Ceanothus is one of the most popular plant selections in California. Ceanothus are available in a wide variety of shrubs and groundcovers, most of which are native to California. Many produce copious “lilac” colored flowers in the spring, hence the popular name California Lilac. Watering needs depend on the variety: some withstand some garden water and thrive in summer heat, while others perform best near the coast. And remember, California native varieties of Ceanothus are adapted to thrive in the moderate, moist winters and dry summers of California’s Mediterranean climates; they do not need and are often damaged by the copious quantities of water typically supplied by most residential sprinkling systems.
These watering instructions are for Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’ and other varieties that thrive in warm to hot summers, but tolerate some summer water.
Ray Hartman is one of the more garden tolerant varieties of Ceanothus as it can tolerate heavy soils, limited summer watering, and the intense heat of interior areas of California. For the first year after planting, water Ray Hartman once per week, adjusting for periods of heavy or no rain. Do not allow the root ball to go completely dry. In the second and third years, water every 10 to 14 days. After the third year, water Ray Hartman once every 2 or 3 weeks in the summer. For established plants older than 3 years, water no more than once every 3 to 4 weeks from late spring through September. In a typical garden setting Ray Hartman can live 25 years or more if summer watering is kept to an absolute minimum.
In areas with heavy clay or poorly draining soil, it is critical to allow the soil to dry out between waterings, particularly in the summer. Water early in the morning or at dusk. Overwatering is generally the biggest problem for gardeners when growing Ceanothus. Too much supplemental watering in the summer can create warm wet soil and activate water molds and rots which in turn attack the roots of Ceanothus. Once overwatered, the leaves of Ceanothus may turn a dull green color and go limp. Once the conditions of dull green, limp leaves occur, the plant can die quickly. California natives do not generally recover from overwatering.
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