Water for Transplanted Ceanothus

Jer999May 9, 2013


I got 2 fairly large ceanothus from a local nursery (Pacific Northwest).

I understand Ceanothus are drought tolerant and generally don't like a lot of water. At the same time, I know that new trees/shrubs should be watered more than normal during their first few weeks to help them get established.

Are there any general rules for how much water I should be giving the Ceanothus? One in particular is looking a little weary (fading and dropping some leaves) and I'm trying to figure out if it's getting too much or not enough water. I've been using a slow drip hose for about an hour once a week. The dirt around the rootball feels quite dry. In an established Ceanothus I'd think this would be fine, but am wondering if I should try and keep the soil damp during these early days.


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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If the potting soil it came in has dried out that is no good at all. And all new (and old, really) plantings of long-lived plant types (as opposed to tomato plants etc.) should be kept protected from the sun with mulch.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 7:36PM
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In general, Ceanothus hate both once-a-week watering and drip irrigation. It sounds like it shouldn't matter, but it's much better to water with a hose (held in hand), a watering can, or a spray emitter (if you have one). This mimics natural rainfall much better. As one prominent native plant nursery owner described it to me, drip irrigation "waterboards" the plant. It cuts off the oxygen supply to the roots while watering. Over time, this diminishes the life expectancy of the plant. A Ceanothus on drip will typically live 2-4 years. One taken care of correctly will live 7-25 years in a garden.

Make sure that your Ceanothus is getting at least 5 hours of direct sun per day (more is generally better). When planting, you'll want to put down 2-3" of mulch (pine, fir, cedar, or oak bark) in a 4' radius and then give a heavy soaking (10-20 gallons, not using drip). Water around the perimeter of the root ball and try to avoid soaking the crown. Don't use any soil amendments or fertilizer. These will cause vigorous growth and premature death.

Ceanothus like to get water once a month or so during their first summer and, assuming you're mulching, they should be able to survive on natural rainfall afterwards. If you're in a really dry spring (like we are now), watering once a month in April or May during that first year is fine as well. If you're planting in the fall, you won't have to water until May or June after that first heavy watering.

If you haven't mulched yet, do that now and then water the mulch enough so that the first couple inches of soil below it are wet. Then I'd suggest letting it sit for a few weeks and seeing if the leaves improve. If not, and the root ball is still dry, you may just want to trash them at that point. As bboy pointed out, dry root balls are a bad sign. You *could* try to re-hydrate the root balls by soaking in a bucket of water for a couple of hours (drip on steroids!), but I'm not sure that a Ceanothus would have anything resembling a normal life after that. Ceanothus grow quickly, so purchasing a healthy young one won't set you back all that much.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 4:45PM
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Wow--thanks so much for the detailed advice. I did mulch when I first planted but not as much as you suggested. I'll add some more and give a thorough first water as you described.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 11:43PM
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