Ceanothus - A Wonderful Flowering Shrub For Bees

Updated:  14th February 2021

Ceanothus - or 'California lilac' as it is also known, is a wonderful, evergreen flowering shrub. It's a popular shrub in gardens in North America and Europe. It can be grown as a low-growing creeper, a shrub or bush - check the growing habit of the variety.

Depending on the cultivar, this shrub can bloom from early spring through to summer.  I tend to favour those which flower early, because food for bees is still scarce early in the year.  You could try:

  • Ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithen Blue’; 
  • Ceanothus dentatus;
  • Ceanothus  impressus;
  • Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Skylark’ - this is sometimes known as Carmel Ceanothus.

Other cultivars bloom later in the season - i.e. from late summer until the early autumn.  You could try:

  • Ceanothus ‘Autumnal Blue’;
  • Ceanothus ‘Burkwoodii’.

Below, a beekeeper tells of his experience, and how he recommends Carmel Ceanothus (C. thyrsiflorus).

Choosing Bee Favorite Plantings:
By: Scott Mattoon,
San Francisco, CA, USA

a honey bee on blue and pinkish ceanothus flowers

Ceanothus is a striking ornamental shrub with long blooming flowers that honey bees love.  There are dozens of varieties that grow in a very wide range of geographies and climates, primarily in North America.  It's a drought resistance species that requires very little maintenance and can be trained into a small tree. 

I planted two different varieties in my backyard 12 years ago, and the bees take to them for many months out of the year.  The bright blue-indigo flowers of the Carmel Ceanothus are covered with many different types of bee species on sunny days from late February through June most years in Northern California. 

The honey I get from these bees, which most certainly consists of a lot of ceanothus nectar, is a favorite of honey connoisseurs.  For tips on planting see: http://www.easybloom.com/plantlibrary/plant/carmel-ceanothus

I can't recommend Ceanothus strongly enough for the beekeeper looking to beautify their yard with a fast growing shrub.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceanothus