Ceanothus americanus, commonly called New Jersey tea, is a compact, dense, rounded shrub which typically grows 2-3' tall (less frequently to 4'). It occurs in prairies, glades, dry open woods and thickets. Cylindrical clusters (1-2" long) of tiny, fragrant, white flowers (1/8") appear on long stalks at the stem ends or upper leaf axils in late spring. Toothed, broad-ovate, medium to dark green leaves (to 4" long) are gray and hairy below. Young twigs are noticeably yellow and stand out in winter. Dried leaves were used as a tea substitute, albeit without caffeine, in American Revolutionary War times, hence the common name. Shrub borders or native plant gardens. Also effective as a shrubby ground cover for hard-to-grow areas such as dry rocky slopes and banks. Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in sandy loams or rocky soils with good drainage. Drought tolerant. Hardy in zones 4-8.
Growing Instructions for the New Jersey Tea
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year. The seeds have a hard seed coat that has to be treated, or scarified, in order for water to enter the seeds so that they can sprout. 1. Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat. The seeds can be sanded with sandpaper, a nail file or an emery board. 2. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. 3. Put the seeds in a ziplock bag. 4. Put the bag in the refrigerator and leave it there for 2-3 months. 5. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. 6. Sow the seeds on the soil. 7. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. 8. Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet. 9. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.