In the wild Manzanita, Arctostaphylos species, grace the slopes of Pacific North America from the deserts to the sea. In California alone there are over 80 naturally occurring species or varieties. The word Manzanita means "little apple" in Spanish in reference to the small green and red fruit which decorate this celebrated member of the heather family (Ericaceae).
Manzanitas are diverse in their habit, ranging from evergreen low-growing ground covers to shrubs and small multi-branched trees. Some common characteristics are the beautiful mahogany-red bark, especially noticeable in the new growth stage in late spring when the old bark falls off to reveal the glossy new outer bark that will take its place; downward hanging clusters of small urn-shaped waxy flowers that appear winter through early spring and are sometimes followed by small round berries; and thick, tough and hard green leaves.
While manzanitas are found in drought tolerant plant communities, these communities usually are in regions where the heat and dryness of summer are offset by moist, cool air. This is especially true of most of the species and cultivars grown for landscape purposes in California. Along the coast, manzanitas can be planted in full sun to partial shade. If used in inland gardens, they should be protected from extreme heat and long periods of intense direct sun and on the average are quite frost and cold tolerant, most down to at least 15 degrees F. Manzanita should be planted in well-drained soil as they do not like their roots sitting in water for any length of time bit they will tolerate a little more water around their roots in heavier soil if on a slope. Avoid overhead watering as leaf and root fungal problems can occur; also, do not plant in soils rich in organic matter. Once established most need only deep infrequent watering, more so in summer than during the rest of the year but let the soil go dry between waterings. Once planted, have patience as manzanitas are generally slow growers with growth occurring spring into summer.
Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn'
A medium-sized, evergreen mounding shrub to 7 feet tall by 10 feet wide (usually less in most gardens) with a densely-branched structure clothed in compact dark green leaves (3/4-1 inch long). The bark is dark brown. Intensely showy clusters of tiny white flowers, tinged with light pink, appear in late winter through spring. This manzanita is considered to be one of the most dependable and adaptable manzanitas. It is both useful and attractive in drought tolerant gardens; rock gardens; mixed with succulents and cacti; or as an informal hedge. Grow in full sun with well-drained soil. Drought tolerant. Hardy to about 15-20 degrees F.
Arctostaphylos 'Emerald Carpet'
A low-growing shrub to 12-18 inches high by 3-6 feet wide. Very compact and dense with small glossy deep green leaves. Light pink, inconspicuous flowers appear in mid-winter through spring. This manzanita grows best in a rich, slightly acid and loamy soil. Good as a ground cover or in containers; in a rock garden; along a border or a driveway; and on slopes mixed in with other California natives or plants from other Mediterranean -type climates. Hardy to about 15-20 degrees F.
Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley'
This very nice and dependable ground cover Manzanita has a mounding habit to 2 feet tall by 6 feet wide. Its foliage has appealing
red new growth that fades to gray-green in summer. The clusters of pink flowers are abundant over a long bloom season followed by purple-red fruit. Hardy to 5 F. Tree of Life Nursery Introduction.
Quoting Native Sons Nursery
"One of the best new cultivars available .. A dependable selection with year round interest".
Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Dr. Hurd'
Evergreen shrub. Full sun. Drought tolerant. A fairly quick-growing, tall manzanita to 12-15 feet tall and about as wide, with an open structure and dark red bark. Large, light green leaves lightly clothe the branches. Clusters of white flowers bloom in late winter. Because of its open structure and height, this shrub is an excellent choice in developing a focal point in drought tolerant gardens, rock gardens or in dry creek bed gardens. Hardy to about 15-20 degrees F.
Arctostaphylos 'Pacific Mist'
A low-growing, sprawling shrub with twisting branches that turn upwards at the ends, to 2 feet tall and 6-10 feet spread with pinkish juvenile stems that mature to a dark purplish brown, and narrow gray-green leaves. A. 'Pacific Mist' has inconspicuous white flowers that appear in late winter. This variety is a quicker grower than other manzanitas and one of the few manzanitas that can take dry shade. This manzanita is also more tolerant of heavy soils. Hardy to 15-20 degrees F.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Green Supreme'
Low-growing, dense and spreading evergreen groundcover 6 inches tall and up to 12 feet wide with glossy, bright green oblanceolate leaves and thin reddish branches and stems. White to pink flowers appear late spring to early summer - A. 'Green Supreme' does not set flower clusters as profusely as other varieties of manzanita. A major plus of this manzanita is that it has no center dieback. The juvenile structure is one of long, radiating runners; lateral branches are then sent out, eventually covering the area between the runners. It is drought resistant and grows well in clay soils. Does well in full sun. Hardy to about 15-20 degrees F.