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New Jersey tea is a small shrub with ornamental, fragrant flowers. Benefits pollinators, drought tolerant.

New Jersey tea is a small shrub with ornamental, fragrant flowers. Benefits pollinators, drought tolerant.

Ceanothus americanus

New Jersey tea

Native to North America


FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Ceanothus americanus is an upright mounding shrubby perennial with fine textured gray-green leaves.  The foliage is serrate and reticulate with the veins marked by shallow grooves.  In summer, plants are adorned with many white rounded flower panicles.  The individual florets are about ¼” wide with 5 petals and a pleasing fragrance.  Pollinators flock to the blooms.  Plants thrive in sun and average to dry soil.

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  Ceanothus americanus occurs in Eastern North America.  Plants range from Ontario to Minnesota and down to Texas and east to Quebec, Maine and Florida. 

Plants are indigenous to mesic prairies, blackland prairies, savannas, limestone glades, open upland woods, clearings, woods edges, shores and barrens.   Plants require bright light and will decline in its absence.

Hardiness rating is from USDA Zones 4-10.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Ceanothus americanus is a small densely branched shrub anchored by a sturdy taproot.

Leaves are oblong with an attractive rough surface and a border of tiny teeth. 

Summer flower panicles are borne on terminal growth.  The attractive flowers are white and composed of many tiny fragrant florets.

The flowers transform into rose colored 3-lobed seed capsules. Mature capsules become dark brown and split ejecting their seed several feet.

Plants average 3’ tall with an equal spread.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDSCeanothus americanus grows best in full sun or light shade in well drained average to dry soil. 

Young plants expend a good bit of energy producing deep roots.  As a result they tend to get off to a slow start.  When roots are established, the upper half of the plant begins to flourish.

Tolerates drought, poor soils, alkaline soils and controlled burns.  Foliage is resistant to insects and but is browsed by deer and other mammels.

Excess shade or competition from neighboring plants can inhibit growth and cause decline.

LANDSCAPE USES:  This is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden, Prairie or Dry Meadow. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants, Butterfly Host Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting.   Ceanothus americanus has Showy Blooms, Fragrant Flowers and Attractive Fruit and can be used in Cottage Gardens, Low Maintenance Plantings and Perennial Borders  

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  Try pairing with Asclepias tuberosa, Echinacea purpurea, Rudbeckia hirta, Solidago speciosa, and Sorghastrum nutans.

Baptisia tinctoria has similar cultural needs and can be substituted if needed.

TRIVIA:  Bees, wasps, flies, beetles, hairstreak butterflies and other pollinators seek nectar and pollen from the flowers.  Caterpillars of several moths, azure butterflies and skippers feed on the foliage.  Mammals (elk, deer, rabbits and cattle), Wild Turkey and Bobwhite Quail graze on the plant.  Establishment can be tricky in some areas because the browsers love it to death.

This Buckthorn Family member is one of the few non-legumes that can fix nitrogen.  This gives the plant an edge especially in a disturbed site.

A tea made from the root (Red Root Tea) proved to be a viable substitute after expensive Indian Tea was dumped overboard during the Boston Tea Party.

Taproots are red and can become very large and muscular.  In the Midwest they have been known to break a plow.

Roots have be used medicinally as a blood thinner.



3 ft


3-5 ft


4-5 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone:


Bloom Color:


Ceanothus americanus Characteristics

Attracts Wildlife

  • Butterflies
  • Pollinators
  • Hummingbirds


  • Fragrant
  • East-Coast Native
  • Rain Garden
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Cut Flower
  • Naturalizing


  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Flowering Months

  • August
  • July
  • June

Foliage Color

  • Green

Growth Rate

  • Slow

Season of Interest (Foliage)

  • Summer
  • Spring

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist to Dry

Interesting Notes:

For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database:

Plants that work well with Ceanothus americanus ''

Purple stemmed aster Purple stemmed aster (Aster puniceus)
Spotted Joe pye weed Spotted Joe pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
Boneset Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
New York ironweed New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)
Golden Alexander's Golden Alexander's (Zizia aureus)
Soft rush Soft rush (Juncus effusus)
Beard tongue Beard tongue (Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red')

Substitutions for Ceanothus americanus

Buttonbush Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
shrubby St John's wort shrubby St John's wort (Hypericum prolificum)