The most widespread native Ceanothus in our region. Its known by two common names, red stem Ceanothus which is fairly self explanartory and Oregon tea. A large growing shrub to small tree with conspicuous sanguine stems clad in large mid green leaves, this completely deciduous shrub is not known for fall color making due with yellow and off green before abandoning the plant. Fast growing to 12′ tall in May-July depending on elevation frothy white, fragrant flowers loosely decorate this sparse plant. In full sun and with regular irrigation it achieves tree-like status quickly. In the shade it makes rounded twiggy plant that is much less graceful. A wonderful native for pollinators and birds. Pollinators relish the flowers and birds make off with the black and brown seeds. Very graceful when well grown and that means average soil and water to establish then none in subsequent years. Excellent bordering woods and thickets. Naturally occurring with Frangula (Rhamnus) purshiana and Rosa nutkatensis var. nutkatensis. Tolerates more summer water than most Ceanothus but none is necessary. Not deer resistant.  Native in the Portland city limits. Oregon native plant.

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Deerbrush is a widespread species in Oregon favoring areas with extensive summer drought. Its found primarily in the southern 1/3 of southwest Oregon  and the north central part of the state into southern Washington. A small population exists on Skinners Butte in Eugene.  Wide spreading semi-deciduous to deciduous shrub with young stems that remain green. Locally it is most common from about Dog mountain in the Gorge to the east and is extensive throughout Hood River and Wasco counties. This is an ideal shrub for revegetation areas, it naturally responds to fire, in fact the seeds must be exposed to boiling water to germinate. This species comes in a very wide range of colors. from clear white to deep blue and occasional shades of lilac pink. It may only be raised from seed so flower color is naturally variable. The plumes of flowers are large and airy displaying the color of the flower vividly. The most common flower color in Oregon is light blue. In late May and June a wonderful wildflower drive is up the Hood River Valley. This frothy blue to white flowers literally foam out from under native oaks and conifers. Its very conspicuous at that time too on the Rowena plateau. A word of warning not only does this shrub encourage deer browse it is also the unfortunate home of many deer ticks. Photograph carefully. Here it is found with such associates as Holodiscus, Toxicodendron, Symphoricarpos and Arctostaphylos.  This brushy plant derives its name from the familiar site of black tail deer breast height chomping away in extensive groves. Not a long lived shrub 7-10 years but it fixes nitrogen efficiently and improves the soil for successors. Full sun to very light shade, best on a dry slope. Water to establish then only what falls from the sky in subsequent years. Very hardy to cold enduring subzero temperatures. Beautiful pollinator heaven in bloom. To 3-7′ tall and as wide in several years. Oregon native plant.

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Very fortuitous, we planted 5 species/cvs of Ceanothus in our stock beds and they of course got a little frisky. We ended up with one stellar seedling that has impressed us so much that we showed it to Ceanothus Guru  Dave Fross of Native Sons Nursery and he was impressed. In its 3rd year its produced copious blooms that are about the darkest blue that I’ve seen. Only the cultivar ‘Kurt Zadnick’ has deeper tones but this plant displays them differently. Large fluffily black/blue trusses of flowers on a  lower and spreading plant. To 4′ tall by 6′ wide very fast. Glossy undulate leaves look nothing like their prospective parents. It has shown great cold hardiness as well as drought adaptation. Um…..we’ve never done anything to it. It hasn’t ever even had supplemental irrigation. So, extraordinarily climate adapted. Also, most Ceanothus seedlings require 3-4 years to commence bloom. This precocious little seedling bloomed its second year. All of this adds up to a great new cultivar. Full sun to very light shade and average soil. Water for the first season to establish then none in subsequent years. Blooms late March to late April and occasionally on new wood through summer. This would make a great bank cover with Cistus and Helianthemum, Eriogonums. So cool we named it Azul. The beginning of a GREAT Ceanothus.

