Arctostaphylos – Manzanita

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 evergreen 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.

Arctostaphylos make excellent container subjects as long as the plant is not subject to overwatering. Many varieties will live happily in pots for years and will eventually develop gnarled, bonsai-like characteristics. Water when dry and in early spring apply a handful of all organic fertilizer around the roots. Arctostaphylos have many, many wiry roots meant to extract nutrients from a wide zone. Remember this when containerizing them. Large species can fill a pot with roots in just a year or two. Again, this requires annual fertilizer applications to maintain good health. Also, the restricted roots in containers means that the plant will grow quite a bit more reservedly than when it can stretch out in the ground.

Pruning Arctostaphylos is very easy. To maintain a compact plant or to increase density simply tip prune new growth after it has emerged- after flowering has ended. Just tip off the few leaves at the end of each stem. For more radical pruning its important to understand that you can prune on current growth (with leaves) and it will resprout. Older wood without leaves (and probably peeling bark) will NOT sprout from dormant buds. There are none. This comes into play 3-4 years after establishment. Most pruning is done to eliminate dead or useless twigs around the base of the plant. To “lift it up” and expose the lovely peeling stems/trunk you can remove these branches at any time. This also importantly improves air circulation. Make these cuts carefully. Make a cut stand back and evaluate before you make another. The majority of specimens benefit from this treatment in the long run. Use sharp and powerful secateurs as the wood is very strong. To limit the size of a Manzanita see the first method. So- you can limited size and increase density by pruning into green (between leaves). If you prune leafless wood there will be NO re-sprouting from that wood. Its permanent.

Avoid amendments, mulch with bark, NOT COMPOST. Mud that splashes on lower leaves in winter/during irrigation can result in black spot (fungal disease) on the lowest leaves. Coarse bark mulch prevents mud splash as well as inhibiting weeds.  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

Arctostaphylos ‘Greensphere’

Very cool and tough Manzanita that is a true dwarf and therefore it is slow to get to market. We anticipate having more of this dense growing, cold hardy, disease-resistant  shrub. To 30″ x 30″ with great age forming a perfectly round sphere. New growth is bright red settling to blue green. Leaves are held densely on the stems. Full sun and good air circulation in average, well-drained soil. Excellent cold hardiness to near 0ºF. A natural for hellstrips or anywhere space is a premium. Pink flowers in late winter are showy and profuse. Mahogany glossy bark- in time. Very limited quantities. Probably available in autumn.

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Arctostaphylos ‘Monica’

She’s a big girl, but so pretty and adaptable and easy we love her. Soaring to 9′ tall and almost as wide the pretty, large, deep forest green foliage is particularly disease resistant. In late winter to early spring profuse clusters of pink flowers transform into russet berries (bird food). Fast growing shrub with amazing glossy mahogany stems and trunks. Full sun, well drained to average soil with no summer water. One of the most garden tolerant of the gigantic cultivars. Cold hardy to at least 5ºF. Spectacular turned into a small tree.

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Arctostaphylos auriculata ‘Diablo’s Blush’

Excellent garden-tolerant smaller Manzanita. New growth is blushed pink as are the winter flowers. Settling to soft gray, this dense rounded plant achieves about 3′ x 3′ in 7 years. The bark becomes reddish and shaggy with age. Full sun and very well drained soil with no supplemental water once established. Gray foliage is organized symmetrically around the thick stems.  This is a good scale for smaller gardens and a handsome shrub at all times. Provide good air circulation in an uncrowded environment. Long lived.

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Arctostaphylos bakeri ‘Louis Edmonds’

One of the most picturesque Manzanitas, this selection bears lovely gray-green leaves that are nearly circular, held perpendicular to the stems. The bark is one of the best of all species and selections, deep burgundy/purple and smooth. Pearl pink flowers that appear in late winter to spring transform into small russet red apple-shaped fruits. To 6’ tall and 4’ wide in 5 years. Requires well drained soil with little additional irrigation when established. Cold hardy. Good looking year round.

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Arctostaphylos canescens var. sonomensis

One of our very very favorite Manzanitas and one of the very rare ones in the wild. Occurs on two ridges in northern California- Horse Mountain was one of them and Greg’s dad just happened to have a cabin there. Low, dense, spreading, very gray shrub to 3′ x 5’wide in time. The bark is a great glossy mahogany and the winter flowers are white tinted pink. Spectacular shrub for full sun, average to poor, well-drained soil and absolutely no summer water. Neglect is its friend and you will reap great rewards with this beautiful shrub. Ultra cold hardy and recommended for cold gardens but with full sun and excellent air circulation.

