Red Stem Ceanothus is a robust shrub that performs well in dry, disturbed sites where it improves the soil through nitrogen-fixation and is a magnet for pollinators. Bright green, deeply-veined oval leaves appear in spring, followed by fragrant tiny white flowers from late spring to midsummer that are coveted by butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. The reddish-purple stems are attractive in the winter.
- Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous perennial shrub
- Size at maturity: 3-10' tall, 10' wide
- Light requirements: full sun, part sun/part shade
- Moisture requirements: dry to moist soil, well-drained
- Bloom time: May - July (June in the Portland Metro area)
- Growth rate/ease: slow growth rate, moderately difficult to grow (requires specific conditions)
- Wildlife support: Provides cover for birds, small mammals, and insects that also consume large amounts of the seeds, while the foliage is favored by elk and deer, and rabbits. Larval host to the Spring Azure, Echo Blue, Pacuvius Duskywing, California Tortoiseshell, Pale Swallowtail, and Hedgerow Hairstreak butterflies - as well as a nectar source for adult butterflies, bees and other insect pollinators. It also attracts and supports beneficial, pest-eating insects and hummingbirds.
- Native habitat/range: Common in dry open sites and forest edges and recently burned areas on both sides of the Cascades and out toward the coast from Northern California to British Columbia. Portland Plant List - yes.
- Special features & uses: wildlife, pollinator, and hummingbird favorite, drought tolerant, nitrogen-fixer, hedgerows, bank stabilization, erosion control. Ethnobotanical/medicinally used in tea, as poultice for wounds, and as a dye for textiles. Also goes by the name “Soapbloom” because all parts of the plant contain saponin, and can be beaten with water to produce a lightly-fragrant, foamy soap that cleans the skin without removing oil and causing drying. ll not dry skin. Native peoples use the wood for smoking meat.
Gardening with Red Stem Ceanothus: Red stem ceanothus loves exposed, sunny sites with rocky, sharply drained soils. It does not grow well in clay soils. Like many other Ceanothus, it requires wildfire for reproduction and proliferation and actually improves soil through nitrogen fixation. Useful in hedge rows and for bank stabilization and erosion control.
Photo Credit 1: "File:Ceanothus sanguineus 4841.JPG" by Walter Siegmund (talk) is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo Credit 2: "File:Ceanothus sanguineus 1.jpg" by Thayne Tuason is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Photo Credit 3: "Ceanothus sanguineus - Baker River trail" by brewbooks is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0