Growing in a vast array of approximately 60 species of small trees, shrubs and ground covers, ceanothus plants are often referred to as wild lilacs or California lilacs. Most well-known and prized for their blossoms in vivid shades of blue, ceanothus is well-suited to most gardening sites as it tolerates poor conditions.
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Most often taking on a shrublike form, ceanothus plants exhibit a variety of habits, including upright, climbing and spreading. Growing as evergreen or deciduous plants, ceanothus most often display five-petaled flowers with five stamens in white, pink or pale to deep blue hues. Though some cultivars remain as low-growing ground covers, as shrubs these plants can grow to a height and spread of 8 feet. Native to North America, ceanothus plants are prized for their typical pest- and disease-free growth that does, however, attract beneficial insects and bees into the garden, according to the Oregon State University. Though ceanothus typically resist problems, they are not immune to a variety of pest and disease issues.
Provide regular, appropriate care to your ceanothus plants to keep them healthy and for best flower production and colour. Vigorous plants have a greater capacity for avoiding and fighting off pest and disease problems than weakened plants. Grow ceanothus plants in full sunlight to lightly shaded conditions. Though ceanothus thrives in moist, well-drained soils, it will tolerate poor conditions and dry sites. However, avoid waterlogged soils which can damage your plant and encourage the development of fungal diseases like root rot.
Consider the many species and cultivars of ceanothus plants before making selections for your home garden design. For example, the hybrid Ceanothus x pallidus 'Marie Simon' produces pink flowers. New Jersey tea, Ceanothus americanus, is a shrub that displays tiny white flower clusters, reaching a total plant height of 3 to 4 feet and a width of 3 to 6 feet. This shrub fares best in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8. A blue option called blue blossom, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus, displays large clusters of dark blue/lilac flowers on a shrub that reaches a height and width of 6 feet. Grow this plant in hardiness zones 7 to 9.
Though typically resistant to problems, ceanothus plants can become a victim of pests or disease. Rot problems that affect most parts of the shrub occur as fungal infections. These diseases typically result in wilting, stunted growth and defoliation that may end in death. Avoid rot problems by keeping soil extremely well-drained.
The ceanothus stem gall moth attacks ceanothus during its larval stage. Larvae tunnel into stems and, due to a chemical released while feeding, cause the formation of galls, or swellings, on plant surfaces. Fortunately, galls cause cosmetic damage but no harm to the health of your plant. Remove them through pruning or leave them if you are not bothered by their appearance.
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- Oregon State University Extension Service; Ceanothus Flowering Shrubs are Stunning in PNW Gardens; Carol Savonen
- Oregon State University Extension; Cliff Schmidt's Ceanothus Descriptions - Technical Description of the Genus; Dr. Cliff Schmidt
- University of California IPM Online: Managing Pests in Gardens: Trees and Shrubs: Ceanothus
- University of Illinois Extension: New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus Americanus)
- Washington State University Clark County Extension: Blue Blossom - Ceanothus Thyrsiflorus
- University of California IPM Online: Collar, Root and Crown Rot