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How to Grow California Lilac, Ceanothus

Rhamnaceae

California Lilac is a real charm to grow. This shrub, is easy to grow, and puts on a bright, profuse display of colorful blooms in mid spring. The blooms have a fragrant scent. As it's name implies, California Lilac, or Ceanothus, is native to California. It's native range is along the Pacific Coast, from Brittish Columbia in Canada, south to Mexico. There are approximately 50 species, 30 of which are native to California. Most varieties are evergreens., with a few deciduous varieties. Their lifespan is 20-25 years.

Most species of California Lilac are evergreens, with a few deciduous varieties. The green leaves are small. Small, fragrant flowers bloom in clusters in mid-spring. Colors include many shades of blue, lavender, pink, and white. Flowers give way to three lobed seed pods.

California Lilac (Ceanothus) is not related to Common Lilac (Syringa). California Lilacs like cooler summers and milder winters, and are much more drought tolerant. They are also evergreens, while Lilac Syringa (native to eastern Europe) is not.

Plant Height: The smallest varieties grow just 6 inches. Most plants grow 12-20 feet.

Other names: Blue Blossom Lilac, California Wild Lilac, Mountain Lilac, and Soap Bush.

This plant is nitrogen fixing, improving the soil by putting nitrogen into it. The plant itself does best with little or no additional fertilizer.

Deer like California Lilacs, especially in the winter months, when other food sources become scarce.

California Lilac are a show off, planted singly or in a hedgerow. Try them naturalized, in a cottage garden, too.


Plant Propagation:

California Lilac is grown from seeds.


How to Grow California Lilac:

California Lilac prefers full sun to partial shade.

The shrubs will thrive in almost any soil. They prefer dry and well-draining soil.

Drought tolerant plants require little water, except in severe droughts, and during their first year. In the first year as the plants establish their root system, water 1-2 inches per week, if conditions are dry. In future years, water every 3-4 weeks, only in severe droughts.

Use very little fertilizer, if any. Too much fertilizer can contribute to a shorter life span. For poor to average soils, fertilize once in the spring when the buds begin to swell, with a general purpose fertilizer. In rich soils, do not add fertilizer

Dead head spent blooms for a neat and tidy appearance.

Prune plants right after the blooming period, to maintain a shapely plant. Do not prune branches larger than 1 inch.

Mulch around plants to maintain a well groomed appearance.


Plant Problems:

Yellowing leaves are usually a sign of too much water, too much fertilizer, or both.

Aphids and whiteflies can be an occasional problem. Treat with an insecticide or insecticidal soap, only if needed.


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