This herbaceous perennial spreads by underground stems to colonize an area. The leaves are dark green, and triangular with a toothed edge. Flowering stalks appear in summer and can reach 6 feet tall. The tiny reddish flowers are profuse, and attract many beneficial insects and hummingbirds. The flowers are loved by native bees, and the seeds that ripen in small hard capsules in fall are eaten by ground-feeding birds.

California Bee Plant is at its best in a wildish garden, where it can be allowed to spread. It thrives in the dry shade under oaks, but also establishes nicely in moister situations close to riparian zones. Scrophularia can be the common element that ties together a mixed hedgerow planting of Ceanothus, Rosa californica, and Sambucus mexicana.

Occasionally, in summer, this plant will support the larvae of the Variable Checkerspot and Buckeye butterflies.