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Arctostaphylos columbiana ‘Parkdale East’

This form of our native Hairy Manzanita was found quite far east of the Cascade crest and offers greater hardiness to cold. Unfortunately, it has the same characteristics of the species- it is unpredictable. To 4′ x 7′ with sage gray leaves and white to pink-tinted flowers in spring. Very well-drained soils in an open position with NO summer water when established. Dramatic smooth mahogany bark is an outstanding feature. This is the variety that is best suited to life in the Columbia River Gorge and possibly eastern Oregon. Best with total neglect and full sun. Russet berries follow the flowers into summer and autumn- always consumed by wildlife. Very limited quantities.   Oregon native plant.

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Arctostaphylos columbiana ‘Wolf Creek’

Our native Hairy Manzanita is one of the most widespread species in the PNW. Unfortunately, its not the most reliable and can be kind of hard to grow. It will grow happily for years and then suddenly decline. No explanation. Large-growing shrub with gray green leaves, the telltale hairy leaf petioles and white flowers in spring. Russet berries follow. Its best attribute is the smooth exfoliating mahogany bark. To 8′ x 8′ very quickly in average, well-drained soil. No summer water. Great air circulation and little intervention from the gardener. Wild areas, dry hillside. This form we selected from the southern Willamette Valley. Oregon native plant.

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Arctostaphylos hookeri ‘Wayside’

At the North Willamette Experimental Station in Wilsonville this special ground cover Manzanita has been consistently one of the best performers. Deep green pointed leaves are held perpendicular to the sun on cinnamon red stems. In time it forms glossy red bark that is very showy. Low and dense growing to 2′ tall and 6′ wide. Excellent bank cover or ground cover in any soil that is not amended or boggy. Profuse white flowers in spring. First rate weed suppressing plant for hellstrips, rock gardens, dry borders. Excellent appearance year round. No summer water.

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Arctostaphylos hookeri ‘White Lanterns’

Stellar small scale Manzanita that is a winner in gardens. Smaller leaves have a finer texture than most shrub types. Forms a symmetrical, dense dome to 3′ x 5′ in 5 years. Massive flower bloom as clusters of white flowers (tinted pink in cold weather) occur from every branch tip in January to March. Very showy russet/mahogany bark. One of the best performers in our climate and scaled well for smaller gardens. Great scale for Hell Strips, even large rock gardens. Little to no summer water. Full sun to very light shade in well drained to average soil. Excellent cold hardiness as well as resistance to black spot. As with all give it good air circulation. Adaptable.

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Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘St. Helena’

A tree type manzanita that has been a stellar performer in our gardens. Rapid growth to 10′ x 10′ in 8 years. Broad, rounded sage green foliage is held perpendicular to the cinnamon red stems to avoid moisture loss (no flat leaves baking in the sun). In winter to early spring, clusters of white flowers are effective and visited heavily by pollinators. Russet red berries follow but do not last long because of animal predation. Open habit with time that exposes the muscular, smooth mahogany trunks. (Its thought the bark exfoliates to deter moss and lichen growth). This is a very hardy drought adapted west coast native shrub to small tree for average, well drained soils and NO summer irrigation. Full sun and room to spread. Avoid rich, amended soils- leaner conditions produce a much hardier and longer-lived plant.

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Arctostaphylos nummularia ‘Select Form’

Stunning glossy perfectly round leaves line wiry stems on this dense, mounding, very happy low-growing Manzanita. New growth is tinted red and settles to bright green. To 2′ tall and 4′ wide creating a dense weed-suppressing dome of foliage. White flowers in spring. Very garden tolerant for full sun to very light shade. Moderately fast growing. Excellent candidate for hellstrips, hillsides, etc. Great performance at the Oregon Coast. Little to no summer water once established. Very very good looking plant. Easy to grow. Cold hardy to 5ºF.

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Arctostaphylos pajaroensis ‘Lester Roundtree’

Virtually the same as ‘Warren Roberts’ it is completely interchangeable with that cultivar. Why do we grow ‘Lester’? Aside from having amazing blue foliage and clusters of deep pink flowers from January to March we LOVE Lester Roundtree. She was an amazing, intrepid self-taught botanist who roamed California in the 1930’s in her simple pickup truck camping and botanizing throughout that state. Her seminal book ‘Flowering Shrubs of California’ is a must read for any gardener on the west coast. And its not just about plants- Check it out. This shrub is large in time to about 4′ tall by 8′ wide. The pink flowers born on the blue foliage is a sublime combination. Following bloom new spring growth is a fantastic red/ orange before settling to blue. Bark is a smooth mahogany with time and the trunks are sinuous and winding. This is an excellent shrub in our climate. Once established it requires absolutely no supplemental water- ever. Sailing through temps in the 100’s and bone dry with NO visible signs of stress. Our kind of shrub. It is cold hardy and completely climate adapted. Hell strips, dry borders, informal shrubberies. Mix with Ceanothus, Grevilleas, Halimiums. Very pretty year round.

