Ceanothus: The Hybrids and Selections

Some cultivars are just selections of good plants found in the wild. Others are crosses that never would have occurred in nature, but happened because of proximity in a botanic garden or some other place where many Ceanothus were grown together. For example, ‘Concha’ is a cross between C. impressus, from Santa Barbara County and C. papillosus , from the Santa Ana Mountains. They never would have met on their own; it took the inadvertent matchmaking of a gardener.

‘Frosty Blue,’ ‘Blue Jeans,’ ‘Concha,’ and ‘Joyce Coulter’ will take clay soil and heavier watering, but those conditions may make them less drought tolerant and probably more short lived.

The people at your local native plant nursery sell cultivars they know will do well where you are. A regular nursery may carry plants with the same cultivar name, but you can’t count on them to be drought resistant, tough and long lived because typical nursery personnel are likely to have treated the natives the same way they treat everything else: Lots of water, food and forcing. You don’t want those plants.

Some cultivar names and apparent backgrounds:

  • ‘Blue Lolita’ – C. hearstiorium cross with ‘Joyce Coulter’
  • ‘Concha’ – C. impressus cross with C. papillosus
  • ‘Dark Star’ – C. impressus cross with C. papillosus
  • ‘Emily Brown’ – C. gloriosus exaltatus selection
  • ‘Joan Mirov’ – C. foliosus cross with C. griseus
  • ‘Julia Phelps’ – C. impressus cross with C. papillosus
  • ‘Kurt Zadnick’ – C. griseus horizontalis selection, darker
  • ‘Lavender Coast’ – C. ramulosus selection
  • ‘Louis Edmunds’ – C. griseus selection
  • ‘Mills Glory’ – C. purpureus selection
  • ‘Owlswood Blue’ – C. arboreus cross with C. griseus
  • ‘Point Reyes’ – C. thyrsiflorus repens selections
  • ‘Ray Hartman’ – C. arboreus cross with C. griseus
  • ‘Santa Ana’ – C. griseus horizontalis selection
  • ‘Sierra Blue’ – C. cyanus selection
  • ‘Skylark’ – C. thyrsifloris selection
  • ‘Snowball’ – C. rigidus selection
  • ‘Snow Flurry’ – C. thyrsiflorus selection
  • ‘Theodore Payne’ – C. arboreus cross with C. spinosus
  • ‘Yankee Point’ – C. griseus horizontalis selection

Selections are usually made for vivid flower color; later their other good qualities are identified. Many are equally able to handle more water than most and also do without water. Crosses are named and circulated in the trade because someone saw that they had horticultural advantages — often to do with lack of susceptibility to root rot.

Taken from Growing Native. Copyright 1991 by Louise Lacey. All rights reserved.