PLANT OF THE WEEK #7: Epilobium (Zauschneria) ‘Catalina’

The context for this choice is that I’ve become a bit obsessed about gardens that don’t need irrigation – ‘Rainfed’ gardens, if I can borrow a term from broad-acre cropping.  Up here in Kyneton, the last few summers (although not the one just passed) have been pretty dry and under my rainfed regime, by early autumn things can be starting to look a bit dried out.  ‘Sere’ is the word, I think.  So plants that deliver some floral delight under those conditions, at that time of the year, are worth talking about.  

The California fuchsias (Epilobium spp. but used to be Zauschneria spp.) all do this, but my favourite is ‘Catalina’. 

To be honest, until I started growing “Catalina” I’d been a bit underwhelmed by these plants. ‘Catalina’ grows to about a metre tall, with fine silver foliage.  It tends to hide in its surrounds until the appearance of the tomato-red tubular flowers that start in late February and keep going till the first real frost.  

Epilobium used en masse, and on ‘high rotation’ at Lambley Nursery (NB pictured variety is Epilobium ‘Bowman’s Hybrid’)

I cut my plants back to about 100 mm during my winter clean up and that’s about it in terms of care.  The only vice I can think of (unless you aren’t a fan of red flowers) is that the plants are fragile and not really self-supporting, but plant them where their neighbours can support them, and I think they are a winner!

Peter May

After finishing his PhD in agricultural science, Peter taught at the University of Melbourne – Burnley Campus for many years and finished his time there as Head of Campus.  He ran a very small consulting business for a number of years after that and is now reasonably close to being fully retired.

Peter has lived and gardened in Kyneton in Central Victoria since the early 1980s, firstly in an old rambling Victorian house and garden and more recently in a new, and better insulated, house with a smaller garden, the ornamental part of which was designed with the intent of relying solely on rainfall for irrigation.  It is still a work in progress.

His musings on various things horticultural and edible can be found at Instagram account @mayhorticulture


  1. I’m so reluctant to make this comment Peter, as my self-perception is of being fearless when it comes to colour. I have no patience with chromatically-timid gardeners! Having said that, I find the colours of most of the orange/red Zauschnerias really difficult to integrate. I love the colour in isolation, but the best description I can come up with for my reluctance to include them is just that they’re not, from a colour point of view, ‘team players’. They present quite a complex orange/red, and don’t sit happily with other colours in that range, demanding instead to be contrasted with, say, strong blues. Would love your thoughts on this.
    Also, I was interested to hear Craig Irving (Sunnymeade, in the Strathbogies) say earlier in the year, that he found most forms of Zs to be just too invasive. Do you find that of ‘Catalina’?

    1. I’m hesitant to join the colour debate as its a personal thing to some extent. Like you though, the more orange cultivars might be challenging. Catalina has a slightly different colour, Slightly blue? Also, when it flowers for me there’s not a lot else going on in the garden and to my eye at least it blends quite well with the blue green foliage that there’s a lot of in my garden.

      Re invasiveness, at this stage I don’t know. I’ve seen one seedling of Catalina. I have a prostrate orange red cultivar that had lots of seed pods this summer. I’m on the lookout for offspring but have seen none yet. My intuition is that Catalina should be OK in that respect, but eternal vigilance!! Potential invasiveness is one of the down sides of climate matching plants to gardens.

  2. It is an old post but I thought I’d share my experience with Zauschneria ‘Silver Select’ which I planted in one of my perennial borders last year. It took quite a while to settle and eventually flowered end of summer. Loved the fine grey foliage and the flowers.
    When autumn came I did cut it down as it had become a bit straggly.

    Mid-winter I started to see sprouts coming out from the ground as far a 1m away from the original plant ! It had sent out stolons everywhere.
    The stolons are very brittle and quite difficult to take out completely. At the end I decided to rip the whole plant off as I did not want it to overtake the whole border.
    Maybe the fact it is the well composted my soil that led to such vigour ? I still have the plant growing in a pot at the moment but am a bit hesitant to try it out elsewhere…

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