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Sugar bush is a large evergreen shrub with a dense foliage habit that commonly grows 10-15 ft. high and as wide. However, some long lived plants have developed into small trees with twisting trunks up to 35 ft. tall. Thick leaves are 1-3 in. long, deep glossy green and have a pointed apex. Attractive clusters of cream to pink colored flowers are showy in early spring and are followed by clusters of large flattened berries.

Sugar bush is native to the chaparral and sage scrub plant communities of California and is appreciated for its handsome foliage character and tolerance of summer drought. It is most often planted in native gardens and on slopes with adequate space to accommodate its potential size. It can also be clipped and maintained as a screen or background plant, as as it ages it can be pruned to reveal interesting trunk and bark character.

Water Needs

Sugar bush thrives in Inland Empire gardens with normal winter rains and monthly summer irrigation. 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; more moisture leads to a longer growing season and faster growth.

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, click here.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Mounding, Low-branching, Dense
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 8 ft. - 35 ft.
Width: 20 ft. - 25 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Medium green
Flower Color: Pink
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, Frost, Drought, Aridity, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Specimen, Slopes, Screening, Parks and open space, Foliage accent plant, California native, Background plant, Attracts butterflies, Hedge


Prune by heading back as much of the new-ish growth as desired and shape to encourage long-term nice form and branching pattern in May (1). Feel free to lightly prune outer branches if shaping is needed in early Fall, but try to reserve any more substantial pruning for late spring (1). Light pinching back over time will encourage denser form. It can even be turned into a formal hedge if desired. Pruning can be used to shape into a small tree or dense hedge. If hedging, remember to taper the hedge, narrower at the top, and wider at the base, so it gets good sunlight access to the entire plant (2). Hedged plants can be cut back two or three times per year. Although it is rare, some people have an allergic reaction to the sap, somewhat like a poison oak rash. Sometimes plants grow very slowly or not much at all after planting, but within a few years begin to grow more rapidly (3)



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