My cal. lilac is turning brownish. I have never had to water it during the
summer and it has always been very green a lovely all season long. This year
it is starting to turn a brownish color and looks like it has lost a lot of
leaves. Our neighbors sprinkler system has a leak and was leaking well over
a week before they turned it off. The didn't even know it was leaking, duh,
I had to go over and tell them. The neighbor still hasn't fixed their leak,
they just turn their sprinkler system on/off manually but have forgotten it
last week for 2 days. Our property got the run off from the leak right where
my lilac is. Would too much water cause this? Well it rebound?
Yes, it could very well be the problem. Calif. Lilac, Ceannothus
needs to have perfect drainage and dry soil in the summer. If it has
soaking wet for several days/weeks it has probably developed root rot.
If you can keep it dry from now on, it may recover, but maybe not.
Some cultivars and more tolerant of water than others, but that
like a lot of water for a long time............not good.
I hope it recovers; there is no blue like that of a ceanothus.
mleblanca's reply might be correct. However, two other issues should be
First of all, Ceanothus is generally not a long-lived shrub. Sunset
indicates 5-10 years is typical. It might be dying of old age.
Then there is the fact that we are having a record-breaking drought
affecting much of Caliofrnia. Although Ceanothus generally survives
quite well on only the moisture from winter rains, there was not enough
rain this past winter. Thus, some supplemental watering could have been
beneficial -- but in the winter, not now.
I am not in California, sorry for not mentioning that in my op, I am in
Oregon we have had below average rains but it did rain considerably during
the winter. The plant is about 8 or 9 years old but I have also read they
can live up to 25-30 years so not sure that is it.
TOTB: They are beautiful plants! When they bloom they are glorious! A huge
purple (our is purple) curtain of flowers (and bees the bush literally hums
with bees) Right now it is very sad looking and I am quite upset about it.
It is my favorite plant. They can grow very tall, ours is at least 9 feet
tall, maybe taller.
They sure look beautiful in the pictures I saw, lived near Santa Rosa
for a couple of years, and don't recall having seen one. I think it is
not a true lilac as I know them even though the blooms look similar,
those are so much more splendid than any lilac I know, including Beauty
of Moscow which I covet but have no room for, did a little googling and
hard to find zone info, but concluded the pretty ones do not grow in my
zone or anywhere near, the west and south. There is a plant in the
family that does, but it is not at all like those.
Glad to hear about the bees, means CCD must not be rampant in your
region. Now I'm glad when I see a honeybee around my flowers.
"California lilac" is not a true lilac. It's Ceanothus, which is native
to California and grows wild on the walls of Malibu Canyon near my home.
The flowers are either blue or white. As a California native,
Ceanothus needs well-draining soil that is not constantly moist.
True lilac is Syringa. It needs regular watering, which would kill
Ceanothus. It generally will not thrive in southern California because
it prefers a good winter chill. (Although Descanso Gardens have
developed mild-winter hybrids, those often fail to flower as profusely
or grow as vigorously as Syringa grown where snow is common in the
winter.) Syringa may have pink, magneta, yellow, white, purple, violet,
lavender, or blue flowers. 'Beauty of Moscow' is Syringa vulgaris
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
I rather guessed that from the name, and always forget ours are syringa.
They look a lot like them except for an explosion of blooms on the
Carlifornia ones we will never see on ours. If I saw a closeup, there
would probably be a difference in the blooms, leaves or both. Thanks,
just wanted to acknowledge your response.
They are indeed beautiful.
Concha is one of the older cultivers, grows to about 7-9 feet
taller. Concha is hardy to about 15 degrees.
For information re: Ceanothus, locate a copy of Sunset Western
Garden Book. Your library should have a copy. Sunset lists
32 species/cultivars of Ceanothus that are planted in gardens.
Some are low and spreading, some are tall and upright, some are
vase shaped. Average age ( as David R notes) is 5-10 years.
Ceanothus is in the Buckthorn Family.Rhamnaceae
All need excellent drainage. Coastal types can stand a little more
Another thing that Ceanothus does not like is to be pruned. Was this
plant pruned by anyone? Tips of small branches can be pruned, but not
larger branches. My friend had a tall, spectacular Concha planted on a
vacant lot next to his house, where it would not get summer water. It
was a beauty and in full bloom one summer. I drove past and a woman
had been cutting off the flowers; she had cut long stems/branches and
had a big bouquet. The plant was dead by winter.
