California Fremontia, Fremontodendron californicum, is one of my all time favorite plants. To qualify this, I have an endless list of favorite plants, from annuals to trees. It usually starts with the plants closest to me at the moment, those in bloom or those that, at any particular point in time, express unique character. (Sound familiar?)
This shrub has character. It’s name alone, Fremontia, evokes an image of a girl power movie. (One where the lead female finally recognizes her strength and sets off on a journey of liberation and enlightenment.) However, its other more common of common names, California Flannel Bush, is less glamorous but down to earth.
F. californicum possesses both unexpected surprise and earthy, at home-ness. An “I belong here” quality. Its blooms, often dazzling against a gray spring day, capture the imagination and sooth the soul.
Consider growing F. californicum as a focal point, espalier or placed amongst a perennial bed. These evergreen shrubs, sometimes small trees growing upwards to 20 feet tall, can live to 50 years in prime conditions: excellent drainage; full sun; no summer water (especially no water near the root crown); preferring USDA Hardiness Zones 8-9. Always group with plantings with similar cultural requirements. Think plant community.
It’s a bit picky. Best transplanted from 1 gallon containers in the fall. It can also be grown from soft wood cuttings or seed, though the seeds have minimal longevity so don’t wait to put them in soil once collected.
Keeps company best with Penstemon heterophyllus, Epilobium canum, Salvia apiana and other chaparral plants.