Ceanothus Growing Guide

Ceanothus species, Ceanothus americanus and Ceanothus thrysiflorus repens


Crop Rotation Group



Moist, well-drained soil enriched with plenty of compost or other organic matter.


Full sun to part shade.

Frost tolerant

Cold tolerance varies with species. New Jersey tea is hardy to -20°F (-29°C). Most western species, collectively called California lilacs, are often injured by winter temperatures below 5°F (15°C).


Ceanothus shrubs can fix atmospheric nitrogen, so they have little need for supplemental feeding.


Single Plants: 3' 3" (1.00m) each way (minimum)
Rows: 3' 3" (1.00m) with 3' 3" (1.00m) row gap (minimum)

Sow and Plant

Set out purchased plants in spring at about the time of your last frost. Container-grown plants can be set out until early summer. Water regularly, and cover the root zone with an organic mulch to keep the soil moist until the plants are well rooted. Most ceanothus grow about 3 feet (1 m) tall and wide, but some are larger. Ceanothus often are grown as single specimen plants, or several may be used to structure a woodland edge. Check plant tags for a plant’s mature width and height when combining ceanothus with other shrubs.
Our Garden Planner can produce a personalized calendar of when to sow, plant and harvest for your area.


Visit local display gardens to learn about the best ceanothus for your area. In cold winter areas, white-flowering New Jersey tea is the best choice. In addition to its flowers, New Jersey tea is a host plant for several butterflies and moths. Where winters are mild, California lilacs are invaluable for their beautiful blue blossoms that cover the plants in late spring and early summer. The need to prune varies with species, but most ceanothus can be pruned to shape them and control their size in late summer, after they have finished blooming.


The leaves of New Jersey tea can be used to make a spicy tea.


Leaf spot diseases or powdery mildew can become problems late in the season. Deer often nibble on ceanothus plants.

Planting and Harvesting Calendar

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Pests which Affect Ceanothus