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Arctostaphylos

Manzanita
Ericaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs

Plants vary from creeping ground covers to treelike shrubs, but all have small, urn-shaped white or pink flowers, usually in late winter to early spring, followed by berrylike red or brown fruits that attract birds. (Fruits are noted in descriptions for species and varieties when they are particularly attractive.) Most are characterized by (and admired for) crooked branches with smooth red to purple bark.

Manzanitas require excellent drainage, but they can tolerate poor soil and in fact prefer rocky or sandy, acid soils to rich, heavy ones. To get quick coverage from low ground cover types, plant about 2 ft. apart, then mulch to suppress weeds and encourage rooting along stems. The first summer after planting any manzanita, water every 4 to 7 days, depending on the weather. Once established, plants in warm summer areas generally thrive on once-a-month watering in well-drained soil; in heavy soil and where summers are cool, they need less frequent irrigation.You may get away with watering just once or twice a summer.

Regular pruning is not required. To make plants denser and more uniformly compact, pinch new spring growth to force branching. On types with interesting branch structure, remove any limbs that detract from effect. Don’t cut into bare wood; plants won’t send out new growth.

Arctostaphylos columbiana

Tree-like species native to low coastal mountains, central California to British Columbia. Form propagated and sold in northwestern nurseries is called ‘Oregon Hybrid’. Low-growing, compact shrub about 3 ft. high and 5 to 7 ft. wide, with reddish brown bark and 3-in. gray-green leaves. White flowers, red-cheeked brownish fruit.Useful plant, tough enough for highway landscaping in western Oregon and Washington.

Arctostaphylos densiflora
Arctostaphylos densiflora

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Arctostaphylos densiflora

Native to Sonoma area, California. Generally low and spreading; outer branches take root when they touch soil. Selections such as 'Howard McMinn' and 'Harmony' can eventually grow 5 or 6 ft. tall and spread to 8 ft.; can even be trained as small trees. Slender, crooked main stems; smooth, reddish black bark. Small, glossy, light or dark green leaves. White or pink flowers. In bank planting, low types do best on east or northeast-facing slopes, in loose soil with good drainage.

Arctostaphylos edmundsii

Foot-tall species from coastal Monterey area, California. Several named selections are good ground covers, forming broad mats to about 12 ft. wide.

Arctostaphylos glauca

Native from California to BajaCalifornia. Spreading shrub to15 ft. tall, 20 ft. wide, with darkreddish brown bark and 3-in.,blue-gray leaves. Clusters ofpink to white flowers.

Arctostaphylos hookeri

Native to Monterey, California. Slowly forms a dense mound 1 1/2 to 4 ft. high, spreading 6 ft. or more. Small, glossy green leaves; white to pinkish flowers; shiny, bright red fruit; smooth, red-brown bark. Good on hillsides.

Arctostaphylos manzanita

Native to California's inner Coast Range and the Sierra Nevada foothills. Grows 6-20 ft. tall, 4-10 ft. wide. Picturesque branching habit, purplish-red bark. Small, shiny green, oval leaves. White to pink flowers come in drooping clusters. Fruit is white as it forms, matures to deep red.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

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Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Native from Northern California to Alaska and beyond. Plant is prostrate, spreading and rooting as it grows; eventually forms a mat 15 ft. wide. Small, glossy, leathery leaves are bright green, turning red or purplish in winter. White or pinkish flowers are followed by red fruits. Plants are slow to become established; mulch heavily between plants to suppress weeds until branches provide cover.

Arctostaphylos bakeri 'Louis Edmunds', photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters
Arctostaphylos bakeri 'Louis Edmunds', photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters

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'Louis Edmunds'

Selection of a species native to Sonoma area, California. Elegant,upright shrub to 5–6 ft.tall and wide, with dark mahogany bark and small gray-green leaves. Showy pink flowers precede bright red berries. Tolerates heat and drought but will take some garden watering.

'Pacific Mist'

The hybrid grows 2 1/2 ft. tall, at least 10 ft. wide, with spreading stems that turn upward near ends. Deep reddish brown bark, narrow gray-green leaves, sparse white bloom. Needs pinching to force branching, but eventually forms a good, dense ground cover.

'Sunset'

Natural hybrid between Arctostaphylos hookeri and Arctostaphylos pajaroensis. Foliage is coppery red when new, maturing to bright green. Mounding growth to 4 to 5 ft. tall, 4 to 6 ft. wide. Pinkish white flowers.

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