Favorite California Natives: Flannel Bush (Fremontia)

Favorite California Natives: Flannel Bush (Fremontia)

Flannel bush (Fremontodendron) or fremontia is another favorite California native plant. And with its distaste for summer water once it’s established, fremontia is a perfect solution for the drought times we seem to be going through here in the Southwest. Here is more info about this beautiful native.

First, some photos:

Fremontia Features and Tips:

  • No worries about watering: We’ve lost several over the years due to it receiving irrigation in the warmer months.  We overwatered a couple as they were getting established their first summers, another we lost because it received irrigation from nearby plantings that were watered. It’s ok to water during dry periods in fall through spring – but don’t water it in the hot summer  months. It’s no surprise that it likes fast-draining soil.
  •  It’s best to plant it in the fall to allow adequate time to get established. And do water it a lot when you plant it to give it a good start.
  • There are many cultivars available, such as California Glory, which do well in temperate and Mediterranean climates. Mexican fremontia (Fremontodendron mexicanum) is a federally endangered species that is found naturally in Baja California and San Diego County, where I have seen it in the wild.
  • It does well in sun to partial shade
  • Unforgettably beautiful flowers, with 3-inch bright yellow flowers that turn orange on the edges as it ages. The deep green leaves make a stunning contrast.
  • Fast-growing growth pattern, which can occupy a pretty large area, so allow for that. Fremontia does not do well with hard pruning (don’t cut into old wood). It can grow 10 to 18 feet (although see photo above for exception).
  • Not so great feature: the foliage and smaller stems are coated with brown, irrigating hairs. So be careful when handling and keep this in mind for where you locate it.
  • Its roots are shallow so don’t plant in windy areas. Or — stake them or thin the plant when young to allow the wind to blow through.

For more info:

Las Pilitas website on fremontia (and more photos)

California Native Plants for the Garden by Carol Bornstein, et al

San Diego County Native Plants by James Lightner

For pruning, etc: Care & Maintenance of Southern California Native Plant Gardens by Bart O’Brien, et al


About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.


  1. Christine says:

    I’m fascinated by plants that are designed to not want water in the hot months – and your firsthand experience with these fremontias is a timely reminder that there are gorgeous plants perfectly adapted to our local climate. Always inspired by the way you talk about the plants, like they are friends. Makes me want to get to know them too 🙂

    • Thanks Christine, I do love this water-finicky plant that grows so well in the wild. I forgot to emphasize too that fremontia attracts bumblebees and other native bees and wasps — so is a great habitat plant.

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