Thursday, August 12, 2010

Plant of the Week: California Fuchsia

Folks in other parts of the country may not believe me, but I'm typing with cold hands, wearing a scarf at the moment.  The hood on my hoodie is firmly planted over my head and I'm giving dirty looks to the thermostat, which calmly continues to tell me it's 66 degrees in the house.  What happened to August?!  It's a good thing the Zauschnerias are adding some heat with their spicy blooms as they head into their prime season.

Technically, some would call these Epilobiums, but honestly I think everyone still calls them Zauschnerias since it's a way more fun word to say.  Either way, this gray to green-foliaged plant can be range from sub-shrub to groundcover, from shocking red-orange to white displays of flowers and blooms exactly when us native folks have given up coaxing the Buckwheats to continue blooming for just one week longer.  The bright color contrasts so well against neutral grasses, too such as Blue Fescues, Deer Grasses, or even the dried stalks of Purple Needle Grass. 

Not sure which variety this one goes by, but it's a groundcover with green leaves, blooming voraciously for the last month with no end in sight.  Note the fuzzy seedheads in the top corner of the photo- cool!  Thanks, neighbor Frank for letting me borrow one of your supermodels.

Mine, however I believe are 'Catalina', a taller variety with silver leaves and red-purple stems.  The Eriogonum 'St. Catherine's Lace' is stealing the show at the moment, but hopefully as the blossoms begin to open on the Fuchsia, the flowers of the Eriogonum will create a contrasting backdrop.  They've had less time in the ground than Frank's lovely specimen, but I've already noticed how interested these are in heading towards the sky.  After blooming, I think I'll prune the tallest stems back to help maintain a bushy shape.  I selected it for the foliage and that's the part that's year round.  Yippee!

Wait, did I mention that these give hummingbirds the vapors?  Yeah, turns out they do. 

Sun:  Full sun to part shade (hint:  the gray or fuzzy-foliaged ones will take more sun than the green-leaved varieties for the most part)
Soil:  Something between total sand and thick clay.  It's pretty adaptable.
Plant:  Ideally in the Spring or Fall, but I realize it's one of those plants you see in the nursery and never noticed before until it started blooming.  Go for it, especially since we have had no scorching days to speak of this season anyway.
Buy it:  Your local nursery should be tuned into this fella- ask them to recommend a cool variety for you, like 'Sierra Salmon' which has salmon-colored flowers.  Just remember that some folks call this Epilobium and that might cause confusion.
Good for:  gray gardens, hummingbird wars, late season color, a festive shot of contrast, sidewalk strips


  1. Shut up already! We're at 94 today, with a heat index in the vicinity of 105, and this is so not the hottest day we've had. I really wish you and I could split the difference, and then we'd both be comfortable.

  2. I love to photograph these blooms with the light behind them. The beautiful red-orange color just luminesces.

  3. Ok, yes sorry Maya! Us Californians tend to be a little overly dramatic about perfect weather. Splitting the difference sounds great- if only!

    Susan- Totally!! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I've found that once established they are fairly critter-proof, but when babies, they need to be protected - generally true of course, and in late summer everything is more vulnerable - but the deer seem to be leaving mine alone now. They are fairly easy to propagate too - I've had some success with the locally native ones. Mine are late this year. A great plant to focus on for sure, wonderful color!

  5. Beautiful.

    I need to work up the courage to rip out my sad gallmite infected fuschia.

  6. I'm a big fan of these guys. I drove by my old place and they are just starting to bloom. Such a great flower to bloom after so long without rain. And a few degrees warmer and a lot sunnier would be much appreciated by all of us on the bay.

  7. I won't tell you that we might have actually broken 70 degrees one of these weekend days. Maybe summer is coming. My sole surviving plant (a sad tale of ants and aggressive scale colonies), a 'Route 66,' is finally getting the hint it's summer. The flowers should open tomorrow or Tuesday--finally!