Most other specie of ceanothus are more colorful and tame than Ceanothus cuneatus is. It is known as ‘buckbrush’ because the abundant round trusses of minute flowers are typically dingy white instead of the more familiar shades of blue that have earned other ceanothus the common name of ‘California lilac’. However, a few wild plants and some garden varieties bloom blue.
Mature plants are at least six feet high and wide, but typically less than ten feet high and twelve feet wide. They are pleasantly fragrant as they bloom between March and April or May. Roots seem to tolerate almost any soil that drains well and does not get watered too much. Once established, no watering is needed. The scrubby evergreen foliage likes full sun exposure.
Although it is a bit unrefined, and does not want to be pruned for confinement, buckbrush works nicely as screening shrubbery on the perimeter of a landscaped area, or in unlandscaped areas. Newly installed small plants only need to be watered occasionally as they disperse their roots through their first year. Since they are native, established plants are satisfied with rainfall.
What ever happened to Point Reyes ceanothus? It is such a nice low growing shrub, with small holly-like leaves, and cheery blue flowers in very early spring. It was quite popular when it initially became available, but now seems to be rare. Maritime ceanothus, Ceanothus maritimus, from San Luis Obispo County, is a similar species that presently seems to be getting more attention.
‘Frosty Dawn’ is the standard cultivar of maritime ceanothus, although there may be at least three cultivars with the same name. The ‘correct’ cultivar gets about two feet tall and five feet wide, with rigid but arching stems, grayish half inch long leaves, and dense trusses of minute blue flowers as winter ends. Another cultivar gets taller with more open growth. Another has lighter blue flowers.
Once established, maritime ceanothus can probably survive without any watering, but it might be happier with occasional watering through summer. New plants will need to be watered until they disperse their roots. Compared to other ceanothus, maritime ceanothus grows relatively slowly, but lives longer. (Many ceanothus can be short-lived.) Also, it is a bit more tolerant of partial shade.