How Do I Care for Ceanothus?

Updated February 21, 2017

Ceanothus is a flowering shrub commonly known as California lilac. There are approximately 60 species of ceanothus that may be either evergreens or deciduous. Most ceanothus species have blue flowers, although there are some species that have white or pink flowers as well. These shrubs grow quite large, up to 8 feet in height with an equal width, depending on the species. They are well known for attracting bees and other helpful insects to the area. Proper care ensures the continued health of these visually appealing and ecologically helpful shrubs.

Plant ceanothus in an area with partial to full sun. They do best in full sun, but tolerate partial shade well, according to Golden West College.

Provide well-drained soil for the ceanothus. Slightly acidic soil works best for this shrub. It may grow in clay soil if planted somewhere such as on a hill where it drains readily.

Water ceanothus shrubs just once or twice a month. These shrubs are very drought-tolerant and prone to developing root rot if planted in areas where water tends to collect. Excessive watering proves especially problematic in heavy, clay soils.

Prune and provide other care minimally. Prune to obtain the desired shape very carefully because this shrub does not grow anew from old areas, according to the University of California. Avoid additional care such as fertilisation, which shortens the lifespan of ceanothus. Some mulch around the bottom of the plant helps maintain moisture between infrequent watering.


Pesticides or insecticides are not generally needed to care properly for ceanothus. Some species are susceptible to damage from certain pests such as aphids or whiteflies. Most ceanothus are very disease and insect resistant however, according to the University of California. Choose the correct species of ceanothus for the desired size to avoid pruning anything more than the tips of the plant as this results in poor growth. Cultivars grow best in a garden environment as opposed to native species, according to Golden West College.

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