Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Plant of the Week: Manzanita

I'm surprised when I discover that not every single person in this world likes Arctostaphylos.  Some people even hate it, as I'm learning when I send my plant lists to clients.  Now I'll be first to admit that there's some varieties that look a little too scrubby for my tastes, but on the other hand, there's ka-zillions to choose from.  
The variety pictured above is 'St. Helena' and will eventually grow into a small tree.  When I say eventually, I mean in close to forever.  They grow real slow.  But look how pretty she is!  It's amazing what a little aesthetic pruning will do to accentuate the dramatic curves of the tree.  Plus, the dark mahogany of the branches contrast so nicely with the blue-green leaves.  White flowers appear in winter and will give the hummingbirds something to do when nectar is scarce.  Flowers give way to berries, which will bring the birds.  Isn't it nice how that all works out? 

Soil:  Light clay will do quite nicely.  I've seen some varieties grow in absolute hardpan in the foothills.
Sun:  Full, please!
Plant:  Now, before the winter rains!  Although I planted mine at the worst possible time, (beginning of summer) they seem pretty happy.
Buy it:  The wholesalers seem to carry this variety (support your local nursery and ask them to order it for you), but there are so many to learn about, too!  Yerba Buena Nursery carries this species and many more.
Good for:  contrast in the garden, attracting wildlife, sculptural interest, winter flowers and spring berries


  1. I think manzanita is wonderful! Growing up I used to collect the berries on hiking trips and make the most awful-tasting juice out of them... I just don't think it works with the look I'm going for in my yard. :)

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  3. I love the contrast between the beautiful leaf color and the deep color of the trunks. Manzanitas bring back memories of growing up in CA for me.

  4. Manzanita is not hardy in Ontario, but we sell the sandblasted branches as decorations at the flower shop where I work. All the customers remark on it, as we have a big display of it for Christmas.

  5. Oh funny! I totally forgot that they were on your original plant list, Hannah! I agree- the look we're going for is a totally different direction.
    Manzanitas are gorgeous in floral displays! I see many that are painted white, but I prefer the natural crimson myself.

  6. I love manzanitas & am starting to spec them on client plant lists. I love the cultivar you have shown with her beautiful blue-green leaves.

  7. Hi Christine in California,

    We grow Arctostaphylos uva-ursi cultivars here in Alaska, but they are not nearly as dramatic and tall as the species you are growing. I agree with you that they can be a hard sell to some, but I find the shiny leaves, flowers, and berries are more than worth the effort to locate (a bit challenging up here anyway) and plant it. Gorgeous pic with the pebble mulch.

    Cheers from Christine in Alaska

  8. Lovely! It's interesting with the size of Manzanita, I bought some A. pajaroensis thinking they'd grow to 4 feet, but now I've heard they can grow to 4 meters! But very very slowly. Maybe 2 inches a year...

  9. So glad to see the Christines are represented in Alaska! I think the problem with manzanita is that it's so much improved by a little pruning, but most folks assume that since it's native that it shouldn't be touched once it's in the ground. Hence a scrubby mess!

    TM- I'm sure you have a few years (like 50) before it will become a problem! Sometimes I wish we used meters over here. So much easier!