Fremontodendron californicum
Common Name: California flannelbush 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Malvaceae
Native Range: California, western Arizona, northern Mexico
Zone: 8 to 10
Height: 8.00 to 18.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Winter hardy to USDA zones 6-10. This is a vigorous but sometimes short-lived flowering shrub/tree that grows well in dry Mediterranean-type climates. In winter, it will tolerate temperatures down to (15 degrees F.) Best performance occurs in sheltered positions in full sun in a dry summer climate in gravelly, poor-to-average, sharply well-drained soils. Appreciates some light shade at the heat of the day. Rich soils often produce excess foliage rather than better flowering. Excellent drought tolerance. Water sparingly. Poorly-drained soils (such as heavy clays) and excess soil moisture (from rain or supplemental human water applications) often lead to root rot which is typically fatal. Shrubs have shallow, wide-spreading roots. Young plants should be staked to prevent uprooting from strong winds. Tolerant of pruning to control size and shape. Propagate by cuttings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Fremontodendron californicum, commonly called California flannelbush, is a fast-growing, often irregularly shaped, broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree that typically grows to 8-18’ tall and to 6-10’ wide but sometimes will rise to as much as 30’ tall. Regardless of potential height, it can be pruned regularly to 10' tall. It is primarily native to California, where it is principally found in chaparral, open woodlands, dry slopes and foothills of 2000’ to 6500’ in elevation, with some additional scattered populations located in northern Baja California and the mountains of western and central Arizona. In California, it appears to be most comfortable growing in the dry rocky slopes of the eastern Sierras, although it may grow slightly taller on the western slopes of the Sierras. It was reportedly discovered by explorer John C. Fremont (1813-1890) growing near Sacramento in 1846.

Key features of this shrub/tree include (a) a spectacular late spring to early summer bloom of large open saucer-shaped bright yellow flowers (to 3" across), each containing 5 showy petal-like sepals that develop orange/rusty tints with age, (b) leathery, usually 3-lobed (but sometimes unlobed) leaves (to 4” long) which are dull green above and pubescent grayish-white below, (c) persistent, conical, post-flowering seed capsules covered with bristly rust-colored hairs, (d) the furry indumentum of stellar hairs found on leaves, stems and seed capsules is purportedly reminiscent of flannel (hence the common name of flannelbush), but physical contact with the hairs can be very irritating to the skin of some people, often causing contact dermatitis and ocular irritation.

Genus name honors Major-General John Charles Fremont (1813-1890) who made four hazardous journeys exploring the Far West of the United States between 1842 and 1848.

Specific epithet is in reference to the state of California being the primary native territory.


Root rot or crown rot diseases from too much moisture often result in premature death for this shrub.


Sunny areas with dry soils in summer. Accent. Informal hedge. Native plant gardens. Against south-facing walls near the northern edge of its growing range. Grow this shrub against a warm south-facing wall in the northern parts of its growing range.