Ceanothus americanus, New Jersey Tea
New Jersey Tea is larval host to so many butterflies that it is ranked among the top 10 native shrubs for butterfly gardens. Related to the Ceanothus species of the Pacific Coast, where the family is referred to as “Wild lilac,” this eastern relative produces frothy panicles of creamy blooms all through the hottest and driest part of summer, making it a valuable nectar source for butterflies, bees, and beneficial insects. And because of its remarkable larval hospitality, it is an especially good addition to gardens designed to attract nesting birds with hungry young to feed.
New Jersey Tea is a deciduous shrub with narrowly oval, green leaves. It grows 2-3’ tall with similar width, and has a finely branched structure. Its leaves turn gently pale yellow in fall.
Although New Jersey Tea is quite adaptable and tough, it prefers acidic, well-drained soil and good sun. It tolerates rain and humidity well provided it has good drainage, and requires very little maintenance. It responds well to occasional hard pruning in winter to refresh the plant if ever necessary, and because of this can tolerate winter deer browse fairly well.