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A picture of a California Lilac

California Lilac

Ceanothus spp.

Also known as

Californian Lilac, Ceanothus, Wild Lilac, Soap Bush, Redroot

Photo by AlanGardenMaster (All rights reserved)

Full Sun
Easy care
Moderate watering


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size








5 years to reach maturity


  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has a strong fragrance

More images of California Lilac

A close up of some white Ceanothus Gloire de Versailles flowers
A photo of California Lilac
A close up of some green leaves of a Ceanothus plant with blue flowers in a garden
A close up of some green leaves of a Ceanothus plant with blue flowers in a garden
A close up of some green leaves of a Ceanothus plant with blue flowers in a garden

California Lilac Overview

Ceanothus is a genus with over 60 mostly evergreen shrub and small tree species. These beautiful plants are grown for their impressive display of tiny blue-purple, pink or white, occasionally fragrant flowers. The flowers appear spring, early summer or autumn, depending on which species you have. Ceanothus can be grown as free-standing trees or trained up against a wall, adding structure and colour to any garden. Their drought tolerance and low maintenance requirements make them a popular choice for Mediterranean-style or dry gardens. Many are commonly known by the name Californian Lilac, some plants in this genus go by the names California Lilac, Wild Lilac and Soap Bush. Ceanothus prefer a sunny sheltered spot with only a light annual prune. In exposed sites, Californian Lilacs can experience some frost damage so it is best to choose a deciduous cultivar that will not suffer as much. A member of the Rhamnaceae family, these plants are native to North America, where they grow in dry, hilly habitats, ranging from open forestland to coastal scrub. Although they are fast-growing, they can be short-lived.

Common problems with California Lilac

How to harvest California Lilac

Generally not harvested.

How to propagate California Lilac


Propagation through cuttings is considered moderately difficult. Semi-ripe cuttings may be taken from evergreen species from mid-summer through to autumn. Deciduous shrubs are better propagated from softwood cuttings, these may be taken from late spring through to mid-summer.


Ceanothus may be grown from seed, but they are difficult to germinate and many are unlikely to be true to type. To grow from seed, physical seed coat dormancy must be broken before successful germination. First, soak seeds in hot water for 24 hours, then cold stratify for up to 3 months. Following cold stratification, keep at 16-18 degrees Celsius and germination should occur within 3 months.

Special features of California Lilac

Attractive flowers

Hedge plant

Other uses of California Lilac

Grown for their small but densely clustered, mainly blue flowers. Attractive to bees.

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