is in and place the pant in this and fill the compost up to the start of the foliage or as high as you can. The alternative is to remove some root ball to bring the foliage closer to the compost.
From B.C. Fuchsia and Begonia Society The Eardrop February 2009