Ceanothus americanus

Common Name New Jersey Tea, Wild Snowball
Family Rhamnaceae
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Dry woods and on gravelly banks[21, 43], often on sandstone or limestone bluffs[159].
Range Eastern N. America - Maine to Florida, west to Oklahoma and Minnesota.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Prostrate, Spreading or horizontal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Ceanothus americanus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)It can fix Nitrogen.

USDA hardiness zone : 4-9

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Ceanothus americanus New Jersey Tea, Wild Snowball

Ceanothus americanus New Jersey Tea, Wild Snowball


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Tea.

A refreshing and stimulating tea is made from the dried leaves, it is a good substitute for china tea though it does not contain caffeine[2, 21, 43, 46, 95, 159, 161, 183].The leaves are gathered when the plant is in full bloom and are dried in the shade[183].

Medicinal Uses

Antispasmodic;  Astringent;  Expectorant;  Haemostatic;  Hypotensive;  Sedative;  VD.

The roots and root bark of New Jersey tea was used extensively by the North American Indians to treat fevers and problems of the mucous membranes such as catarrh and sore throats[254]. Current day usage of the roots concentrates on their astringent, expectorant and antispasmodic actions and they are employed in the treatment of complaints such as asthma, bronchitis and coughs[254]. The roots and root-bark are antispasmodic, antisyphilitic, strongly astringent (they contain 8% tannin), expectorant, haemostatic and sedative[21, 222]. They have a stimulatory effect on the lymphatic system[238], whilst an alkaloid in the roots is mildly hypotensive[222]. The plant is used internally in the treatment of bronchial complaints including asthma and whooping cough, dysentery, sore throats, tonsillitis, haemorrhoids etc[4, 222, 238]. A decoction of the bark is used as a skin wash for cancer and venereal sores[213]. The powdered bark has been used to dust the sores[213]. The roots are unearthed and partially harvested in the autumn or spring when their red colour is at its deepest. They are dried for later use[238].

Other Uses

Dye;  Soap.

A green dye is obtained from the flowers[168]. A cinnamon-coloured dye is obtained from the whole plant[4]. A red dye is obtained from the root[95, 159]. The flowers are rich in saponins, when crushed and mixed with water they produce an excellent lather which is an effective and gentle soap[168, 169]. They can be used as a body wash (simply rub the wet blossoms over the body) or to clean clothes[K]. The flowers were much used by the North American Indians as a body wash, especially by the women in preparation for marriage, and they leave the skin smelling fragrantly of the flowers[K].

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Border, Erosion control, Ground cover, Hedge, Massing, Rock garden. Prefers a warm sunny position but tolerates light shade[11, 200]. Tolerates some lime, but will not succeed on shallow chalk[200]. Another report says that it dislikes alkaline soils, though succeeds in poor dry conditions[238]. Plants dislike root disturbance, they should be planted out into their permanent positions whilst still small[182]. Dislikes heavy pruning, it is best not to cut out any wood thicker than a pencil[182]. Any pruning is best carried out in the spring[219]. Fast growing, it flowers well when young, often in its second year from seed[11]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[200]. Some members of this genus have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms, these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200, 212]. Special Features:North American native, Naturalizing, Attracts butterflies, Attractive flowers or blooms.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 12 hours in warm water and then given 1 - 3 months stratification at 1°c[138, 200]. Germination usually takes place in 1 - 2 months at 20°c[138]. One report says that the seed is best given boiling water treatment, or heated in 4 times its volume of sand at 90 - 120°c for 4 - 5 minutes and then soaked in warm water for 12 hours before sowing it[214]. The seed exhibits considerable longevity, when stored for 15 years in an air-tight dry container at 1 - 5°c it has shown little deterioration in viability[214]. The seed is ejected from its capsule with some force when fully ripe, timing the collection of seed can be difficult because unless collected just prior to dehiscence the seed is difficult to extract and rarely germinates satisfactorily[214]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, taken at a node[200], July/August in a frame[11]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, 7 - 12 cm with a heel, October in a cold frame[78]. The roots are quite brittle and it is best to pot up the callused cuttings in spring, just before the roots break[78]. Good percentage.


Additional information for New Jersey Tea

 Belongs to the following Article

Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen is an essential element for plant growth. Certain plants have a useful ability to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere. This is often achieved through symbiotic relationship with fungi in the root zone. Being able access unlimited nitrogen allows these plants to grow quickly while also making some available to surrounding plants. The practical reality is that including nitrogen fixing plants of various shapes and sizes amongst other productive plantings improves overall health, vigour and fertility,