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California Native Plants

Growing Arctostaphylos (Manzanita)

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click here for A Guide to Arctostaphylos

Cultural History
In nature, manzanitas are found growing in almost any combination of soils, elevations, exposures and terrain.  So, they are very adaptable to a wide range of conditions.  If this genus wasn't so versatile, just knowing the wild origins of each species or hybrids, (as described in the table above), would suggest their basic cultural needs. For example, if a manzanita has its origins by the coast, clearly, it can safely be grown in similar conditions to that environment, i.e., in well-draining soils, in full sun in a moderate climate. In addition to knowing the a species' history, whenever possible, observe manzanitas in its native environment.  Notice a species' typical patterns;  where they occur on a slope, what soil types they tend to inhabit, what sun exposure they are most often found in, etc.  Be aware of what their general 'preferences' are, if you will.

Expanding beyond what the plant is already adapted to by experimenting with the breadth of its tolerances, is what makes gardening fun, a challenge, and to an extent, a mystery to be solved.  Based on our experience, we have listed, in the "Best Features" column, each species' additional tolerances to sun, soils, heat, smog, frost, in addition to aesthetic features.  For the most part, all manzanitas are remarkably accepting of hostile conditions--all soil types, very hot sun, smog, as well as freezing temperatures. However, remember that the more variables, that a plant is subject to, the more difficult a time it may have surviving. It may become weakened, and susceptible to pathenogenic infestation, if it faces too many growth challenges.

'Location, Location, Location'
Finally, considering this information, scrutinize all the possible places to plant your mazanita.  Attempt to locate a microclimate in your cultivated landscape that ties together all these 'plant-preferences.'  Finding the right match between plant and planting-place will significantly increase the odds of success with your manzanita.

Planting and Establishing
While you can plant throughout the year, there are definitely more desirable times to plant than others.  At low elevations in southern California, the best time to plant is in the Fall to early Winter.  Native plants most actively grow during the moist season.  Being established at this time of year, the plant will have the greatest opportunity to grow its roots deep--crucial to its survival, and you can save on your water bill.  We won't tell you when to water.  With weather, soil, slope, exposure and all the other variables that affect a plant's requirement for water, we cannot tell you how often to water your plants.  However, our rule of thumb is to water your manzanita as the soil starts to dry.  Inspect the soil down a few inches to get a true idea of sub-surface moisture.  Moisture meters are an inexpensive and effective way to check out the amount of water in the soil.  

Ultimately, in about 3-5 years, your manzanitas, can become independent of your care.  But if, there is a drought year, you may have to give supplemental water to them.  At this time please  water with restraint and water during the cool part of the day, rather than when temperatures are excessive.  Watering during the hot season is a risky pursuit, as manzanitas are particularly vulnerable to the fungal organisms  rapidly reproducing at this time of year. 


--    Know each species' original, wild habitat.
--    Scrutinize microclimates in your landscape.
--    Match the plant to a microclimate or landscape conditions roughly similar to its original       habitat.
--    Don't indulge manzanitas with too much fertilizer or water, because they are adapted to poor soils and sunny, dry locations.  They will not do better with more of each!
--    Plant and establish them during the wet, cool season.
--    Water them when the sub-surface soil is on the dry side.
--    Establish them in this way through their second or third dry season.  But, if they need water over future dry seasons, by all means give it to them, in the cool of the day, not when the temperatures are scorching.

            If, your manzanita is to be planted in among existing garden plants:

--    Be certain they have compatible water requirements.
--     If existing plants receive regular irrigation, plant manzanitas on top of a mound or swale to increase water drainage.
--    Plant on the outskirts or high side of a sprinkler system.
--    Look for the over-watering warning signs: excessive yellowing and dropping leaves, or black leaf spots, and relocate manzanita if necessary.

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This page was last updated on 07/28/2004 03:24 PM