Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Fremontodendron californicum blooming in my garden
     A shrub which is blooming now in my garden is Fremontodendron californicum, sometimes called the California flannel bush.  I assume it got this common name because the leaves have a flannel like feel to them--they are sort of furry and, as you can see from the picture, the stems also have a furry brown indumentum on them.  I have read on the internet that this can be an irritant to some people (just like the indumentum on Tetrapanax can be an irritant).
     This shrub is a California native as is evident from its second name, and it grows in dry conditons, making it very drought tolerant and liable to rot if grown in too moist a situation.  A friend gave me this plant probably 10 years ago.  It was growing in a one gal. container and I basically plopped it into the garden where I could find a place, which happened to be by a semicircular concrete wall that is a feature in the part of my garden near the lionness sculpture.  As is usual with us plant collectors, I planted it too close to a lot of other things, including the wall itself.  As those other plants got bigger and so did the Fremontodendron,  I wacked back the Fremontodendron to keep it from overpowering its neighbors.  This is a fast growing shrub which can get to be 20 feet tall and as wide.  Indeed, on more than one occasion I have cut this shrub completely to the ground.  The most recent time I did this was this spring.  As you can see from the photo, this harsh treatment has not hurt it in the least.  Although cutting it back delayed the blossom time of this shrub (normally it should start blooming in the spring), it now is over 6 feet tall and wide and is blooming well.
     Although I have not grown a Fremontodendron in my front border yet, and so do not know from experience whether the deer would eat it, I can surmise from the furryness of the leaves and stems that it might be deer resistant and this surmise is confirmed by information on the internet.  I think a Fremontodendron would be a good addition to my front border and since there are some available now at Bainbridge Gardens, my local retail nursery, I might have to get another one.
     This shrub is evergreen in its native locations and it has been hardy so far in my garden, although it is probably at its limit of hardiness in zone 8.   It has taken a lot of cold in the time it has been in my garden, but it is growing right against a concrete wall which probably keeps it both drier and warmer than it would be otherwise.  Absent a concrete wall, I think the best situation to try it would be in a well drained open sunny spot. 


  1. I planted a Fremontodendron earlier this summer, just a tiny thing. It occurred to me just yesterday that I hadn't given it any water in quite some time. Sine we haven't had measurable rain for 2 months now I ran right out and gave it a drink, it had one brown leaf but other than that looked okay. Your post gives me hope!

  2. I just saw this on the US Forest Service website while googling this plant:

    Palatability of flannelbush was rated as excellent for deer, good to
    fair for sheep and goats, fair to poor for cattle, and poor or useless
    for horses