When it’s blooming, people and bees swarm around this plant. The delightful bright flowers are the bluest of blue. So many plants in the horticultural world are termed ‘blue’ when time and again we all know they are PURPLE. Ceanothus breaks this trend, it really is blue, like the color of a clear sky. Native to California, this plant has many forms and varieties, including groundcovers. One of the most common is the plant pictured below, Ceanothus impressus ‘Victoria’. It has small shiny evergreen leaves and is easily pruned.
I grew one when I lived in central California and every time I cut it back so it didn’t cover the sidewalk, it shot back again, always responding with new, vigorous growth. I did have trouble with aphids and at times it was covered with their sticky buggy bodies. Since my shrub was woody and established, I could easily spray them off with a strong blast of water which I found very satisfying. A gush and goodbye! Another potential problem here in Washington is winter damage. It’s hard with those evergreen, broadleaf shrubs when the temperatures drop rapidly in late fall. Leaf drop, partial die-back or complete demise can result. Sometimes they need time to harden off, other times it just gets too cold for plants, as well as people.
Usually I see this plant growing here in Washington as a structural focal point, but it can also be grown as a hedge. Sunset Western Garden Book says that the types with small leaves are deer resistant (positive!) but plants don’t live very long, 5- 10 years (negative!). Most forms of Ceanothus are drought tolerant, growing well in our coastal climate of drizzly springs (goodbye ‘June-uary’ and good riddance….we had way too much June rain!) and dry summers. Dirr states that this plant only grows well on the West Coast of the United States, but not in other regions. He believes that the issue isn’t cold tolerance, but rather excessive rain, humidity and wet soils. Take note gardeners and don’t over water! This might be a plant that thrives on neglect!
Just the Facts
Ceanothus impressus ‘Victoria’
Height 6-9 ft. (2-3m) tall
Width 10-12 ft. (3m) wide
Evergreen, shiny medium size leaf
Flowers deep blue, spring bloom
Summer drought tolerant
Prefers light, well-drained soil
Prune after blooms fade