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Arctostaphylos pajaroensis ‘Myrtle Wolf’

Not often seen in gardens this excellent winter blooming Manzanita has been a fantastic performer in PNW gardens. Upright growing shrub with blue foliage- new growth is dramatically tinted red. In January to March copious bright pink clusters of urn shaped flowers appear. Anna’s hummingbirds are not far behind. To  5′ x 5′ in 6 years in full sun and average, well drained soil. No summer water when established. Excellent winter blooming shrub that is always good looking.

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Arctostaphylos pajaroensis ‘Warren Roberts’

Big beautiful Manzanita that has thrived at our very cold wholesale nursery for almost 20 years and has never been harmed by weather. To 4′ tall and up to 8′ wide the new growth emerges a fiery orange red before settling down to a nice gray/blue. In late winter pink tinted urn shaped flowers decorate the whole shrub. The combination of the blue foliage and strongly pink flowers is magical in winter.  Well drained average to poor soil in full sun is ideal but it can get by with less than ideal conditions. Water to establish the first summer then none in subsequent years. Give Warren room- he’s greedy.

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Arctostaphylos rudis

This little known species of Manzanita from the central California coast has turned out to be a great garden plant. Nearly round leaves cling to the winding upward pointing stems. In a short amount of time it forms a rounded, spreading shrub to 3′ tall by 5′ wide (5 years). Late winter bring profuse white urn shaped flowers- seems not to form berries as frequently in our climate. Full sun and average, well drained soil with good air circulation. No summer water at all when established. This not only gives it the neglect it adores it increases hardiness to cold in winter. Avoid, exposure to subfreezing winds… not a Manzanita for Gresham or Troutdale but in milder parts a great landscape shrub. Group with other drought adapted shrubs. Handsome smaller scale shrub for hot sunny sites. Develops shredded cinnamon red bark with time.

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Arctostaphylos silvicola ‘Ghostly’

Ghostly white foliage is almost too pale to believed and ‘Ghostly’ is an apt name. A moderate growing Manzanita to 8’ tall and 4’ wide in 5  years. In late winter and early spring clusters of white urn shaped flowers appear at the branch tips and delight hummingbirds. There is no more silver/white foliaged Manzania that we have seen. Truly spectacular in well drained soil with good air circulation and little summer water once established. From a species native to the Santa Cruz Mtns. in California and surprisingly cold hardy.

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Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths’

This is probably one of the very best garden manzanitas in general. Large growing shrub with sage green foliage, copious, large clusters of pink flowers in winter, and the tell tale famous mahogany peeling bark. To 9′ x 7′ wide in 6 years, fast growing and well adapted to most well drained sites, including heavy clay soils on slopes. Little to no supplemental irrigation. Very resistant to black spot a leaf disease that can afflict Manzanitas. Specimen, or small garden tree. Good looking year round. Flowers appear in late December and are effective through February- not at all affected by cold. Anna’s hummingbirds are immediately in attendance. Provide a wide open exposed site with excellent air circulation. A wonderful garden shrub.

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Arctostaphylos x ‘John Dourley’

Exceptional low growing Manzanita with new growth emerging electric red and settling to a mature gray/blue. In late winter/early spring copious pale pink flowers appear- very pretty in concert with the vibrant new foliage and older blue leaves. To just 2′ tall by 6′ wide very shortly. Bark is cinnamon colored in time. Full sun and average well drained soil with great air circulation. Little to no summer irrigation. Extremely drought adapted hybrid that many consider to be one of the best. Excellent slope cover. Good appearance at all times.

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Arctostaphylos x ‘Pacific Mist’

Wonderful low spreading Manzanita that we have grown for more than 20 years. Silver/gray pointed leaves densely clothe the spreading stems of this adaptable shrub. In time the lax, decumbent stems point upward at the tips. In spring white flowers are a bonus. To 2′ tall and 6′ wide it may be employed as an informal ground cover. Full sun to light shade and well drained soil of average fertility. Little to no summer water when established. Nice looking plant year round. Excellent on slopes. Takes more shade than most cultivars. Excellent cold hardiness.

