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They look like fuschias, but they are water thrifty.

Fuchsia mimics, the four plants pictured here bear tubular flowers. But there's one big difference between these and true fuchsias: they're drought tolerant.

Gardeners on tight water budgets can plant them this fall for splashes of vibrant bloom color next year. Look for plants at nurseries in 1- or 5-gallon cans ($7 to $20, respectively).

Mexican lobelia (L. laxiflora). Bushy, semiwoody perennial reaches 3 feet tall. Bright 2-inch flowers with yellow insides, orange-red outsides, bloom nearly all year along the coast, summer through fall elsewhere. This tough plant with narrow leaves spreads by underground rhizomes. It's good for banks and parking strips but not for gardens where toddlers play unsupervised; it has toxic properties.

Red flowing currant (Ribes sanguineum, also sold as R.s. glutinosum). This deciduous shrub, native to California's coast ranges, bears pink, white, or red flowers in early spring. It has an upright vase shape and reaches 6 to 8 feet tall. Along the coast, plant in full sun. In hot inland areas, give partial shade, occasional summer watering.

Fuchsia-flowering gooseberry (R. speciosum). This 8- to 10-foot-tall California native shrub is spectacular in bloom. Thick clusters of deep red flowers hang down from arching branches. It blooms in spring and is a haven for hummingbirds. Plant in full sun (coastal) or part shade (hot inland areas). Given no water in summer, it loses its leaves then; with a little water, it's nearly evergreen.

California fuchsia (Zauschneria). Bright orange to red tubular flowers appear summer through fall on 1- to 2-foot plants. Set in full sun; it needs little to no summer water once established. Rangy growth habit and invasive roots make it best for wild gardens; hummingbirds adore it.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1991
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