Pour on the Orange: Planting Zauschneria for Hummingbirds
by David Salman
One of my favorite native genera is Zauschneria, also know by its common names such as Hummingbird Trumpet, Fire Chalice and California Fuchsia. (To botanists and botanically informed gardeners who read this blog, you'll note that I have refused to lump them into the Fireweed genus Epilobium)
Their Native Range
Native from Arizona, Utah, Idaho and west to California, this colorful group of herbaceous perennials are a requirement for any self-respecting western garden. Their attractive foliage and stunning orange to scarlet trumpet-shaped flowers are like high wattage lights illuminating the garden.
Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet®
My first and still favorite Zauschneria is Orange Carpet ®, a Z. garrettii selection I introduced in 1996. I selected a single exceptional plant from a big batch of blooming plants I'd grown from habitat collected seed. As the name suggests, this cultivar is a groundcover spreading slowly via rhizomes to create a carpet of bright green foliage. Beginning in mid-summer,Orange Carpet covers itself with bright orange flowers for several months. It's also cold hardy to USDA zone 5.
Finding a Spot in the Garden
All the Zauschneria spread slowly via rhizomes, so it is important to give the plants plenty of room to spread. But it's a worthwhile investment in garden real estate when they come into color. They are also quite long-lived when happy making the genus a great low care, high color perennial selection.
There are many cultivar selections in the trade, both cold tender and cold hardy. For coastal gardeners who can use the non-cold hardy types, plan an October visit to California's native plant Mecca, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to see their Zauschneria collection in full flower. For us intermountain gardeners who experience cold winters I recommend Zauschneria arizonica, Zauchneria latifolia, Zauschneria garrettii 'Mountain Flame', and the silver leaved beauty, Zauschneria californica 'Wayne's Select'.
Spring/Summer Planting in Cold Climates
When planting the cold hardy cultivars, I recommend getting them into the ground by mid-summer. These plants like warm summer temperatures and ample water that first season in the ground to establish sufficiently to survive the winter cold. They are the exception to 'Fall is for Planting'. It's also important to improve winter survival by leaving their stems standing over the winter (wait for mid-spring to cut them back) and insulating the crowns of the plants with a pile of dried leaves.