Carpenteria californica (Bush Anemone)
Carpenteria californica, or bush anemone, is one of California’s loveliest, but rarest, native shrubs. It grows only on dry granite ridges of southern Sierra Nevada foothills in the Central Valley near Fresno, and is the only species in its genus.
Flowers and Foliage
‘Elizabeth’ is the most available cultivar, prized for its large, double flowers similar to those of Japanese anemone or camellia.
- Thick, oblong, 3-4-in. long leaves are glossy, dark green on top and whitish on the bottom, a striking backdrop to the white, fragrant 2-in. flowers that encase dozens of bright yellow stamens.
- Loose clusters with as many as 20 blossoms at branch tips are a spectacular sight May through July, attracting bees and hummingbirds.
- Shiny, leathery leaves cloak multiple stems rising from the base. Peeling bark varies from ivory to tan.
- As older leaves fade and wither, turning brown, and clinging to stems, they are best removed. Adequate summer irrigation keeps foliage looking fresh.
Expect shrubs to reach 5-7 ft. in height and a 3-4 ft. width, although plants can become larger in ideal conditions.
- A sheltered site with dappled shade and filtered sun is best in most microclimates although more shade is preferable in hot inland sites to prevent leaf burn.
- Unlike many other native shrubs, bush anemone will tolerate irrigated garden conditions in nearly any soil if good drainage is provided. Planting on a raised mound or gradual slope assists good drainage.
- Because this California native comes from a habitat where summers are long, hot and dry, it can survive on very little water once established; however, inadequate watering may result in slower growth and fewer flowers.
- Excessive fertilization promotes unattractive, irregular growth, but light, infrequent fertilizing may be beneficial in poor soil.
- Planting in fall provides soil warmth for roots to grow and shrubs to become established before summer heat sets in.
Carpenteria naturally develops an attractive shape that needs little pruning or none at all.
- A dense, rounded form or an open-branched structure may develop.
- Inadequate water or extreme heat may promote sprawling and rangy growth.
- If pruning is needed to shape or restrain growth, cut back to lower buds after flowering for a fuller looking plant.
- Hard pruning older branches may not stimulate new growth.
- Because stems are not self-cleaning, leaves wither but do not fall naturally to the ground; they may easily be stripped off in late summer.
- Keep soil moist the first year after planting in fall. Apply ample irrigation to reach roots and use plenty of mulch to prevent evaporation.
- Once a plant is established, cut back on watering frequency, keeping the top few inches of soil dry between irrigations. Less supplemental water may be needed near the coast.
- Use drip irrigation rather than overhead watering that can cause fungal problems on foliage. More bush anemones perish from over-watering than from lack of moisture.
- Insects or diseases do not bother Carpenteria when plants are kept vigorous and not overwatered.
- If a sticky honey dew, blackish sooty mold, whitish cast, or curled leaves develop, the probable cause is aphids. Inspect new growth regularly and hose off aphids forcefully with water.