Until a couple of decades back, the only place I remember watching California fuchsia (Zauschneria californica)has been 7,000 ft high near Echo Summit, as patches of red blazing through cracks in gray granite boulders. Today it’s possible to see California fuchsia at your neigborhood nursery, possibly even Home Depot (Monrovia, the big wholesaler, grows and distributes a number).
California fuchsia has been tamed, losing the majority of its scraggly, crazy look but maybe not its bright color and toughness. It’s a reliable summer perennial for dry spots, particularly slopes. Hummingbirds love this, and also the plant depends on them.
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California fuchsia is a sun-loving perennial that is native. It receives its name from the form of the largely orange or crimson flowers, very similar to the common fuchsia — but it does not have the common fuchsia’s preference for cool, shady places.
Botanical name: Epilobium canum (or Zauschneria californica)
USDA zones: 6 to 9 (find your zone)
Water necessity: Light
Light requirement: Complete sun
Mature dimension: Greater than 1 foot to 4 feet tall and up to 4 ft wide, depending on variety
Distinguishing attributes. Tubular flowers arrive in bright orange or crimson. Leaves are grayish and small. Choose from a number of types of California fuchsia. Newer varieties, specifically, are long flowering. ‘Bert’s Bluff’ is orange red. ‘Ghostly Red’ gets the purest red blossoms and fuzzy gray-green leaves. Others include ‘UC Hybrid’ (developed at UC Davis) and ‘Calistoga’ (orange-red).
The best way to grow it. Plant it in autumn or early spring, so the roots can establish before warm weather. Make sure drainage is quick. Water it regularly (weekly or 2) during the first growing season. Once the crops are established, cut back to watering only as needed. Prune back based plants almost into the floor in autumn after the blossom season. Lightly prune the branch tips in spring to encourage bushy growth.
The best way to use it. For flashes of color, particularly during late summer and early autumn, when other crops fade, unite California fuchsia (revealed here is ‘Ghostly Red’) with mass plantings of other natives and Mediterranean plants. Line a path with it. Let it spill over a stone wall or boulders.
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