New Jersey Tea Plant (Ceanothus americanus) Quick Facts:
Host plant to Azures and Duskywings
Nectar plant to Monarchs, Swallowtails, and many butterflies
Deciduous Perennial Shrub
Native to eastern North America
Hardy in USDA zones 4-9
Full to partial sun
Requires well draining soil
White flowers bloom in summer
3-5 feet tall
Space plants 2-3 feet apart
Helps with erosion control
New Jersey Tea–Totally Terrific!
This upright, well-behaved bush with its pleasing glossy leaves makes a graceful border for any garden bed when not in bloom. But in early spring or summer, it glamorizes the surroundings with generous globs of scented white flowers that give the appearance of fluffy snow mounded on the shrub. And just wait until you see the plant all aflutter with the beating blue wings of a bevy of Spring or Summer Azure butterflies!
New Jersey Tea serves as both a host and nectar plant for these diminutive beauties, as well as Gray Hairstreaks and Mottled and Dreamy Duskywings. Hummingbirds and a host of other pollinators love to sip from the long-lasting (four weeks or so) bloom clusters, and quail and wild turkey are among the avians who gobble the seeds.
The New Jersey Tea shrub is more than just a pretty place for pollinators to party, though. The vigorous red roots–rumored to be tough enough to break plow blades–form nodules that are nitrogen fixers for your soil. These same hardy roots make the plant a valuable tool in erosion control. If you have a rocky slope or a dry bank area that is slip-sliding away, this shrub is an excellent choice to help conserve the soil.
And Now, We Spill the Tea…
Beautiful. Fragrant. Native. Drought-tolerant. Host plant and nectar source for butterflies, New Jersey Tea can enhance your soil with nitrogen and keep it from washing away. It’s outstandingly adaptable to most conditions, but there are two requirements to keep in mind about the shrub:
*it must be planted in a well-drained site (look for it growing wild on gravelly slopes, sandy hills and rocky forests)
*the plant must be protected from snackers like deer and rabbits for at least the first year or two
WTN? (Why the Name?)
During the American Revolution, when imported tea was hard to come by, it was discovered that the crushed leaves of the bush made a pleasing, aromatic (although non-caffeinated) tea. Hence the name, New Jersey Tea.
You can make a beverage with New Jersey Tea leaves, or just make a border of this beautiful little bush, but you should definitely make a space for this pollinator-pleasing plant!