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Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt'

Cliff Schmidt's Island Ceanothus

This California native is a selection from Santa Cruz Island.  Cliff Schmidt has particularly large leaves compared to other ceanothus.  The foliage is dark glossy green.  The powder-blue flower clusters can reach 5" long.  Plants have an upright growth habit and can reach 15-20' tall and wide at maturity.

Natural habitat and range
Island ceanothus occurs naturally on Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands off the Santa Barbara, California coast.  It's also native to Guadalupe Island off the western coast of Mexico's Baja California.  In its native California habitat, Island ceanothus is comonly found in chaparral, woodlands and pine forests on rocky slopes and exposed ridges.

Cliff Schmidt is a selection of Island ceanothus made in Spring 1983 by David Fross, founder of Native Sons Nursery.  He found it growing on a rocky ridge in an open forest of Santa Cruz Island pine with an understory of Island manzanita (Arctostaphylos insularis).  It had darker flowers than other shrubs of the same species growing in the same area.

Growth habit, size, foliage and flowers
Cliff Schmidt has an upright growth habit.  At maturity, it can reach 15-20' tall with a large rounded canopy that can also reach 15-20' wide.

The broad leaves are bigger than most ceanothus and can be up to 2" long.  They're a handsome glossy medium green on the top side with a slightly felted paler underside.

The flower buds are pale blue with contrasting tiny rust-colored bracts.  The flowers open into large 5" long clusters of powder-blue 

Wildlife Interest
All ceanothus are good sources of pollen and nectar for honey bees and native bees.  They are also good sources of nectar for butterflies, many predatory and parasitoid insects and hummingbirds.

Along with many other ceanothus, Cliff Schmidt is a larval host plant for the following butterflies:

  • Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)
  • Echo Blue (Celastrina ladon echo)
  • Pacuvius Duskywing (Erynnis pacuvius)
  • California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)
  • Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon)
  • Hedgerow Hairstreak (Satyrium saepium)

Cliff Schmidt's Island Ceanothus Growing and Maintenance Tips

You shouldn't need to do much in the way of maintenance.  Occasional pruning to encourage the shape you'd like is all that's needed.


15-20 ft


15-20 ft

Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt' Characteristics


  • Evergreen
  • Fast-growing
  • California native
  • Fragrant flowers

Flower color

  • Blue / Purple / Lavender / Violet

Foliage color

  • Green / Blue-green

Growth habit (plant shape)

  • Upright


  • Morning sun
  • Sunny all day - Coast
  • Light or dappled shade

Season of interest (flowering)

  • Spring

Season of interest (foliage)

  • Year round

Your soil type

  • Clay
  • Loam
  • Clay-loam
  • Sandy loam

Water requirements

  • None - Low
  • None

Wildlife appeal

  • Attracts beneficial insects
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Attracts bees
  • Attracts birds
  • Attracts hummingbirds

Suggested uses

  • Espalier


  • California

Plants that work well with Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt'

Sunset manzanita Sunset manzanita (Arctostaphylos 'Sunset')
California glory flannel bush California glory flannel bush (Fremontodendron 'California Glory')
Winnifred Gilman's sage Winnifred Gilman's sage (Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman')