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Bush Sunflower
Encelia californica
About Bush Sunflower (Encelia californica) Nurseries Show All Photos Encelia californica is a species of flowering plant in the daisy family known by the common name California brittlebush. It is also commonly referred to as "California bush sunflower". This shrub is native to southern California and Baja California where it is a member of the coastal sage plant community at the shoreline. It can also be found on inland foothills in the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges.It is drought tolerant but not frost tolerant, and needs full sun.

It is a bushy, sprawling shrub reaching between one half and 1.5 meters in height. It has many thin branches covered in widely spaced green leaves which are a rounded diamond shape. The solitary flower heads are daisylike, with 15 to 25 bright yellow ray florets 1 to 3 centimeters long around a center of protruding yellowish to purplish brown disc florets. The fruit is an achene 5 to 7 millimeters long, with no pappus. It blooms from February to June, and attracts butterflies, bees, and other insects.

This is a very fast growing and easy to grow plant. It is beautiful in winter and spring with its abundant yellow flowers, and it readily reseeds and will quickly spread throughout a landscape. This plant is fast growing, easy, and will bloom any time it has moisture and moderate temperatures. It makes a good cut flower. There is one horticultural variety known as 'El Dorado.' Probably one of the easiest ways to add color to a garden in southern California. Downsides of this plant are that it can become invasive and choke out other plants, and is semi-summer deciduous, and will often look weedy and almost dead in the summer and fall, and is fairly short-lived. It's often planted to start a native garden, and then replaced with longer-lived shrubs over time.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
1.6 - 5 ft (0.49 - 1.5 m)

Max. Width
3 - 7 ft (0.9 - 2.1 m)

Mounding, Rounded

Fragrant - Pleasant, Slight

Growth Rate

Summer Semi-Deciduous,

Dark green, oval

Flower Color
Brown, Yellow

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Slopes, bluffs, foothills and canyons primarily on the coastal side of the mountains from San Luis Obispo County to San Diego County and into northwestern Baja. Typically found on drier, south or west facing slopes as part of coastal sage scrub.

Part Shade, Sun

Elevation ?
-1648' - 5439'

Annual Precip. ?
4.4" - 35.5"

Summer Precip. ?
0.15" - 2.65"

Coldest Month ?
39.9° F - 61.4° F

Hottest Month ?
62.5° F - 88.8° F

Humidity ?
0.82 vpd - 42.79 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a wide variety of soils

Soil PH
6 - 8

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Sodic Soil

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 30° F

Sunset Zones ?
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14*, 15, 16, 18, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*,

Companion Plants
Ceanothus tomentosus, California Sagebrush, Sugar Sumac, Lemonade Sumac, Coyote Broom, Chaparral Mallow, Sagebrush (Artemisia), Black Sage, White Sage, Chamise, Coyote Brush, California Buckwheat, Sticky Monkeyflower, Woolly Bluecurls, Scrub Oaks, Toyon, Dudleya spp, Yucca spp, various cactus species

Wildlife Attracted
Numerous insects are attracted to the flowers, including butterflies and bees. Small birds such as goldfinches are attracted to the seed heads.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water, 1x/month, 2x/month, 3x/month, 1/week
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Inorganic, Organic with Rocks

After it goes semi-deciduous in the summer, this plant can be cut to the ground and will come back nicely. Because of its tendency to sprawl or become floppy, it can also be pruned after flowering to encourage more flowers and more compact growth

Pest Control
No pest problems.

Propagation ?
By seeds (this plant self-seeds readily), softwood cuttings

Common uses
Groundcovers, Bank Stabilization, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
California Brittlebush, California Encelia

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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