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Arctostaphylos columbiana

Hairy Manzanita
Ericaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees

ARCTOSTAPHYLOS

Plants vary from creeping groundcovers 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. 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 groundcover 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 4–7 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. The form propagated and sold in northwestern nurseries is called ‘Oregon Hybrid’. Low-growing, compact shrub about 3 ft. tall and 5–7 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.

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