May – Plant pairings for Ceanothus in Seattle and the PNW


Ceanothus with Euphorbia characais

I know many of the most glorious Ceanothus took a hit in the harsh Seattle winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 but I’ll still plant them because they stop me in my tracks every year with their radiant blue flowers.

Ceanothus with pine

Ceanothus with pine

Ceanothus pairs well with a variety of plants. The bottlebrush flowers contrast nicely with a host of leaf types. The smallest leaved cultivars are an excellent textural foil to larger leaved plants. When it is not in bloom the evergreen leaves of Ceanothus provides a dark green backdrop that can really showcase other plants. As for what colors go with such a vibrant blue-violet, that’s a personal choice. Yellow? Hot pink to match the buds? Orange? You pick.

Red twig dogwood backed by Ceanothus (right side)Ceanothus is drought tolerant and can’t handle a lot of irrigation. Plant them in sun and well-drained soil and don’t water them after the first year or two. Don’t shear them. For more on Ceanothus, check out one of my old Gardening Basic tips. Also note many ceanothus are large and wide, wide, wide 6-10′ x 6-10′ so plan accordingly because you really should keep pruning to a minimum.  Beware, the shrub hums with bees on a sunny day.

A couple of smaller Ceanothus are out there, although I don’t know their availability in local nurseries. Three to ask about are Ceanothus maritimus ‘Valley Violet’, 3’H x 3-4’W; Ceanothus x ‘Blue Sapphire’, 2-4’H x 4-6’W and Ceanothus x ‘Blue Jeans’, 4’H x 4’W. I’d err on the side of expecting all these to get wider than they say, just to be safe.


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