How and when to prune Ceanothus and Californian lilac


Ceanothus is a botanical genus of about 50–60 species of shrubs or small trees of the Rhamnaceae family. It is an evergreen shrub that reaches 6-8 meters high. The detail that popularized this bush is its abundant and scented blue flowers. It is a genus confined to North America, with its distribution center in California, but several species in the eastern US, Southeast of Canada, and arriving until the east of Guatemala. Californian species are known as Californian lilac, and it is one of the most popular species. In this article we will talk about pruning ceanothus in general, leaving applicable tips for pruning Californian lilac (how and when to prune), although we will also take the time to leave the best tips to take care of this beautiful plant.


If you read to the end you will learn the best techniques for proper pruning, the right time to trim and the tools to do it. The article has no waste, I assure you. 😉

Note: Please note that the advice given here is general, this blog is consulted from many countries in the world, with totally different characteristics, what not all tips will be adapted in the same way in all cases. Once you finish reading the article it will be necessary to analyze all the information and apply what you have learned in the best way. If you have any questions, remember that you can contact us to make your inquiries.

1. How to care your ceanothus


Let’s start by analyzing what measures you should take into account to keep your ceanothus healthy and strong. Among these cares, and how could it be otherwise, you will find the pruning of Ceanothus .

  • Soil: at this point it can be said that he prefers them well drained, with some sand, and can also add an organic mulch. It should be as chalky as possible.
  • Lighting: it develops in the best way in thriving well in places with good sun exposure or very light shade.
Ceanothus  flowers
Ceanothus flowers
  • Irrigation: it can perfectly withstand some days of drought, needing rather moderate watering, waiting for the earth to dry before returning to provide water.
  • Fertilization: does not require a large amount of subscriber, being enough with an annual subscriber, in spring or autumn, based on manure or compost.
  • Reproduction: Although they can be multiplied from seeds it is usually faster and more efficient through cuttings made in summer or autumn. Since the life of Ceanothus is quite short (from 7 to 10 years), it is advisable to plant new specimens when this period is over.
  • Pruning: carrying out regular and correct pruning is a key that many gardeners forget when caring for this shrub.

2. Tools needed to prune or trim ceanothus


As with any plant when pruning there are many tools that can be used. Each of them will be useful depending on the type of pruning, the selection of the correct tool will also be responsible for the success of the task.

  • Hand Pruning Shears: Stems up to half inch in diameter can be pruned with hand shears.
  • Lopping Shears: It is suitable to use on stems between half inch and 2 inches in diameter.
  • Pole Pruner: Pole pruners have a hooked blade above and a cutting blade beneath. The blades are on a 5- to 6-foot long pole and are operated by pulling on a long piece of cord.
  • Hedge Shears: Manual and power shears are available for trimming hedges. Manual shears have long, flat blades with relatively short handles and are good for small jobs. Electric shears are a good choice for larger hedges.
  • Saws: A number of pruning saws are available. These saws come with either curved or straight blades and of variable lengths and points. Curved blades that cut on the draw stroke are easy to use.

Keep in mind that you must disinfect all the tools before trimming your ceanothus. This will help prevent disease transmission, you will have to do it before you start pruning and every time you change plants.

2.1 Needed care of pruning tools

Try to perform the following care in your pruning tools to extend useful life.

  • Use the right tool for a job and avoid twisting or straining it.
  • Clean and oil tools regularly by wiping an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces.
  • Keep cutting edges sharp by regularly using an oilstone.
  • Wooden handles should be varnished or regularly treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking or splintering.

Keep in mind that if you extend the life of your tools you will not be doing anything other than saving money. 😉

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

3. How and when to prune ceanothus and Californian lilac


Before starting pruning it is very important that you are clear about what you are looking for with it. This can help you by asking the following questions:

  • Are you giving a pruning of formacio as a hedge? Against a wall? More like a tree?
  • Are you only interested in health and beauty in general?

Answering the above questions will help you determine what to do and when to do it.

On the other hand, and tending to help organize the concepts of pruning ceanothus, we must clarify that within this genus of shrubs there are evergreen and deciduous. For example, the case of Californian lilac is evergreen. We will divide the two ceanothus bushes into these two types to talk about their pruning.

3.1 Pruning Californian lilac (evergreen ceanothus)

We already divide the ceanothus between evergreen and deciduo, another point that will not help when pruning is definite when they bloom, in spring or at the end of summer? This will help us define the right time to prune our Californian lilac. Therefore, when it comes to maintenance pruning, it should be done shortly after the plant blooms (easy to remember, no?;)). This is because the plant begins the process of developing flowers next year.

As with most plants, training pruning, with which we will seek to promote a pleasant form of the bush, should begin when the plant is young. It is proven that attempts to correct the shape in adult bushes are often a total failure. Once the desired form is achieved, the subsequent pruning is very simple. It is enough that you look for the previous pruning cuts and make the cut at the height of the previous one.

Pruning ceanothus
Pruning ceanothus

For Californian lilac, you can consider pruning as little as possible. You really don’t have to do a lot of pruning and this bush will be fine. If you want to promote a denser appearance, you can only the new growth. This will encourage the plant to generate more bortations, which you should leave some time and emerge again. Do this several times until you get the density density in your Californian lilac.

Be careful when you are doing very severe pruning, trimming old and thick branches beyond the green area of ​​the bush, will probably leave you with ugly dead stumps. When you have too many old and woody branches you can go considering the elimination of it. Since this shrub does not support severe pruning seeking its renewal.

3.2 Pruning ceanothus deciduo

Like perennial ceanothus, deciduous should be pruned after flowering, but the big difference is that it benefits more from routine pruning.

In the first couple of years, you can routinely follow the next pruning year after year: trim the main stems approximately 1/2 of the outward-facing shoots and trim the side shoots to approximately 6 “or less. From that moment, no Be so clumsy, just go back to the frame you created.

Unlike evergreen trees, the deciduous ceanothus adapts perfectly to severe pruning, and can be radically renewed with pruning at ground level. This is a great advantage if what you are looking for is to start over with your ceanothus.

3.3 Ceanothus cleaning pruning

Regardless of whether your ceanothus is evergreen or deciduous, cleaning pruning should be carried out. It should eliminate any dead or damaged branch, also being a good opportunity to cut branches with a bad orientation.

This pruning will improve the health of a plant, limiting opportunities for pests and diseases and allowing your plant to be more beautiful.

4. Small Summary


In summary, it must be said that the right time to prune any ceanothus is after flowering.

Evergreen ceanothus (ex: Californian lilac) does not tolerate hard pruning, which requires gentle pruning to keep it in good condition. Deciduous ceanothus can be pruned hard (and often in the first two years). After that, you can prune them lightly or heavily.

Don’t olivedes cut dead and damaged branches whatever your ceanothus.

5. Pruning Ceanothus video


As is the custom of this blog we like to close the articles with a video material (in this case PumpkinBecki channel), where you can review more graphically and some concepts seen up to here. 😉

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

Well with this we are done with this article, I hope there are no doubts about how and when to prune your Ceanothus, especially if it is a Californian lilac. Otherwise do not hesitate to contact us. 🙂

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