The California Fuchsia is one of the most drought tolerant, heat tolerant, beautiful perennials you can grow. We're not sure why this California native is not used more- the hard to pronounce name, the two Genus names (we like to use Zauschneria), that fact that you can kill it with kindness, perhaps? It has been putting on a show for us and the hummingbirds in the garden since mid July and seems to be going strong until we get a severe frost in late October, maybe November. The trumpet-shaped, hot orange flowers bloom continously and are not ugly as the fade out- they just drop off, no dead brown petals like so many perennials or even annuals. So there is no deadheading or cleaning up. The unreal orange color of the blooms is set off by the lovely silvery gray foliage that fits perfectly into a drought tolerant garden. This northern California native perennial is happiest in a well draining soil (you see them naturally growing out of rock outcroppings) with full sun and low water. We like to leave up any dormant stems over the winter to help them survive our wet winters and clean them up in early spring. We have so many kinds! From ground hugging to taller, upright full on woody-stemmed perennials. Come check them out!
The spreading species in the photo is cana but there are also californica species that get a bit taller with more erect flower stems up to 2' tall. The spreading varieties get about 12-15" tall and spread about 2'. So here's the catch- and maybe why we don't see them more; they must have good drainage and full sun, little to no watering after being established (we did not water ours all summer), and the woody stems must be left up over winter to protect from wet and cold damage- so not at it's prettiest over the winter but so worth it for it's long flower performance. The stems can be cut back after all danger of cold weather is past and the plant will grow back from the root base to be full and vibrant the next summer. Mimic where you see them growing in the wild in northern California and southern Oregon, on rocky slopes. When planted on flat ground they may have a shorter lifespan.
We are always trying to get more species available, but when you see them at the nursery you better grab them because we do not have them all year long. They are best planted when they can have some time to get settled in before winter hits, so spring and summer planting. The deep orange color looks great with other strong colors or the blues and silvers present in most drought tolerant gardens. Most varieties we carry are cold hardy to at least Zone 7b, about 5 to 10 degrees F.
The typical varieties we carry are:
Z. c. 'Calistoga'- 1' tall by 2' wide, one of the darkest orange (almost red) varieties with thicker, larger, more silvery leaves than most. Best planted on a slope.
Z. c. 'Carmen's Gray'- 8" tall x 24" wide, very gray foliage
Z. c. 'Silver Select'- 2-3' tall x 2' wide, very silver foliage
Z. septentrionalis 'Select Mattole'- 10" tall and 24" wide or so. Very silvery, large leaves with a great spreading habit
Z. garrettii 'Orange Carpet'- 6" tall x 18" wide, a green leafed form that can take more afternoon shade and a bit more summer water. It is one of the first to bloom.