Arctostaphylos spp. is a genus of beautiful plants – with many different species, native California. They are often known for their picturesquely twisting branch structure and dark red to purple bark. Commonly known as manzanita, this evergreen plant is an excellent choice for the chaparral inspired, drought tolerant landscape.


Manzanita, which has many different varieties and forms (it has some 60 species with many more cultivars), ranges from ground hugging prostrate plants to small trees up to 20 feet tall. These plants are lacking from the common landscape, which is unfortunate because these California natives are beautiful and have low water, low maintenance requirements. Once it’s established (after around a year from planting time) it basically just wants to be left alone to grow into its gorgeous self.


The blooms of the white leaf manzanita



Landscape Planting – Arctostaphylos spp. Basics 


Botanical Name: Arctostaphylos spp.

Common Name: Manzanita, bearberries

Type: Evergreen, perennial, shrub to small tree

Native Range: California – coastal ranges to inland mountains

Size: prostrate to 20 feet tall, 2 to 10 feet wide depending on species

Bloom Time: Winter to spring

Bloom Color: White, green

Sun: Full sun to partial shade

Growth Rate: Slow

Water: New plantings need regular, deep water while becoming established in the landscape (often around one year). Once established, the irrigation can be turned off. Some species can tolerate once a month watering during the hot season, however this is often unnecessary, and potentially harmful depending on species type.

Maintenance: These plants should not be pruned unless absolutely necessary, such as the removal of dead, diseased, or broken branches. Manzanita is a slow grower, but it will often keep growing for up to 100 years.

Suggested Use: Specimen planning, informal hedges, bird and butterfly gardens



The fruit of the manzanita will attract local birds


For landscape planting, manzanita usually grows best in full sun areas, but some species can handle partial shade. Our landscape designers at Creative Concepts Landscape will be happy to look over your property and determine areas that are optimal for these types of plants.


These plants are also deer resistant, making them a great choice in the foothills where deer damage is more common.


Our designers can take a look at your property and see if manzanita’s needs can be met. We create a design plan for all of our consultations to determine what plants and needs match each individual property. Manzanita makes an excellent addition to water-wise gardens. Their gray green leaves and deep reddish bark look at home in chaparral themed landscapes, they can be incorporated into many different design types. Again, Creative Concepts Landscape will help to determine the best location on your property, or create the conditions to promote a healthy, beautiful garden.


Manzanita has very low water requirements, perfect for the drought tolerant garden. In the first year after planting, while your manzanita is establishing itself in the landscape, they will need irrigation systems or regular hand watering. Creative Concepts Landscape has installed many irrigation systems (drip and sprinkler), and we would be happy to take a look at your property to come up with a design that could meet manzanita’s needs. Once these plants are established (usually around one year after planting) the irrigation can be turned off completely. Some species might like deep supplemental water once a month during hot, dry periods, but many other species can be harmed by this. It is best to allow manzanita to grow deep roots (mostly by leaving the plant alone), so it will find a deep soil moisture source on its own.


Many of these plants also prefer well-draining soils, but some like clay soil. Most of the natural soil in Southern California is somewhat sandy, well-draining soil. Creative Concepts Landscape will determine what type would be best for your landscape.



Some manzanita varieties grow into small trees. Although slow growing, manzanita often live for many decades.


Pruning & Maintenance 


Manzanita is very low in maintenance needs. In many cases, providing supplemental water for these plants, while they are becoming established, is the highest maintenance requirement. Creative Concepts Landscape has been installing irrigation systems for over twenty years. We will be happy to schedule a consultation and come up with an irrigation system plan and install it. Creative Concepts landscape also repairs and refurbishes existing irrigation systems, so they are in optimal, efficient condition.


Outside of maintaining an irrigation system for manzanita while it is establishing, the plant should be left alone and allowed to grow into its natural form. Any pruning should be done sparingly and prudently, if at all. Manzanita does not respond well to severe pruning, and they should be giving enough space in the landscape to grow to their full form. The only pruning that should be done, sparingly, is to remove dead and broken branches.


Creative Concepts Landscape has options for maintenance schedules. Many of our clients have us maintain their property weekly or two times a month, however we also offer periodic cleanups. These cleanups range from four times a year, twice a year, and sometimes once a year. We will be happy to talk with you and determine a maintenance/cleanup schedule that fits your property needs.


Manzanitas can grow in many different environments. Some species can act as a beautiful, long lasting ground cover plant 


Landscape Uses 


For landscape planting, manzanita grows well in a variety of locations and is useful as an eye-catching specimen plant or informal hedge (do not shear manzanita into any forms other than its natural shape). Creative Concepts Landscape gets many requests for water-wise (drought tolerant) garden installations, of which ceanothus can be a beautiful addition. Our team of designers and technicians has decades of experience designing and installing gardens.


Manzanita is known for its lovely branching structure and gorgeous red to purple bark. It also attracts beneficial pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.


Creative Concepts Landscape creates a landscape plan and design for your specific property characteristics along with your wants. Our highly experienced designers will be able to see what plant types and layout will complement your landscape’s existing features to come up with a planting design plan.


Manzanita are known for their beautiful red bark and dramatic branching habit.



Thank you for joining us again in this week’s horticultural adventures. Please come back next Wednesday for out next blog post, and as always, contact us for all your landscape needs!


By Daniel Williams

Client Liaison for Creative Concepts Landscape