Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ceanothus Quandry

We have a fire pit/gathering place in our lower yard. Above a short river rock wall, we planted three Ceanothus 'Yankee's Point' shrubs with the intent that they would slowly grow and create a curtain of thick waxy green leaves. Above is the dream actualized. Below, the nightmare unfolds.

Every time I walk past this Ceanothus, my heart breaks. I haven't figured out what's wrong and what I can do to help it. So far, I've pulled off some of the dying leaves. I've pruned out the dead branches in hopes I can excise what ails it. In some areas of the plant, I see new growth. But larges swaths of the plant continue to shrivel and die.

Last year, the middle Ceanothus died. The plant was much smaller then so the drama of it's demise was not as dramatic. Eric and I thought maybe a gopher got last year's plant. We replaced that one, and it's thriving. I'm hoping we can save this one.

Tips and suggestions are welcome.


  1. I share your bewilderment. I have many varieties of Ceonothus on my property. Some have flourished and others mysteriosly die, almost overnight. Too much water? Not enough? I don't know. I have a dozen C. Joyce Coulters on a south facing slope that are huge and have given me no problems, just beautiful blooms. I have two C. gloriosus - "Anchor Bay" and two C hearstiorum on a south/east facing slope that have done beautifully since 2006 and 2007, while nearby I planted five C. gloriosus - "Emily Brown" and three died and the remaining two struggle. I also planted two C. griseus horizontalis - "Carmel Blue Creeper" that died just like the ones in your picture. I just planted two Yankee Points in place of the Blue Creepers -- hope they do differently! (My favorite of all the above is the Joyce Coulter.) I have no gophers so that is not the problem. If I had to guess, it would probably be too much water. As California natives, they probably shouldn't get any water during summer and fall, but I live in a high fire hazard area and need to keep my CalNats somewhat irrigated so when the big one blows in I am not without a house. Good luck. Sorry I don't have a definitive answer. I suggest you try different varieties and don't overwater.

  2. We have a variety of ceanothus as well, and the watering seems to have been the ticket to our success / failure. They are short lived if they receive too much water. Good luck.

  3. Sometimes you just don't know. Don't be afraid to take it out--er, replace it--with something that really likes your yard. Also, those rocks probably get really hot. Don't know, but if it's in full sun on hot rocks could be frying. I believe the tip off about over watering is if the plant is brown AND RUBBERY, then it's getting too much. If it just breaks off with a crisp snap, it's not overwatering.


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