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Julia Phelps ceanothus is densely branched evergreen shrub that develops into a large mounded shape, 7-9 ft. tall, 10-12 ft. across. Tiny dark green leaves grow to 1/2 in. long and are heavily wrinkled. Numerous dark purple-blue flowers in 1 in. rounded clusters cover the plant for a showy display in mid spring.

Julia Phelps ceanothus is another of the large shrub-type ceanothus cultivars that grow well with other natives in drought tolerant gardens. Due to its large size, tiny foliage and stiff branching habit this plant is well suited for background, screen and slope planting purposes. This cultivar needs sun, well drained soils and careful summer watering when grown in residential gardens.

Water Needs

Julia Phelps ceanothus is quite sensitive to too much water, particularly during the summer. It is vulnerable to disease problems and sudden death when summer irrigation produces moist soil and leaf litter conditions during the summer months.

The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; it is desirable to have leaf litter and the top layer of soil beneath the canopy to dry out between irrigation applications.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Sprawling, Mounding
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 5 ft. - 8 ft.
Width: 6 ft. - 9 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Dark green
Flower Color: Purple, Blue
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, Drought, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Slopes, Flowering accent plant, California native, Background plant, Attracts butterflies


Prune by heading back as much of the new-ish growth as desired in April or May, after flowering. Further prune similarly if desired in November. New growth over the cool season will have time to develop flower buds for spring. Ceanothus are browsed by Deer. Think like you are a deer having a snack with your pruners. By mid-winter it is too late to prune or you will be removing the growth that would form the flower buds that will bloom in Spring (1). Not pruning immediately after flowers fade will result in branches with leaves, followed by stems with no leaves (where the flowers were) followed by leaves again. For dense shrubs, be sure to prune off the spent flower clusters. Ceanothus tend to die or not live long if given too much summer water. They are beautiful and very rewarding plants to grow, but not necessarily the easiest for new gardeners because of this (3). Older branches often do not react well to pruning, so it is better not to prune any branches greater than the diameter of a pencil (7).



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