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Growing Ceanothus: Desert Lilac

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Description
Form: Shrub.
Lifespan: 20-25 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow to moderate.
Mature Size: 4-9' high and 6' wide.
Flowers: Clusters of small white, pink, or dark blue flowers exude a strong lilac scent that lasts for weeks.
Bloom: Late winter, spring or summer.
Fruit: Flesh on the small, round fruit turns green to red to brown. When the fruit dries in mid spring, signalling seed maturity, the four-chambered, woody seed capsule immediately drops from the plant. The capsule springs open weeks or months later, tossing four tiny, glossy black seeds over a foot-wide area.
Leaves: Small to medium, oval, thick, medium green or dark green.
Stems: New stems are pinkish, older stems are light gray to brown. No thorns for the species described.
Roots: Nitrogen-fixing*.
Species of Note:
Ceanothus greggii - Desert Ceanothus. Covered by white flowers when blooming late winter to early spring, tolerates summer rain, usually ignored by deer.
Ceanothus integerrimus - Deerbrush. Flowers colored white, pink, or dark blue, blooms mid spring into summer, larger glossy leaves, tolerates summer rain, browsed by deer.
Ceanothus x 'Blue Jeans' - California Mountain Lilac. Blue flowers, blooms spring into summer, tolerates high temperatures, summer drought and alkaline soil, does not tolerate summer rain or irrigation, very tough, ignored by deer.
Wildlife: The seed attracts quail and other ground-feeding birds. The flowers of C. integerrimus attract bees and butterflies, and may host moth or butterfly caterpillars.
Toxic / Danger: No.
Origin: Native to the Southwestern United States and Mexico.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 7-9.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun.
Water once established: Once every month or two. Do not overwater. 'Blue Jeans' cannot be watered in the summer.
Soil: Very well draining, dry, low organic content, pH 6.1-8.5 (slightly acidic to alkaline).
*Do not use a nitrogen fertilizer. Adding decomposed granite will provide mineral nutrients.
Mulch: Do not use organic mulch which will prevent the soil from drying quickly and will add unwanted nitrogen.
First Year Care: Deep watering every 2-4 weeks in the first year helps to establish a deep, voluminous root system that will withstand heat and drought. In following years, the plant may exist on rainfall alone.
Planting: Can be placed on a mound or slope to improve drainage. Adding mineral laden soil, such as decomposed granite, during planting will speed growth.
Prune: After seed capsules have dropped to feed the birds. Flowers appear on last season's growth.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed.
Uses: Fragrance garden, bird garden.

Comments
These plants are members of the Buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). Trouble-free and low maintenance, they thrive on neglect.
The best way to kill these plants is to fertilize them, use organic soil amendments or mulch, or water them frequently.



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Latest update: November, 2019.

By Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid-2407892.jpg

Ceanothus greggii: Desert Ceanothus - flowers

Ceanothus greggii: Desert Ceanothus - in bloom