(I still think it was the soaking your plant got; a sprinkle would
make any differnce, but not all that water)
This link says they grow for 25-30 years. There may be someone you can
consult through that site that could be of help to you.
Oh my, what a gorgeous thing. I suppose they don't grow in zone 5.
Maybe a small one would grow in a large pot like my plumbago.
If you click on the concha link (they say it isn't very tall so I don't
know why the huge, gorgeous photo), well, you can see the huge, gorgeous
photo. Never saw a lilac like that in my life.
Oh no! I absolutely adore this shrub, from its small evergreen leaves
to its tiny bloom of blue flowers. i have bought a few of these and
had to leave a couple of them behind due to moving. However, I have
just bought myself 2 new ones, but when I transplanted them most of
the leaves on the bottom of the shrubs turned brown and fell off. I
think this was because I forgot to water them before taking them out
of the pots and putting them in the ground. They have recovered now
though, although I did think i was going to lose them. These are
surprisingly sensitive plants. I also, think that if they are given
the opportunity to dry out, they just might recover. Fingers crossed
replying to tinytee, Pipper wrote:
Our Victoria California Lilac’s leaves turned brown just recently. It was
very windy and we had two feet of snow in February. Freezing temperatures in
February. We live in Washington near the border of Canada. It is about five
years old. We have enjoyed it so much. Any ideas about what we should do?
The California lilac is not a true lilac. Lilacs are in the genus
Syringa, and California lilacs are in the genus Ceanothus.
The entire genus Ceanothus is known to be short-lived, 5-10 years.
Thus, yours might have merely died of old age.
Given your climate, try a true lilac. They appreciate snow.
David E. Ross
Pharmaceutical companies claim their drug prices are
I see this stated many times, but I wonder if it is how most general
gardening information is disseminated - simply by repeating it without
checking the facts.
"Ceanothus is often said to be short lived, but that may be mostly in
garden that insist on drip irrigation, summer water and soil amendments.
California native plants are generally intolerant of all of these. In
their wild conditions Ceanothus plants have a natural life cycle of
10-15 years, with some even longer, though fire sometimes shortens that
"In general, if you water mature Ceanothus in the summer, they will
usually be short-lived. Best to choose a Ceanothus native to your
location, and stop direct watering after 1-2 years."
"Some ceanothus, for example ‘Centennial’, do seem to be short-lived,
but most of them seem to be quite long-lived shrubs, given the correct
"The myth of Ceanothus being short lived is primarily spread by
incompetent gardeners that insist on drip irrigation, summer water and
soil amendments. California native plants hate all three. Expect a 20-25
year life from your Ceanothus in most gardens. We have many Mountain
Lilacs in the ground here that still look good after thirty years."
That last one is particularly interesting, as it concerns personal
All the above were from just the first couple of pages of an internet
search on "Ceanothus" and "short-lived".
My guess is that this "fact", started when Ceanothus were introduced to
the UK, and they could not deal with our wet summer climate. It then
became known throughout the UK gardening world that they were
short-lived, and this even found its way back to the land they came from.
replying to Pipper, Dilly wrote:
Pipper, I also live just south of the Canada border in northwest Washington. I
have three Victoria California Lilacs that turned totally brown. Yes, we had
terrible weather in February too. However, these plants have done this before,
and then completely recovered! The last time was a couple years ago and I almost
dug them up they stayed brown so long. Same thing this year! Two of the three
are already starting to sprout out new green growth right out of the brown
brush. One is still all brown but I am not going to give up on it either! Wish I
could send you a picture! P.S., these plants are 30 years old and are hedges
that get pruned regularly, and they get watered every other day from the lawn
sprinklers starting this time of year through fall. They all get hit by the
northeaster dead-on, which was bad this year. Maybe it sends them into some kind
of dormancy, I don’t know.
replying to Dilly, Lee wrote:
This is Lee in England. I have a 25 year old tree and now and again it looks as
dead as a Dodo! But by the mirical of nature it just keeps coming back. Have a
little faith, just leave it alone with a light prune after flowering, (when it
does) and it may yet shine! Best of luck darling x
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