Sacflower: characteristics and care

Sacflower: characteristics and care


The sacred flower, botanically Ceanothus, is also popularly called California lilac. Although it is not related to the lilac, this common name is at least a correct reference to its natural area of ​​origin: The buckthorn plant comes mainly from the American west coast, most of its 60 species from sunny California. However, some species are also found in eastern and southern parts of the USA or across the border with Mexico into northern South America.

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  • Is the sacflower poisonous?
  • Is the sacrum hardy?
  • Is the sack flower suitable as a hedge plant?

In their home areas, the sacrum colonizes dry, stony, calcareous habitats, mainly rocky forests and coastal areas. There it does not have to do with particularly strong frosts, which is why the plant is only partially hardy in our latitudes. The best-known variety in this country, 'Gloire de Versailles' of the hybrid species Ceanothus x delilianus, is usually a match for our winters.

Origin in brief:

  • Origin of most species California
  • Some species also distributed in the eastern USA and in Central and South America
  • Original habitat: stony, barren, calcareous forest and coastal areas
  • With us only partially hardy


The many species of the saccharose sometimes show quite different growth characteristics - in this regard, some can be confused with the lilac. The hybrid form most commonly found in this country, the French sack flower (Ceanothus delilianus), has some similarities with the lilac, apart from the flowers, in terms of habit. It grows as an upright shrub with loosely branched, slightly overhanging branches and is about 1.50 m high and wide. In very warm and sunny conditions, it can also reach a height of 2 m.

Some Ceanothus species also grow as low cushions only a few centimeters high and all the more intense in width, and are mainly used as ground cover in their home areas.

Overview of growth characteristics:

  • Sackflower usually grows as an upright shrub with loose branches
  • Species cultivated in this country are usually around 1.50 m high and wide
  • Some species also cover the ground in low cushions


The leaves of most Ceanothus species have opposite or alternate, oval-shaped leaves about 1-5 centimeters long. Their edges are sometimes whole, sometimes lightly sawn or notched. In some species, a crumpled surface texture is formed by a deeply sunken veining.

This is not the case with the French hybrid saccharose, here the leaves are more finely textured, pointed at the front and, with a length of up to 8 centimeters, also somewhat larger. They start alternately on the branches, have a rich, medium green color and are tomentose on the underside. They do not show autumn colors and can stay on the bush in mild winters, but are thrown off when it is cold.

Blade properties in brief:

  • Most species have rather small, oval, sometimes crinkly leaves
  • The hybrid species that is mostly cultivated here is somewhat larger, pointed and sensitive
  • Rich green color, no autumn color
  • Depending on the weather, summer green or winter green


With its paniculate, bushy inflorescences, which also appear in bluish to purple, sometimes white or pink colors, the sacred flower is actually clearly reminiscent of the lilac. The approximately 6-10 cm long panicles are at the ends of the young, annual and lateral shoots and branch out loosely. The individual flowers are only about 5 mm in size and five-fold.

The flowers also develop a pleasant fragrance, but not as characteristically sweet and intense as the lilac. Bees, bumblebees and butterflies love to fly over them in large numbers.

Flower characteristics at a glance:

  • Sham gold, 6-10 cm long panicle flowers in blue to violet, pink or white
  • Terminal or lateral, loosely branched
  • Slightly fragrant, valuable insect pasture

When is the flowering time?

The flowers of the sacrum flower open from July and can continue to drift into late autumn.

Which location is suitable?

According to its Californian homeland, the sacrum needs a warm, sunny location that is as protected from sharp winds as possible. So it shouldn't be too exposed, but best protected on a south-facing wall.

What soil does the plant need?

When it comes to planting ground, you should also orient yourself towards the origin of the sacrum. It prefers a rather poor, sandy, calcareous soil with a certain amount of clay. If the garden soil is heavy, you should definitely work in good drainage in the form of a layer of gravel and mix the soil thoroughly with sand. Otherwise there is a risk of too much wet, freezing cold on the root ball, especially in winter. A relatively high salt and mineral content is also good for the sackling, which likes to grow near the coast.

Earth claims in brief:

  • Rather poor, sandy and calcareous soil
  • Incorporate good drainage into heavy soils
  • Good: high salt and mineral content

What is the best time to plant?

It is best to plant a sac flower in spring. Because of their sensitivity to frost - which is even more pronounced in the young plant stage - it is advisable to wait even for the ice saints.


A pure hedge made of bag flowers can be a splendid sight in summer and autumn. It is also an effective privacy screen. When planting hedges, you should place the individual specimens relatively close to each other, about half a meter apart. Work good drainage into the soil and water the young plants well. Especially in the first winter, they need to be well protected from severe frost.

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Water the Saeckelblume

Sacred flowers do not need a lot of moisture - after all, their original habitat is also dry. As a rule, you do not need to water the shrub separately. Newly planted specimens should, however, be well watered and watered from time to time in the first few weeks. In the particularly long, hot dry phases in summer, watering naturally does no harm. Waterlogging must be avoided as much as possible.

Fertilize Saeckelblume properly

The nutrient requirement is also not high in the sacrum. You should therefore refrain from fertilizing, even giving organic long-term fertilizers such as compost or horn shavings (€ 6.39 at Amazon *) are not necessary.

Cut the saeckel flower correctly

In order to be able to enjoy a beautifully blooming and well-tended shrub, you should prune the sacrum every spring. To do this, wait for the last severe frosts. In order to promote a vital and shapely shoot, cut all last year's shoots by about half so that a few buds remain. In the case of young specimens, you can prune back a little harder.

