Learn Carpenteria Californica Care Tips

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Carpenteria Californica (kar-pen-TER-ree-uh, kal-ih-FOR-nik-uh) is an evergreen shrub from the family Hydrangeaceae, commonly known as the hydrangea family. 

It is the only species in the genus Carpenteria and has a limited natural distribution. 

Blooms of the Carpenteria Californica - Bush AnemoneBlooms of the Carpenteria Californica - Bush Anemone

Native to the foothills of Sierra Nevada in California, the plant grows at a high altitude in the chaparral and oak woodlands, only on seven sites in Madera county and Fresno county.

Named after a renowned 19th-century American botanist (from Louisiana) William M. Carpenter and its native region California (Californica means of or from California), the plant is generally known with the common names of bush anemone or tree anemone.

An important thing to note here is to not confuse Carpenteria with Carpentaria, which is a genus of Australian native palms.

Carpenteria Californica Care

Size & Growth

Bush anemone grows at a moderate rate, reaching up to anywhere between 3’ to 10’ feet tall and feature 2” to 4” inch long, lanceolate, and oppositely arranged leaves. 

The leaves are shiny and dark green from above, but blue-green to whitish from underneath. 

The bottom surface of leaves is also downy i.e. covered with small and fine soft hair.

Another distinguishing characteristic of the carpenteria plant is its flaky bark, seen on older/mature plants.

Flowering and Fragrance

In late spring, the plant starts producing small white flowers with clusters of bright yellow stamens in the center. 

The stamens are arranged in a circular pattern in the center of the flowers, which make a beautiful display against the white-colored petals. 

The bloom time lasts until midsummer and flowers are sweetly-scented and can have 5 to 8 petals. 

They are also somewhat similar to the flowers of camellias and mock orange plants (Philadelphus Lewisii).

The blooming period is followed by the production of small capsule-shaped fruits. 

They have a leathery texture and contain numerous seeds.

Light & Temperature

Tree anemone can grow in full sun to part shade but appreciates a location where it receives light shade with morning sunlight.

When planted in a sheltered location under full sun, the plant is winter-hardy and can tolerate temperatures down to 14° degrees Fahrenheit (-10° C).

Being native to woodlands, the plant has adapted well to wildfire. 

It is hardy to USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10.

Watering and Feeding

While the anemone plant is drought-tolerant, it appreciates some watering, especially in summers, if the average yearly rainfall in your area is less than 20” inches. 

However, make sure to not overwater – the maximum watering frequency for established plants is 3 times a month, in summers. 

To avoid any problems, let the top couple of inches of the soil dry out between waterings.

Since overhead watering can lead to the development of fungus on the foliage, it is best to use drip irrigation to water the carpenteria plant.

Soil & Transplanting

Carpenteria grows best in decomposed granite, but also easily tolerates loam and clay (adobe) soil types. 

The soil, however, needs to have good drainage.

Grooming and Maintenance

Bush anemone is a fairly low-maintenance plant. 

But, you may need to prune it to get rid of floppy branches.

When required, prune after flowering and cut back the plant to lower buds. 

But, do not cut the older branches as they may not produce new growth.

How to Propagate Bush Anemone

Bush anemone is propagated by seeds or semi-hardwood cuttings.

  • Seeds of the carpenteria plant do not need any treatment before sowing. 
  • Simply sow them thinly in the soil and keep them in a sheltered sunny location.
  • However, wood cuttings are most commonly used for multiplying anemone plants as it is the simplest method and almost always remains successful. 

Fall is the best time to propagate this California native from wood cuttings.

  • To do this, take about 6” to 8” inches long stem cuttings from this season’s growth. 
  • Leave one or two pairs of leaves on the top of cuttings
  • Remove all the remaining leaves
  • Plant the cuttings in the specialized cuttings soil mix or a mixture of peat and river sand.
  • Water the new plantings regularly, but moderately
  • Keep the soil should be moist, but not wet. 
  • Also, protect them from cold weather until they are established.
  • Transplant the cuttings to bigger pots in spring, after the end of the frost period i.e. around mid-May
  • Plant in their permanent locations in the following fall.

Bush Anemone Pest or Diseases

Anemone plant isn’t highly susceptible to pests and diseases. 

However, it may sometimes develop leaf spot or get affected by brown plant scale, which is a sap-sucking insect, or aphids. 

As opposed to many other California plants, carpenteria is resistant to oak root fungus. 

It may sometimes display rangy and sprawling growth habit due to extreme heat or inadequate watering.

Although carpenteria is deer resistant, they may cause some damage to its foliage if no other food option is available to them. 

Despite the white flower color, the plant attracts bees and butterflies.

Carpenteria Californica Uses

Due to its lush green foliage, showy and scented flowers, and drought tolerance, the bush anemone plant is widely grown for ornamental purposes. 

This plant type is also a popular choice for both traditional and wildfire gardens in subtropical and temperate regions in the northern hemisphere. 

It is also a great hedge plant for narrow flower beds. 

Its showy flowers make a great combination with ceanothus, coffeeberry, and sarcococca shrubs and make a wonderful addition to the plant list for woodland gardens.

Since the carpenteria plant attracts bees and butterflies, it is also a perfect choice for bee gardens and butterfly gardens.

Having been in cultivation since the late 1870s, this California native plant is now more common in private and public gardens than its natural habitat. 

Some of its popular cultivars include Carpenteria Californica ‘Elizabeth’ (named after the renowned botanist from Los Angeles Elizabeth Mcclintock), Carpenteria Californica ‘Bodnant’, and Carpenteria Californica ‘Ladham’s’.

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