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Arctostaphylos x ‘Pajaro Hybrid’

Amazingly showy Manzanita that is a delight when new growth emerges stained in raspberry red before settling to a soft gray mauve mature tone. A dense and spreading shrub that always seems to be in growth and therefore never without the colorful foliage. From December to March a non-stop copious display of white tinted pink flowers, in concert with the foliage color its a knockout. To 4′ tall and 8′ wide in 7 years. Best in poor soil or native soil that has NOT been amended. Its an adaptable plant. Let it adapt. No summer water once established. Striking colorful shrub year round. Ground cover, hedges, focal points, blasting hot hellstrips. Anna’s hummers are invariably drawn to this showy winter bloomer. Easy.

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Arctostaphylos x ‘Sunset’

One of the very best landscape shrubs for western Oregon. Named for the 50th anniversary of Sunset Magazine way back in 1977- its an excellent, garden tolerant manzanita. Dense growth emerges orange/red before settling to a mature fashionable army green. The stems and leaf margins are outlined in fine white hairs- an elegant detail. In spring sporadic white flowers appear. Rounded dense shrub for full sun and average to poor soils, including the most compacted. This should be a basic landscape shrub in our climate- To 4′ x 6′ it covers the ground well. A perfect candidate for such places as frying hot circular planters in a sea of asphalt. This remarkable shrub will thrive and not flinch without a drop of supplemental irrigation- and it will still always look good. May be tip pruned to encourage density if required. The shredding cinnamon/brown bark is handsome with time but the foliage mostly obscures it. Excellent cold hardiness. A truly climate adapted shrub. A xera favorite shrub that we’ve grown for close to 20 years.

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Arctostaphylos x densiflora ‘Sentinel’

Consistently one of the very best performers in Western Oregon. ‘Sentinel’ accepts many soil types and aspects with superior cold hardiness as well as disease resistance. Fast growing rounded shrub to 7′ x 7′ in 4 years. Attractive sage green leaves are held perpendicular to the red stems to avoid moisture loss. The bark exfoliates to a smooth muscular deep mahogany with time. Excellent specimen or even informal hedge row. In late winter deep pink urn shaped flowers appear in clusters and turn to russet fruits consumed by birds. Little to no supplemental water ever. Easy to grow. Provide good air circulation.

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Arctostaphylos x densiflora ‘Harmony’

A handsome, easy, and adaptable Manzanita that is a great plant for beginning gardeners. Sharp tipped bright green rounded leaves clothe stems of smooth mahogany/orange. Fast growing evergreen to 7′ x 7′ in 7 years. Average, unimproved soil that has good drainage. Even adaptable to heavy clay soils if strictly unwatered in summer. Urn shaped pink flowers change to white upon opening and draw hummingbirds. The maroon berries that follow are gobbled by birds and seldom spend much time on the shrub. Full sun to light shade and little to NO summer water. Tip prune after blooming to limit size, encourage density. As with all Manzanita it abhors crowding and should be given excellent air circulation.

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Arctostaphylos x densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’

A FANTASTIC Manzanita ‘Howard’ forms an extremely handsome evergreen shrub to 7’ tall and as wide. Striking mahogany bark is smooth with dark glossy deep green leaves. Profuse clusters of pink urn-shaped flowers appear in late winter and change to white over a period of six weeks. Maroon berries follow in summer. One of the most adaptable to landscapes, takes irrigation better than others.  A fantastic performer in our climate. Excellent as a specimen, basic landscaping shrub, or even informal hedge.  Tip prune in summer to limit size and shape if required.

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Arctostaphylos x media ‘Martha Ewan’

We found Martha growing in the cemetery of the coastal town of Manzanita. It was bound to happen. This naturally occurring hybrid between Hairy Manzanita (Arctostaphylos columbiana) and the ground cover Kinnick Kinnick (Arctostaphylos uva ursi). Fantastic low growing evergreen shrub that is a superior ground cover. Dense growth clad in deep green leaves covers the ground on a 2′ x 6′ framework. White flowers in spring are followed by large red berries which are then consumed by wild life. Full sun to very light shade in most well drained soils. No summer water when established. Fast growing with little care. Amazing on slopes where it efficiently blocks weeds. Better, easier, and faster ground cover than Arctostaphylos  uva ursi. Oregon native plant.

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Arctostaphylos x media ‘Xera Pacific’

Our discovery of a naturally occurring hybrid Manzanita on the Oregon Coast. Low and spreading to 2′ tall and 5′ wide in 5 years. Light green paddle shaped leaves. White urn shaped flowers in spring. Bark exfoliates to mahogany and shredding with time. First rate dense weed smothering groudcover. Black spot resisitant. Full sun to part shade in average, well drained soil. No summer water- though it tolerates it better than most. Great Oregon native shrub. Cold hardy. Russet/red berries follow the flowers and are consumed by wildlife. Oregon native plant.

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