Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Ceanothus - California's Native Version of Lilac

Ceanothus, commonly called wild lilac, is a chaparral plant that takes the form of a shrub. The clumps of small flowers arranged on the tips of its branches create inflorescences similar to lilacs, but that's where the similarity ends. True lilacs are deciduous and thirsty, while ceanothus are evergreen and drought tolerant.

Ceanothus can also take a variety of shapes: ground-hugging prostrate subspecies, like the popular 'Carmel Creeper', or  shrubs like 'Yankee Point'. Their blooms can range from white (like the 'Snow Flurry' pictured above) to a deep blue-purple ('Julia Phelps').

The ceanothus hybrid 'Ray Hartman' can be shaped into a small tree and this one spent a December indoors in a pot as our decorated holiday tree before it was planted in the yard. In three years, it has nearly tripled in size and is helping provide a natural screen between yards. A prolific bloomer, it attracts a range of bees and butterflies and as it branches out it's creating more shelter for birds.

 The 'Ray Hartman' has become one of my favorite ceanothus and a dependable spring bloomer.

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