Don’t Get Too Attached

Download PDF

This summer went along swimmingly. Cool temperatures with an extended “June gloom,” we Southern Californians were just too smug. And now at the end of September we are getting our comeuppance. It’s hot, really hot. Over one hundred degrees for the past four days and predicted hot for the next day or two. The plants in my garden, both those in the ground and those in pots, have looked great all summer only to start struggling with this extreme heat. And so this is a post about death.

During the last heat wave a couple of weeks ago, my husband pointed to one of the flannel bushes along the northern fence of the backyard. “Is that plant okay?” he asked. The leaves were shriveling. Let me take a step back and give you some background.

Plant in question is on the right edge of the photo, not the big flannel bush next to the garage. (4/16/2010)

I bought these flannel bushes, Fremontodendron ‘California Glory’, in five gallon containers at a big discount for volunteering at a plant sale in November 2006. They looked really good and were really cheap. I couldn’t resist. I finally got them in the ground several months later in March of 2007. I knew that they are difficult plants. They often die right away from transplant shock. If they make it, they can suddenly look ill, decline quickly, and croak within days. After planting them I told my husband not to get too attached, they die easily.

Both flannel bushes in August 2007, before the fence was built, right after the garage went up.

Fence was just completed, October 2007.

I never gave them supplementary water, not even the first year. Since they were not far from the edge of the lawn, over the years I allowed the lawn near them to go brown. They bloomed right away, and each subsequent year was more spectacular than the last. They grew so fast that by this summer they were about 12 feet tall and wide. I did what I warned by husband not to do, I fell in love with them. And then it got real hot.

Late March 2008 and the flannel bushes are putting on a show. Notice that the one on the right, now deceased, was not as vigorous as the one on the left.

Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of the deceased as it fell ill and declined. But again a bit of background may help. It was the smallest and weakest of the three plants. It never got nearly as large of either of its siblings. Both of the flannel bush shrubs planted on the northern edge of the backyard fell over a couple of years ago during a heavy rain. I staked them and they seemed fine.

Cut down the dead plant on September 22, 2010.


After removing the branches of the dead plant I noticed that there was sap at the crown and wondered if this was an indicator of the problem. Then I noticed that the healthy-looking flannel bush next to it had this as well, so I am hoping that it is not.

Oozing sap near the crown of the deceased.

Ooze near the crown of the healthy, vigorous California Glory next to the garage.

So what did I learn? Not much, unfortunately. I didn’t plant these too low – a major reason for failure of this plant. I didn’t over water them. Flannel bush is very susceptible to root rot and my heavy soil is not ideal. Still the other two shrubs look great and I hope they last because I’ve fallen for them.


5 thoughts on “Don’t Get Too Attached

  1. Barbara,<br />Never heard of Flannel Bushes learned something today. I heard about the heat there on the news 107 in LA wow! We just busted a drought with a good rain and also kicked 90 days of 90 degree days out the door, well see.

  2. Interesting post! I can&#39;t say I&#39;m surprised necessarily about the short-lived nature of some flannel bushes. It seems, although I&#39;m no expert, that a number of California natives fall under the umbrella of being &#39;short-lived&#39; species, most of which depend on their ability to propagate new generations to survive. I&#39;ve seen it mentioned in regards to buckwheats, some

  3. Good on you to experiment and share both your spectacular successes and disappointing losses.<br /><br />Saw the most amazing, huge flannel bush on TPF tour in April. It was in a home garden in inland part of Torrance. Believe it was in sandy soil, at least 20 feet from lawn. Much cooler summer there.<br /><br />Clearly we garden in interesting times (and places)!

  4. Hi Randy – yeah flannel bush is from n. Mexico and CA only – and not the easiest thing to keep alive. And yes, weird weather we&#39;re having, ain&#39;t it?<br /><br />CVF – I do wonder about the longevity of these plants in the wild. I actually think they last much longer in places they come from and without all of our love and care. Not sure if I will replant. I&#39;m thinking local natives:

  5. JRT

    I hope that the second one is still doing well. When I lived in Apple Valley, I had two California Glory hybrids. They did quite well and since I was just outside of the north end of their range in SB county, I ignored the warnings that they were supposed to be fussy plants to grow. And, that is probably it.<br /><br />So, the advice if planting another one is to get out the map at the

Comments are closed.