27 Feb


Manzanita, (Arctostaphylos), more than 40 species in California, from 2 in. to 20 ft., beautiful red to mahogany colored bark, white to pink urn shaped flowers, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, extremely drought tolerant, great foundation plant for dry gardens.

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.



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 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.



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