During the flowering period from July to November, cut off faded panicles regularly to stimulate their regeneration.

Older specimens can also be rejuvenated a little more radically at intervals of about 3 years. This will prevent the shrub from looking bald and unkempt from the inside. When rejuvenating, cut old, lignified branches down to about 40 cm, always above an outward-facing eye.

Cutting rules at a glance:

  • Regular pruning in spring promotes abundance of flowers and full-bodied shrub shape
  • Shorten old shoots down to a few buds
  • Always cut off flowers that have faded during the flowering period
  • Prune older specimens more thoroughly every 3 years to rejuvenate

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Winter hardiness is such a thing with the sacrum. Actually, she doesn't know any noteworthy frosts from her homeland. The French hybrid form that we cultivate most often, a cross between the American and the Mexican sack flower, is considered winterproof. As a precaution, however, you should cover the root base of the plant with fir branches when it is very cold. In addition, the following applies to the planting: Choose a location protected from the wind and ensure that there is sufficient drainage in the planting base so that the root ball cannot freeze through.

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If you have neglected the measures for winter protection, the bag flower can freeze you to death. If the shrub shows no signs of life in spring and you suspect winter damage, don't give it up right away. Often there were still spirits in the plant, but they take a while to wake up.

In order to check the vitality of the sacrum and to revamp it, cut down the dead shoots thoroughly in spring. As soon as it gets significantly warmer and sunnier, you can give the plant a boost with a little growth fertilizer. If nothing happens in May and June, the shrub can unfortunately no longer be saved.

To note:

  • Do not give up the sacrum that has been thought frozen
  • Thoroughly cut down dead shoots in the spring
  • Give some (!) Growth fertilizer
  • Observe whether the shrub still sprouts until June

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Yellow leaves

If the leaves of the sacrum turn yellow, this is usually an indication of too much moisture or too much nutrient intake.

Since it is very sensitive to waterlogging, insufficient drainage in the substrate can be quickly acknowledged accordingly. When planting, make sure that the soil is well drained and water, if at all, only when the drought is prolonged. Put a sac flower in the tub protected from rain.

If you want to revitalize a sackling that was believed dead with fertilizer, you can do so - but be extremely economical! The little hungry plant cannot tolerate too much nutrients.

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Saeckelblume in the pot

You can also keep a sackling flower in a pot if you don't have a garden but only a balcony or terrace. With the bucket culture you have to pay attention to a moderate but regular water supply without waterlogging. In winter, the pot must be protected from the cold, ideally by wrapping it in sackcloth and covering the substrate with fir branches.

Propagate Saeckelblume

The best way to propagate a sackling is by using cuttings or sinkers. Seed cultivation is also possible in principle, but it is much more complex and it does not promise any true-to-variety new plants.


For the cuttings method it is best to cut a young side shoot that has not yet set in flowers in early summer. The cut base, which has been freed from the bark and the leaf roots, can be briefly dipped in rooting powder before you put it in planters with potting soil or cactus soil. It is best to keep the cuttings evenly moist under foil. The ambient temperature should be warm (a good 20 ° C), the light should be bright but not directly sunny. After about 4 weeks they should have rooted and can be transplanted into larger pots.

Cuttings propagation at a glance:

  • Cut young, not yet flowering side shoots in early summer
  • Debark and defoliate at the bottom
  • Dip in rooting powder and stick in potting soil
  • It is best to let it take root under foil at a good 20 ° C and without direct sunlight
  • Transplant after approx. 4 weeks


In the case of the sacrum, it is also quite easy to place lowerers. To do this, look for a previous year's shoot close to the ground and place it in the surrounding soil. Make a wound cut to the place that is to be rooted and fix it with a metal hook. In the following spring, the sinker should have rooted and can be separated from the mother plant.

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Is Saeckelblume poisonous?

Fortunately, the sacrum is not poisonous. It is therefore not a danger in the garden for small children or pets.

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The sack flower varieties sold in this country are usually varieties of the hybrid form from American and Mexican sack flower. Hybrids from other species are also occasionally available. The best known variety is the 'Gloire de Versailles'.

Ceanothus 'Gloire de Versailles'

This variety is characterized by its loose, slightly overhanging growth and of course its beautiful panicle flowers, which appear in light purple-blue from July. They delight with their delicate fragrance and their persistence - they can drift into November again and again. The bushy growing shrub reaches a height of about one to one and a half meters.

Ceanothus impressus 'Victoria'

This sack flower variety belongs to the species C. Impressus. It blooms profusely and a little earlier than the Gloire de Versailles, around the end of May to June, in a deep blue. Its dark green foliage is also evergreen, making the variety a good plant for low hedges. With a maximum of about one meter, it is not as high as the Gloire de Versailles. Their habit is just as bushy. The C. i. Victoria is characterized by a good winter hardiness and therefore does not threaten to freeze to death as quickly. A good choice for everyone who lives in regions that are not so mild.

Ceanothus pallidus 'Marie Simon'

With the Marie Simon of the species C. Pallidus, romantics get their money's worth: Because this variety adorns the garden from July to October with large, filigree flower panicles in a delicate old pink. Their growth is loose-bushy, like the Gloire de Versailles they reach about one to one and a half meters in height. Like them, however, Marie Simon is also less hardy and deciduous.

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