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This genus is made up predominately of shrubs, which are either deciduous or evergreen, with masses of, often showy, flowers in a range of colours.
There are over 100 species, mostly growing in the forests and scrublands of South America, especially in the Andes, and New Zealand. There are thousands of modern hybrids to choose from, which are much more common in gardens than the species.
While some varieties are hardy, many others will only survive winters outside in Britain in a sheltered spot. They can also be containerised and given protection from frost. Most are best in part-shade, with a reasonably well-drained soil, but many will tolerate sunnier areas providing the soil is more humus-rich.