PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

California Lilac ‘Victoria’ (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus)

This head-spinning, eye-popping brilliant blue shrub is called California Lilac. In the plant world, ‘blue’ is too frequently a wishful, aspirational term for many purple flowers. This one is true blue. It aspires only to out-do the sky in blueness.

California Lilac (not an actual lilac) wins the blue ribbon in the category of ‘Bee-pleasing Shrubs’. Blooming in May, the plant hums from many hundreds of honey bees and wild bees that visit for its nectar. Some people don’t want it because of allergy to bee stings or generalized bee fear. Trust us, the bees are so focused on gathering food from the blooms they won’t notice you. It’s a great opportunity to safely observe bee behavior closeup.

California Lilac is evergreen with small, glossy, dark green leaves. It is hardy to about 5 degrees F. In the Puget Sound area it can get 6-8 feet tall on its own. Pruning every two years will keep it as low as you like and will keep it densely branched and very floriferous. It makes a stunning screening hedge.

‘Victoria’ is the most common variety with deep sky blue bottlebrush blooms. A native PNW species called Red Stem Ceanothus blooms white on purplish reddish stems. We grow both of these.