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Sad Ceanothus


By Gee19


This lovely little evergreen shrub has been a favourite of mine for a long time. I took a cutting from a friends garden and was thrilled when it took and grew into such a beautiful rounded bush. This photo was taken in the spring of 2008.

The previous year I noticed one section of the plant had completely died so I cut that part out. The rest of the plant seemed OK. But now the plant is in a very sorry state. At the end of last summer I cut off several other dead areas and the bush is now very small and very sad looking. I have tried to take new cuttings from the plant but none have taken.

There is some green still but the whole bush seems to be suffering from something. It has certainly gone downhill very quickly during the winter. It is about 10 years old and I am uncertain how to proceed.

Should I dig the whole plant out now or wait and see if it recovers? Nothing else nearby seems affected. I would be very grateful for any advice.

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I hope you can get an answer.
I'm leaving a comment so that I can follow the response from other members because I have several ceanothus bushes and would like to learn more about the care of them.

15 Mar, 2009


From an RHC article 'Trial of Ceanothus
Evergreen, May flowering 2004-2007
An Invited RHS Woody Plant Trial'
Ceanothus are generally short lived shrubs but can persist in a favoured position.
Have you tried semi-ripe cuttings? Do you think it would hang on until July/Aug for you to try again?
If all else fails look on it as a space for another gem in its place.

15 Mar, 2009


That makes me feel a lot better, Wagger! I wondered if it was something I had done, or not done. I'm not sure if it will hang on until later in the year. There are a few green branches - it wouldn't hurt to wait and see what happens later in the spring. It's worth a try.

15 Mar, 2009


Gee, that is nice you have framed your pictures. Looks very professional. Now to the plant. I don't know it, but are you sure nothing has been eating it? Is there nibbling damage? Go at night with a torch and see if you can find any bugs or grubs. Some are nocturnal only and burrow back into the ground in daytime. Then there are other reasons, like copper deficiency, manganese or whatever mineral. You really must take a sample of it to the local nursery for advice. And yes, the internet is a wonderful place for looking up problems on specific plants.
I found two for you with information. There are quite a few species of Ceanothus, each require different treatment. You first would have to find out which species you have. I read some only tolerate mild frost, others don't like heavy pruning, some are ground cover, others grow to 3m. So just find out exactly which is yours and look further. Good luck, it looks like a lovely plant.

16 Mar, 2009


Gee, I could have written this blog about my Ceanothus thyrsiflorus repens! Up to 2007 it was an absolute picture every spring - obviously elderly due to its size - 12' across and probably 8' high - and that's a prostrate Ceanothus???

Well one morning I looked across the garden and saw a gruesome sight. One half of it was brown all over. I did what you did - I sawed off the dead branches, fed it, and all seemed OK - for another year. Then last year some higher smaller branches went. I cut those off. The winter has killed a few smaller ones, so I am now left with possibly a third of the original one. I don't think it will last this year - but I do know that it is the age of the poor 'shrub' and that they are prone to dying suddenly.

I also know that I can't hold on to it by any means; feeding, spraying, etc would all be useless. It is just OLD!!! I have come to terms with it and when it has to come out - that will be a hUGE task! - well, it's an opportunity to grow something else...

16 Mar, 2009


Although not quite as large as yours Spritz, I had exactly the same experience as you. Seems that it is just they do well for a few years and then, just give up. Just like Wagger says.

16 Mar, 2009


Could some types of Ceanothus be longer-lived than others ? I wonder if any research has been done.

16 Mar, 2009


Ceanothus has a lifespan of 5-7 years although some may go on to 10 years if planted in a good position and in well drained soil. Looking at your photos the problem could be Verticillum Wilts to be sure I would say take a piece sealed in a plastic bag to your local garden centre to confirm if you don’t get any joy send me a PM

16 Mar, 2009


Thank you all for your help. I have had another close look at what is left of the plant. Every branch and shoot is affected and there is no new growth at all. There are no bugs etc visible and the only thing that has passed by underground is the manic mole but the main trunk of the plant is large so I don't think that can have caused any damage.

I think, like Spritz said, I will have to say a fond farewell and plan a replacement. I fancy a Mahonia for winter interest but nothing too large - suggestions on this would be appreciated too :)

16 Mar, 2009


My Ceanothus has lasted well over its allotted timespan, then - It was planted by our predecessors and could be anything up to 22 years old!

No, there's nothing untoward on mine either. It is just on its last legs - poor old thing I shall miss it. :-(

I'll have to ask for suggestions for a replacement, too. It has to drape over a drystone wall!

Gee - on the whole, Mahonias are shade shrubs. How much space have you got? My Viburnum tinus 'Variegatum' is absolutely beautiful - and it flowers for the sun.

16 Mar, 2009


I think your Viburnum is lovely, Spritz, I do like variegated plants but I think it will grow too big for my spot which is just in front of my bedroom window. Something that grows about 1 metre high/wide would be great. It is a sunny spot so probably not ideal for the Mahonia.

16 Mar, 2009


What about one of the pretty Hebes you can get? There's a dark-leaved one called 'Caledonia' which has proved to be completely hardy! Pale mauve flowers.

16 Mar, 2009


Sorry to hear about your Ceanothus. I hope you can save it. They have lovely coloured flowers. I've just bought a dwarf one. I once had one with pink flowers aswell.

17 Mar, 2009


I'm sorry about your Ceanothus. Still, if it will not survive you can try a Mexican Orange (also evergreen with white, fragrant little flowers which can sweeten your mornings)

21 Mar, 2009

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