One of my Ceanothus shrubs had at times concerned me with its health. After winter's rains and some time before summer it would lose a large number of leaves. See http://bammorgan.blogspot.com/2009/06/ceanothus-problem.html It did this for two years - long enough to make me think that it was a normal seasonal adaptation. And then it expired late this summer.
So yesterday I prepared to dig it out, but when I pulled hard it became clear that I wouldn't have much work to do: One large root extended away from the shrub and ran 1 to 2" below the surface for several feet. Another, smaller root, extended in the opposite direction. A few more tertiary roots extended similarly and some hairy roots extended into original potting soil from the 1 gallon plant.
Here's the lower trunk and root system.
A little bit wider field of view with an area where I'm doing some brickwork at the top of the photo.
There's no smoking gun that I can see here for this particular with plant failure. The post winter leaf loss points to marginal drainage. The poorly developed root system led to dehydration in summer. I didn't see any evidence in the remains of the original root ball to tell me that it was damaged as it came from the nursery, but I can't exclude that possibility. Maybe I positioned the roots too far to the side when planting.
On the other hand, perhaps this Ceanothus 'Darkstar' has parents that grow in an area where the soils are shallow and my heavy soil exacerbated the tendency to grow shallowly. The parents are C. impressus x papillosus according to the Payne Foundation web site, neither of which seems likely to prefer shallow roots.
- Posted at great expense from my iPhone