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TREES & plants

New Jersey tea

Flowers of New Jersey tea.

During June and July this low-growing, rounded shrub is a cloud of white flowers; use it in masses for best affect, as a tall ground cover, or on steep slopes.  While the flowers are remarkable on their own, New Jersey tea is a nectar source and a caterpillar and larva host, attracting an array of beautiful butterflies.

 "This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."   

Botanical name: 
Ceanothus americanus
All Common Names: 
New Jersey tea, wild snowbell, redroot
Family (English): 
Buckthorn
Family (Botanic): 
Rhamnaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Perennial, 
  • Shrub
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen, 
  • Massing, 
  • Foundation, 
  • Mixed border
Size Range: 
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil, 
  • Sandy soil
Season of Interest: 
  • Early summer, 
  • Mid summer
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Mounded, 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow, 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

New Jersey tea in full flower.New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus)photo: John Hagstrom

Tree & Plant Care

A low-growing sub-shrub reaching 3 to 4 feet high and wide. 
Plants can die back in winter months but return next spring.
Best in Full sun to part shade in well-drained soil.
Drought tolerant once established.
Thick, deep roots make it an excellent choice for rocky hillsides and slopes.
Prune only in summer months.

Disease, pests and problems

Prone to root rot in wet soils and  canker disease.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Can tolerate wind.
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value:  6
Common in prairies, open woods, and savannahs.

Attracts birds & butterflies

Nectar source for butterflies and hummingbirds.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves;  2 to 3 inches, ovate, dark green with a toothed margin.
Fragrant foliage when crushed.
Fall color is yellowish.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Terminal clusters of cloud-like white flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A dry, triangular seed capsule.

Ceanothus americanus or New Jersey tea