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Be careful when you prune Californian lilacs. They need shaping up but might refuse to produce new branches from old wood. Different rules for evergreen and deciduous ceanothus shrubs apply.
Also known as Californian lilacs, Ceanothus plants come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, allowing you to fill almost any garden gap imaginable. Like all flowering shrubs, Ceanothus need pruning to keep them in shape and to encourage healthy blooms year after year. However, whilst many plants are happy for you to go mad and cut off huge quantities, Ceanothus will often refuse to grow from old wood, so you have to be careful when you’re pruning.
Pruning evergreen ceanothus
If you want a bushy shape, pinch out the growing tips during the early spring because this will help develop a lot of side shoots. Dead branches should be pruned out entirely. These will appear as dark brown and leafless stems.
Late-summer-flowering Ceanothus often flowers twice; once in the spring, and then again in the summer. After spring flowering, cut back the stems by one third, and then remove a further half after plants have flowered in the summer.
Late-spring-flowering Ceanothus should be pruned immediately after flowering, with half of each branch removed. For bushier specimens, another light trim can be done at the end of the summer, but remember, don’t cut into old wood or you might accidently kill it.
Pruning deciduous ceanothus
If you want lots of flowers on your ceanothus, prune in April to generate strong new shoots which will develop lots of buds.
When you’re pruning, shorten stems that flowered the previous year by half. Meanwhile, prune back weak side shoots to two buds: this mean that only two healthy buds will remain on each branch below the cut.
Remove dead or diseased material and thin out congested branches in the middle of the plant. Fresh, young growth can be composted. Thick old and dead branches should be cut into smaller pieces first.