February 1, 2023

On one of my recent walks, my eye caught an amazing mass of color in a garden on the side of the street. An unusual color too, almost blue. When I researched, I found out it is Ceanothus. It is also called the California Lilac.

You can grow them as a free-standing shrub or wall-trained. They will ad an incredible display of color to your garden.

Ceanothus flowers in late spring or late summer. Flowering time varies based on the species. It is easy to grow Ceanothus. Many varieties are evergreen. But there are also deciduous varieties. And also some cultivars are fragrant.


Ceanothus is from the Rhamnaceae or Buckthorn family of plants. It is also known as Buckbrush, SoapBush, or California Lilac. It is native to North America. It grows from 50cm to 3m or 2 or 10ft. Some varieties can be considered a small tree growing to 6m or 20ft.

The leaves are alternate and arranged opposite each other. The flower is white, pink, purple, and blue. Flowers are in clusters. The most common variety is Ceanothus Velutinus native to western North America, more precisely California and Oregon.

Ceanothus, California Lilac

How to grow Ceanothus:

Plant it in spring in well-draining soil. Grow it in a sunny location. Ceanothus flowers better in full sun. Water it regularly until it is well established. Once established, it is drought-resistant. It does not like soggy soil.

You don’t have to deadhead the flowers. That could be a big task given the number of flowers this plant produces. Especially if it is a large bush. On a compact bush, deadheading keeps it going, and looks nicer.

As to pruning, you can prune the evergreen, spring-flowering variety after flowers are done. Prune late summer-flowering variety in spring and trim part of the new growth from the previous year.


It is best to prune the deciduous variety in early spring as they bear flowers on new growth. If you need to hard prune the deciduous Ceanothus, do it in February or March.

Propagate Ceanothus from cuttings. Semi-ripe cuttings work well for evergreen varieties. Try it in summer and autumn. Softwood cuttings are better for the deciduous variety. You may also propagate from seeds. Soak the seeds for 24 hours in hot water. Then they should be exposed to a cold environment. Sometimes for a couple of months. Then planted in a warm environment. Germination can take several months.

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