Late Summer Bloomers: California Fuchsias

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Late summer bloomers never fail to amaze and impress me – and perhaps this year more than most. What reserves are these plants drawing on after these many years of drought and heat? The shimmering late summer grasses, the deep purple asters, the goldenrods, the California fuchias – all catch my eye and turn my head. PHOTO: California fuchsia (Epilobium canum sp.). While there are many named cultivars of California fuchsia, even experts have a difficult time distinguishing between them and they are not reliably labeled at many nurseries. For best results choose plants by the habit and looks you are like, rather than by name.

When I first began gardening in the North State, I was happy to learn that there were native fuchias. I pretty quickly learned that the “fuchsia” part of the common name was just that – a common name. But a common name for good reason – our California fuchsias boast most of what gardeners love about species from the actual genus fuchsia: big, bright, showy blooms that sing out to gardeners and wildlife alike.

While we pronounce the name “fuschia”, the name is actually spelled Fuchsia – after the botanist for whom the true genus of flowering tropical plants was named. Both true fuchsias and California fuchsias are in the evening primrose family, but the true fuchsias are by and large too tender and thirsty for us North State gardeners to grow well. No matter, the California fuchsias more than make up for this and just when we need it most – at the end of our long hot summer dormancy.

Known as Epilobiums currently, when I first became acquainted with these dependable late summer bloomers, the group of plants was known as Zauschneria – and you can find them by both names in most nurseries or gardens.

Their foliage ranges from medium-dark to a soft pale green to an almost white silver. With their traditionally flaming orange and red trumpets they are harbingers of late summer and the transition to fall. Another common name for them is hummingbird plant. While they are hummingbird pollinated and lively with the little birds, they are also bee magnets.

According to Bart Obrien, formerly of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, depending upon your resource “there are as few as two or as many as fifteen different taxa—plus over fifty named cultivars (and counting)”. They thrive in our gardens in full sun and you can find one for almost any situation. At maturity they range in size from three inches to four feet (rarely larger). They can be small tufts, rambling groundcovers, perennial hedges, or flashy vertical punctuation.

California fuchsias need water in order to get started, but once established they are very drought tolerant spread pretty vigorously by almost succulent runners. They’re easy to keep in check and any runners pulled back are also easily transplanted elsewhere. With a few deep waterings in the summer, their foliage will look fresher, but companion plantings can also distract from any raggedy late summer foliage around their feet. I cut mine back almost to the ground in late winter for best bushy growth and bloom each summer.

If you are looking for a late summer pick me up in your North State Garden – a California fuchsia might be just the thing.PHOTO: One of the taller California fuchsias featured in the companion planting trail garden at the McConnell Arboretum and Garden at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding.

Some good North State places to look for a variety of California Fuchsias include:
Floral Native Nursery in Chico

The McConnell Arboretum Nursery at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding

Plant sales Hosted by our regional California Native Plant Society chapters. The Shasta chapter in Redding has an upcoming fall plant sale Saturday, Oct.10 8:00AM – 2:00PM at the Shasta College Farm Greenhouse.

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In a North State Garden is a North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, every three weeks.

Jennifer Jewell
In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.
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1 Response

  1. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I really enjoyed this article.  I’m  very new to gardening….I tend plants and trees that were at my home when we moved in and I do have house plants that are 30 years old.  Using native plants in the north state makes so much sense.  It’s time to find out more about what plants really thrive in our climate.  I love that you share your knowledge Jennifer.