There aren’t a lot of perennials or small shrubs that continue to pump out brilliant red-orange blossoms well into autumn. This month’s featured plant, California fuchsia or hummingbird trumpet, is growing in our full sun, rarely watered, shallow soil, streetside garden where we can enjoy it every time we come home and park in front of the house.
Formerly known as Zauschneria californica, it’s sometimes still available under that name in the nursery trade as well as under the currently accepted name, Epilobium canum. It’s a tough plant that’s native to California and adjacent southern Oregon. There are several varieties of the species. If you want all the details, check it out on CalFlora.
The plant in our garden has been there for many years, slowly increasing in size while getting very little care other than keeping the weeds at bay. It’s a couple of feet tall and the clump has spread just a little wider than that. It began blooming in August and will continue until frost.
In its native habitat, California fuchsia grows at higher elevations in rocky habitats. I’ve photographed it at 3600’ on Eight Dollar Mountain in the Siskiyous in late July; in a Bend, Oregon garden in early August; along the Klamath River near Happy Camp, California in late September; and along the Feather River highway east of Oroville, California in late September where I found it growing in the gravel at the side of the road as well as cascading from cracks in the rock walls along the highway. It was blooming in Tucson gardens last October. The photographs here were made in our garden on October 1.
Although one common name is California fuchsia, it is not a true fuchsia. The blossoms just look a lot like fuchsia flowers — long tubular trumpets with protruding stamens.
If you have a dry, sunny, well-drained spot in your garden, Epilobium canum is a good choice, especially if you also like showy blossoms in late summer and autumn. Although it’s not native to Washington state, it seems perfectly happy and hardy here.
The California Native Plant Link Exchange lists many sources for Epilobium canum, including three in Oregon.
There are photos of it growing in the wild on my Pacific Northwest Wildflowers website.