The ultimate shrub of the west
No other shrub is more symbolic of the Pacific Coast than Manzanita. From Baja to Canada one species or another is native from the coast to the mountains. Picturesque bark and familiar flowers make them great transitional shrubs from cultivated borders to wild areas. In the Pacific Northwest they are great echos for Madrones and are at home in a variety of landscapes.
Pink to white urn-shaped flowers appear for a long time in late winter to spring and followed by copious amounts of small shiny fruit. Manzanita is Spanish for little apple to which the fruit resemble. One reason they are such striking shrubs is that they hold their leaves perpendicular to the sun- an adaptation to avoid moisture loss. The myth that Manzanitas are difficult to cultivate most likely comes from the fact that they do not take well to regular summer irrigation. In a garden where summer watering is non-existent they are among the easiest and most handsome shrubs one can grow. They do best in acid soil on slopes with full sun and good air circulation. The best size to plant of a Manzanita is a 6″ or 1 gallon pot or a two gallon pot but no larger. The majority grow so incredibly fast that we find the smaller the better they establish. Large sizes are prone to wind rock which can afflict them if they do not develop a sufficient root system.
Avoid amendments, mulch with bark, NOT COMPOST. Newly planted Manzanitas can take weekly irrigation until they begin to grow in earnest- then taper off. Eventually, they are best with no water during the warm months and can handle the driest of years with no visible stress. Manzanitas bloom on wood from the previous year. They may be tip pruned to limit size and as they age they can be limbed up to reveal the striking bark. This also helps ensure good air circulation which they very much appreciate. All are evergreen (of course).
Climate Adapted Plants for Gardeners in the PNW