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Ceanothus impressus 'Vandenburg'

Ceanothus impressus ‘Vandenburg’

Most Ceanothus are famous for their intense blue and profuse flowers, this interesting shrub has the typical masses of sky blue flowers which obscures the tiny warty foliage. To 5′ x 8′ and spreading wider than tall it becomes a cloud of blue in April and pollinators take notice.  Rolling in bees and every other awake pollinator a shrub in full bloom is a buzzing fountain of activity. Fast growing, wiry, dense shrub with extraordinarily dark green tiny leaves. This gives the shrub the distinct appearance of a cloud. Full sun  and average to poor soil including heavy clay soils that dry in summer. No summer water once established. Remarkably drought adapted west coast native shrub. Very easy to grow large, showy, shrub for wild areas, blasting hot urban hell scapes. Not totally deer resistant but better than most other species. Excellent performance at the Oregon coast. Endures sandy substrates and even a bit of salt wind. Attracts some of the first butterflies to emerge. Cold hardy to slightly below 10ºF for brief periods. Recovers from cold damage completely by bloom time.

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Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Umpqua Sky'

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Umpqua Sky’

A very large growing, vigorous and pretty tree type Ceanothus native to the extreme SW part of the state. This fast growing evergreen tree (3′-4′ per year) puts on a huge display of soft blue flowers in  late April to early June. Full sun to light shade (high overhead shade) and average soil that drains. Adaptable to clay soils, especially on slopes and not watered at all in summer. Completely drought adapted, no water necessary once established. To 18′ tall and half as wide in 7 years. Great screen, blue flowered tree that is beautiful in bloom but fades to a background for the rest of the year. Prodigious pruning can keep it much lower and it makes a great large hedge in no time. Good cold hardiness to 5ºF. We chose this variety in the wild because it was found quite a bit away from the coast which increases cold hardiness and it was immensely heavy in bloom.  Prune AFTER flowering if needed. As a hedge or smaller plant it only requires pruning once a year- especially if strictly unwatered. Extraordinarily heavy bloomer and the trusses of flowers are often divided into six or more sub-branches for a very full look in bloom. Pairs well with Madrone and Arctostaphylos.  Oregon native plant.

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Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Oregon Blue'

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Oregon Blue’

This form of Blueblossom we found on the southern Oregon coast in the far northern part of Curry County. There seems to be two forms of Ceanothus thyrsiflorus in Oregon. The immediate coastal species up to Lane county has broader leaves. Inland you find a much taller form with smaller juvenile leaves. An example of this is our large selection ‘Oregon Mist’. This is the standard broad leaved form  you find adjacent to the beach. Glossy rounded leaves are lustrous and deep green year round. In late April to early June an extended period of profuse sky blue flowers. Adored by pollinators and rolling in grateful bees.  A large native shrub with a rounded outline. To 8′ tall and possibly a little wider in AVERAGE soil in 5 years. Amended soil leads to prodigious growth and lack of hardiness.  Fast growing low water shrub for full sun to very light shade. This plant that we collected in the wild is actually very similar to the cultivar ‘Victoria’- the primary difference is earlier bloom by several weeks. And a slightly lighter blue flower. This is a good standard form of the beach species as found in our state. Its been cold hardy to 5ºF with good pest free foliage. Ceanothus fix nitrogen with their roots and improve the soil. Also, years of detritus from the shrub collects to form wonderful enriched soil as well. Average life span increases the less this plant is watered once established but expect 9-15 years. Durable shrub for urban to rural places. Extraordinarily drought adapted as well as tolerant of dry clay. Pretty and utilitarian. Available, autumn 2020. Oregon native plant.

