Ceanothus are some of our most fragrant and colorful native shrubs. Although some Ceanothus species are called California Lilacs, this genera is neither related to lilacs nor exclusive to California.
Evergreen and very drought tolerant, a sure way to kill your ceanothus is to overwater it in the summer! Planting on a slope or atop a mound will help keep its roots happy. But even with the best of care, most Ceanothus species live only 15-20 years. 'Feltleaf Ceanothus' (Ceanothus arboreus, also known as the 'Tree Lilac' or 'Island Mt Lilac'), is the largest species and can live much longer.
Ceanothus includes about 55 evergreen and deciduous creepers, shrubs, and small trees growing wild throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico south to Guatemala. Most Ceanothus are frost tender and are mainly grown for their fluffy clusters of white, pink, or blue flowers. A ceanothus in bloom is one of the sure signs that spring is on its way. Indeed, they are an important source of nectar and pollen for early bees. Ceanothus leaves can range from under 1/2" (usually dark and stiff) to over 2 to 3 inches long (larger leaves are often lighter and softer, which deer love). Small birds love the tiny seeds, and these stiff branches provide welcome cover; so Ceanothus is a good plant for drier wildlife habitat landscaping.
This plant can be propagated by softwood cuttings in the summer. Ceanothus can deal with sun and drought, but are also happy with a bit of shade.
Visit our Town Flora page for more information about plants that thrive locally.