California Lilacs Revival

Credit: Flickr / TheMarmot

Q: I have four ‘California Lilacs’ that were completely covered in snow for about six weeks. They now look quite dead except for a couple of green branches at the bottom. I don’t remember them looking like this last year. When I scratch some of the lilac stems, there is green but the leaves are all brown and dried out. Nothing seems to be happening. Are my ‘California Lilacs’ a lost cause?

“California Lilac” (Ceanothus cv.) has definitely taken a beating this past winter. Some plants may be worse than others depending on several factors, e.g. location, age of plant, etc. Symptoms do vary widely.

I would suggest removing the the damaged leaves. Avoid cutting any of the branches since there appears to be some live tissue present (green under the bark). Remove branches only if they appear either dried or brittle otherwise leave it alone. These stem may re-leaf out again this season. Try to keep as much stem intact to provide whatever nourishment the plant will need to regrow new leaves.

I would also use a liquid transplant solution to help invigorate the root system. There should be enough fertilizer in the transplant solution to help in plant development. Mix the transplant solution as directed on the label. You can use transplant solution a few times without damaging the plant.

I would hope by the end of this summer the plant will have more viable leaves than what the plant currently has now.