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Arctostaphylos edmundsii ‘Carmel Sur’ (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)
Arctostaphylos edmundsii ‘Carmel Sur’ (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)

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Zone
Zones 6-9, 14-24
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Arctostaphylos edmundsii

Little Sur Manzanita
Ericaceae
Evergreen, Ground covers, Shrubs

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 edmundsii

A low-growing species from California’s coastal Monterey area. Several named selections are good groundcovers. ‘Carmel Sur’ grows quickly to 1–1 1/2 ft. tall and 4–6 ft. wide, with neat gray-green foliage and soft pink flowers (though it rarely blooms). It has exceptionally good form and tolerates summer watering. Hybrid ‘Greensphere’ grows very slowly into a dense, nearly perfect 4-ft. sphere, with dark green leaves and a long bloom period; ideal for containers. Slow-growing ‘Little Sur’ has a dense, flat habit (10 in. high and 5 ft. wide), with pointed leaves edged in red (bronze when new) and soft pink flowers. A. e. parvifolia ‘Bert Johnson’ has shiny, dark green leaves (new growth is rich bronze) and pale pink flowers in late winter or early spring; plants grow to 1–3 ft. tall and 4–6 ft. wide; takes a wide range of garden conditions. 

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