Mountain balm, snowbrush,  tobacco brush and var. laevigatus is the western Oregon form of this widespread aromatic evergreen species. Fast growing and not terribly long  lived this shrub has widely dispersed seed that germinates upon disturbance, especially fire. Large glossy aromatic foliage gives away its common names as it emits a sweet balsam some say tobacco fragrance. The heavily veined leaves are large and round and seem to be varnished with this sweet perfume.  Rapid growth to 12′ x 12′ in 10 years. The more fertile the soil the larger and shorter lived this pretty shrub will be. Give it average conditions and no supplemental summer water. In May to early June cones of frothy fragrant white flowers protrude from the glossy foliage. Black seeds follow and they are dispersed explosively as well as eaten by birds. These black seeds can remain dormant for generations until they wake. It is found locally in the northern Willamette valley especially around the Tonquin scablands a kolk remnant of the Bretz flood just south of Portland. Expect a lifespan of about 15 years, more with neglect. Blooms on wood from the previous season prune if needed after blooming in June. This is a large shrub and it will reach its ultimate size very quickly, Give it room. Ultra cold hardy to -5ºF on the west side of the Cascades. This fast growing shrub does not appreciate pot culture, plant from the smallest size possible  Oregon native plant.

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Ceanothus parryi

This is a fascinating shrub for several reasons. AKA Ladybush or Parry’s Ceanothus was first described in Oregon in the central Oregon Coast Range in 1982. The last shrub to be discovered in our state. What is more fascinating is that the next closest population of this Ceanothus begins in Sonoma County California – 500 miles to the south. This disjunct appearance of what was thought to be a California species only was a bit of a surprise. Located in the Preacher Creek drainage in the Siuslaw National Forest this formerly logged area holds several populations. A very wild looking shrub that is semi-deciduous to deciduous in our winters- the tiny leaves  (1/2″ long) attach to stems that are bright light green and in fact in the winter the whole shrub has the look of a rush or a broom. Known for its very large trusses of light blue to dark blue flowers each flower cluster can measure 1′ long. Our native form of C. parryi is light blue and covers itself in pollinator loving bloom in May. To 6′ x 6′ in average soil. Water to establish and then none in subsequent years. There is nothing formal about this plant, very wild and it mixes well with other native shrubs in full sun to very light shade. Very easy to grow- avoid overly enriched soil and too much irrigation or this big wild shrub will soar. Average soil with water for just the first summer leads to the best incremental growth and a plant that doesn’t get out of hand. In habitat in Oregon this shrub is associated with Douglas fir, Vine Maple, and Vaccinium.  In bloom this Ceanothus is literally swarmed by pollinators. Easy to grow very pretty native shrub. Blooms on wood from the previous year, prune if needed AFTER flowering has ended. Excellent see through shrub for hell strips. Oregon native plant.

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Ceanothus x ‘Julia Phelps’

Wonderful and extremely showy wild lilac that has shown superior performance in our area. Small deep green warty leaves are glossy and are the ideal back drop to the foaming cobalt blue flowers that erupt from red tinted buds in April. Fast growing  evergreen that is wider than tall. Typically 6′ tall and 8′ wide in 5 years.  This begs for its use on steep unwatered slopes or as a dramatic backdrop to a wildflower garden. Full sun to very light shade in average soil with water to establish then none in subsequent years. Loved by all pollinators and insects will  be rolling on the flowers to collect pollen.  Avoid direct exposure to subfreezing east wind. Very good in urban situations where it performs in poor soils, little irrigation and reflected heat. In colder gardens place near a south facing wall or at the top of a hill where cold air drains away. Blooms simultaneously with Pacifica Iris and they match each other well in cultural requirements. Remember Ceanothus do best in average unimproved soil. Rich soil can lead to prodigious growth and quite a bit less hardiness to cold. Wonderful cultivar. This and many cultivars will lose flower color with very heavy rain. It literally washes some of the blue color away. Ceanothus blossoms mixed with water will yield blue soap suds ( there are saponins in the flowers).

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Ceanothus cuneatus ssp. cuneatus ‘Mary’s Peak’

This is a different form of our locally native Buckbrush. We found this at approximately 2200′ on Mary’s Peak in the Coast Range in a forest that was comprised primarily of Douglas Fir  and Golden Chinquapin. This shorter shrub with smaller deep green leaves is most conspicuous in its slick gray stems. To 3′ tall by 4′ wide in 5 years. Full sun and average to poor soil. Blooms April to May with ivory colored panicles that cover the whole plant on old wood. The sweetly fragrant flowers are always buzzing  with pollinators. A true low water shrub that can easily get by on only what falls from the sky, once established. This is a cold hardy and locally  native evergreen shrub. Often it grows in an arching and then angular kind of way. This form is less upright. Red seedheads follow the flowers. This is a very well known and stable population in the wild that is regenerating nicely.  Extraordinarily tolerant of heat and drought. Traditionally this shrub follows disturbance and was widespread in the Willamette Valley often as a meadow component with Rosa nutkana and  Amelanchier,  Excellent with native clumping grasses, perennials, and annuals.  Oregon native plant.

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Ceanothus gloriosus ‘Anchor Bay’

A very good looking mounded, evergreen shrub that is best appreciated in milder gardens. In colder gardens provide a warm protected site. The small holly-like leaves are mat green and good looking year round. This moderately fast growing shrub at first spreads out and then with time mounds up. To 30″ tall by 4′ wide in 6 years. Dense growth suppresses weeds. In Apri/May for 3 weeks button shaped flower cluster are pale sky blue and appear on wood from the previous year. Prune, if needed after bloom has ended. This is seldom necessary. Consistent summer water for the first season then none in subsequent years. Excellent adaptation to the Oregon coast.  Cold hardy to 8º-10ºF briefly. Very good performance in hot sunny hell strips. Accepts part shade (at the expense of bloom) and poor soils. Somewhat formal in appearance it avoids the brush pile look with dense, closely layered leaves. Not as palatable to deer. Good appearance year round.

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Ceanothus x ‘Peg’s Pride’

Beautiful ground cover Ceanothus that bears dense sky blue flowers in a vivid carpet in April to May. To 2′ tall and mounding it stretches out to 8′ wide. The dense evergreen growth blocks weeds effectively. Very good on steep slopes. Loved by all pollinators and especially important to native bees. This is one of the cold hardier ground cover hybrids taking 5ºF with no issue. Excellent combined with Cistus and Halimiums. Fast growing to its ultimate size. Best in full sun but will tolerate light shade with sparser bloom. Regular water for the first season to establish then none in subsequent years. Supremely drought adapted. Very good at the Oregon coast and adaptable to sandy substrates.Mid green round leaves are semi gloss and handsome year round. Spectacular in bloom. Plant on 4′ centers for a large evergreen groundcover.

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Ceanothus sanguineus

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 it. 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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Ceanothus integerrimus

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. These frothy blue, to pink 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 sight of black tail deer breast height chomping away in extensive groves. Not a long lived shrub 10-15 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.

Photo Credit: Dii Mazuz, Bruce Hegna

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Ceanothus x ‘Xera Azul’

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. NOT FOR SALE 2023

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