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Ceanothus 'Victoria'

Ceanothus ‘Victoria’

This is one of the most popular shrubs in western Oregon of the last two decades. And rightfully so. This wild lilac sports excellent cold hardiness, prolific flowers, and glossy handsome evergreen foliage year round. A strong growing shrub that can literally explode in growth in rich soil but is much more restrained in poorer mediums. Remember this when planting it. It performs the best in average, un-amended soils in full sun with regular summer water for the first season to establish and then none in subsequent years. Sky blue flowers are profuse covering this dense shrub in a haze of color for 3-4 weeks in May to June. Later blooming that most other Ceanothus. This good looking shrub is so durable its made its way as  highway verge mass plantings but it is just as stellar of a garden plant as well. Cold hardy to about 5ºF- it survived -5ºF in the southern Willamette Valley in 2013 by freezing to the snow line and then vigorously re-sprouting. Durable, dependable Ceanothus. Avoid the summer heat + water that it abhors- it leaves it open to root water molds that can do it in and fairly quickly. Excellent shrub for the beginning gardener. Loved by pollinators of all kinds and is virtually rolling in bees during its fabulous bloom. NOT DEER RESISTANT. Most likely a hybrid with C. thyrsiflorus which must be responsible for at least half of its make up. Found in Victoria, Canada- hence the name. Likely it is the old cultivar ‘Skylark’ that was re-named upon its survival there of a hideous winter. The old name was forgotten and the glee of survival and discovery led to the renaming.  To be clear ‘Victoria’ and ‘Skylark’ are exactly the same thing. Very fast growing to on average 8′ x 8′. Excellent with all west coast natives. Blooms simultaneously with yellow Halimiums. A fantastic floral and cultural combination.

below photo credit: Jane Finch-Howell

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Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Rogue Sky'

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Rogue Sky’

A selection of Coast Blue Blossom or Ceanothus thyrsiflorus that we made very far inland from its natural range in SW Oregon. Typically relegated to the coastal strip we found this variety more than 35 miles inland. This improves cold hardiness. A rapidly growing shrub/tree to 16′ tall and 8′ wide in 7 years. Robin’s egg blue flowers smother the whole plant in May. Extremely drought tolerant this fast grower may be either used as a cool, evergreen, native, blue flowered tree or it may be pruned aggressively after blooming to limit the size- increase density create a screen or hedge. Loved by honey bees and all pollinators in general.  No summer water once established. Excellent background tree that delights in bloom but fades to a green screen the rest of the year. Plant with other drought tolerant plants- Arctostaphylos, Cistus, etc. Grows 3′-4′ per year when established. The flowers are a soothing blue- which is hard to capture in photographs. The effect in bloom is a blue cloud. Takes partial shade and the worst soils. Oregon native plant.

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Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus 'Kurt Zadnick'

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus ‘Kurt Zadnick’

What a surprise this very dark, dark, dark blue flowered Ceanothus has turned out to have excellent cold hardiness.  In our climate it is a low and spreading evergreen shrub with glossy leaves. To 3′ tall  by 6′ wide in 6 years. In April/May a profuse display of the darkest cobalt blue flowers mass over the whole plant. Its so dark that it can seem like shadows over the plant but closer inspection reveals the intensity of the color blue. Full sun to light shade in average soil. Tolerates clay soil as well as withering summer drought. Prune if needed lightly after blooming has ended. This is a great drought tolerant, heat tolerant low shrub for hell strips. No summer water please. Well scaled for hell strips, low massing or a higher ground cover for hillsides. Fast growing to its ultimate size.

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Ceanothus cuneatus 'Blue Sierra'

Ceanothus cuneatus ‘Blue Sierra’

For cold gardens this is an excellent cultivar and its a version of a species native to the Willamette Valley south into California. Small green wedge shaped evergreen leaves on an arching, somewhat angular shrub. In April and May clouds of soft violet blue flowers swarm the whole shrub. Beautiful. To 7′ x 7′ very quickly in poor to average well drained sites. No summer water once established. Handsome at all times. Excellently adapted to rough urban life where compacted soils, reflected heat and little water is present in summer- thrives in all those conditions. Full sun. Easy. Surveys by the California Chaparral Institute report that this is the most common component shrub of that community in both California and Oregon. Fixes nitrogen with its roots and is common following disturbance. Classic west coast shrub.  Excellent accompanied  by native bulbs and annuals. Beautiful with Pacific Coast Iris. Oregon native plant.

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