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Fremontodendron

Fremontia
Sterculiaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees

Most fremontia are native to California. They are fast-­growing plants with a typically irregular shape, reaching 20 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide except as noted. Leathery leaves are dark green above, felted beneath. Very showy, typically saucer-shaped ­yellow blossoms in spring. Flowers are followed by persistent conical seed capsules covered with bristly, rust-colored hairs; some people consider them unsightly, and they can irritate skin.

Plants are completely drought-tolerant and will accept occasional moisture during their normally dry period in summer only if drainage is excellent (hillside planting is recommended). Roots are ­shallow, so stake plants when they are young to prevent them from being blown over in windy areas. Pinch young growth to encourage branching; prune off overly long shoots. Remove lower branches to shape into small trees. Locate in front of a sunny wall in marginal climates. ­Plants are usually short-lived.

Fremontodendron californicum
Fremontodendron californicum

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Fremontodendron californicum

Eye-catching show of lemon yellow, 1–1 1/2-in. flowers; tend to bloom all at once in mid- to late spring. Roundish, 1-in.-long, unlobed or three-lobed leaves.

Fremontodendron ‘California Glory’ (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic
Fremontodendron ‘California Glory’ (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic

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Fremontodendron hybrids

Several oustanding plants in a range of sizes have been produced from crosses between two species—F. californicum and F. mexicanum.

‘California Glory’. Rich yellow flowers to 3 in. across have red-tinged backs. Prolific bloom over a long period. Can grow to 20 ft. tall and at least as wide.

‘Dara’s Gold’. Compact grower to just 3–4 ft. tall and 6–8 ft. wide, with glossy green leaves. Yellow flowers to 2 in. wide appear over a long period from late winter to late spring.

‘Ken Taylor’. Cascading growth to 4–6 ft. tall and 8–12 ft. wide. Gray-green leaves. Cup-shaped, 3-in.-wide golden flowers with orange backs open from late winter through summer.

‘Pacific Sunset’. Grows to 12–15 ft. tall and wide. Deep orange-yellow flowers up to 4 in. wide. Bloom peaks in spring, is sporadic later. Good disease resistance.

‘San Gabriel’. Grows to 15–20 ft. tall and not quite as wide. Deeply lobed leaves resemble those of maple. Sunny, cup-shaped yellow blooms to 3 in. wide appear in spring.

Fremontodendron mexicanum

Endangered species from Southern California and northern Mexico. Brilliant display of orange-tinted yellow blossoms to 2 1/2 in. across. Blooms less profusely than F. californicum, but flowers appear over a longer period—from late spring well into fall. Leaves reach 3 in. long and have three to five distinct lobes.

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