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Bush-Snapdragon – Galvezia

Bush-Snapdragon – Galvezia

The hummingbirds start to show up in abundance during the transition period between spring and summer. If you have Island Snapdragon (Galvezia) in your garden, you will see a hummingbird just about every time you look.

With its bright red flowers and lime green foliage, Galvezia speciosa (Island Bush-Snapdragon) is one of the happiest plants in the landscape. Galvezia likes full sun or part shade, and since it is native on California’s channel islands, will not tolerate severe frost. It is a woody perennial that mounds up to about three feet in height and spreads to about five feet. On a slope, it will sprawl out and stay lower. Galvezia is ideally suited for pots or hanging baskets. It grows fast and takes any kind of pruning (for shaping) and will not require much maintenance. It blooms spring, summer and fall, most prolifically in the spring. The tubular shaped flowers make it a hummingbird’s favorite!

At Tree of Life Nursery, we grow three Galvezia types in addition to the species G. speciosa mentioned above.

Galvezia ‘Firecracker’ is a variety of G. speciosa, which we introduced in 1986. ‘Firecracker’ has tomentose (slightly fuzzy) leaves and a more compact habit. It does not sprawl or mound as rampantly as G. speciosa. The flowers are equally abundant. ‘Firecracker’ flowers on the branch tips, so the blooms are even showier and tend to attract more hummers.

Galvezia juncea (Baja Snapdragon) is a unique species found only in northern Baja California. We grow two very distinct types. As the name implies, the branches are rush-like; they have long stems like reeds, the leaves so small and inconspicuous that the plant appears to be leafless. A blue-green form, ‘Gran Cañon’, (introduced by Santa Barbara Botanic Garden) grows up to five feet tall with upright bare stems emerging from a clump, giving the plant the overall shape of a vase. This form is very attractive in a rock garden or large pot. The bright red flowers on the branch tips give the plant the appearance of a miniature ocotillo, minus the thorns.

Galvezia juncea ‘Punta Banda’ (introduced by Tree of Life) is a light green form and is entirely different. The stems are so crowded that the plant is shaped more like a thicket than a vase. ‘Punta Banda’ snapdragon will fill a large space if left unchecked, but will tolerate pruning very well. It is a fast grower that could be pruned into a background hedge or perennial border. The contrast between the tiny green leaves, lime green arching stems and the bright red flowers make ‘Punta Banda’ snapdragon an interesting addition to any native plant garden.

All Galvezia varieties will thrive in most garden situations in southern California. They require occasional watering, especially in hot inland locations. They will not tolerate the extremes of our low deserts or high mountains, given their coastal origins, but will be happy just about everywhere else.

Galvezia is easy to grow and very rewarding!
Companion plants for Galvezia in a small space could include:

Companion plants for Galvezia in a small space could include:

Arctostaphylos ‘Sunset’ or ‘Carmel Sur’


Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ or ‘Heart’s Desire’

Californica lilac

Encelia californica

Coast Sunflower

Ribes viburnifolium

Catalina Perfume

Mimulus aurantiacus

Monkey flower

Salvia munzii

San Miguel Sage

Nassela lepida

Needle grass

Sisyrinchium bellum

Blue-eyed grass

Heuchera hybrids

Coral Bells

Dudleya lanceolata


Eriophyllum confertiflorum

Golden Yarrow

Camissonia cheiranthifolia

Beach Evening Primrose

Plants to add to the mix in larger areas:

Lyonothamnus flor. var. asplen.

Island Ironwood

Heteromeles arbutifolia


Rhus integrifolia

Lemonade berry

Romneya ‘White Cloud’

Matilija Poppy

Arctostaphylos catalinae


Rhamnus ‘Bonita Linda’

Coffee Berry

Naturally, a few well-placed rocks or small boulders would be fine, too. A place for the lizards to sun themselves, you know.

Featured Photo Credit: Mike Evans, Tree of Life Nursery ©