A Great Addition to Your Drought Tolerant Garden
Arctostaphylos manzanita (or Common Manzanita) is an attractive, useful, and low maintenance plant to use in a drought tolerant garden. It’s species and cultivars range in size from large shrubs that can be planted as beautiful specimens or hedges up to 15′-20′ tall to ground covers that are 6″ tall and have a wide spread.
Manzanitas are native to North America and California as well as Central America and can be found growing from coastal bluffs to mountainous regions (below 10,000′). They are commonly found in chaparral areas, an ecological area made up of shrubby plants adapted to dry summers and wet winters. Other common chaparral plants are our native coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) and Ceaonothus species. Manzanita are in the Ericaceae family, along with Huckleberries (Vaccinium ovatum), Heathers (Erica species), and other plants that love acidic soil conditions.
Manzanitas are very popular in cultivation due to their clean-looking evergreen leaves and year-round interest. They produce clusters of beautiful pink or white bell flowers in the winter and spring, followed by their lovely, smooth peeling cinnamon-colored bark in late spring and early summer allowing the plant to expand and grow. At the same time, handsome orange-red berries appear. The word manzanita means ‘little apple’ in Spanish, and they do bear a great resemblance to this fruit. Another common name for Manzanita is ‘bearberry’ as bears love to feast on these tasty berries!
Arctostaphylos are drought-adapted. To aid in conserving water during a drought when planting drought tolerant plants, it is worth considering installing a drip irrigation system. Drip delivers the amount of water needed directly to the root zone. This helps to avoid water waste from run off and evaporation typically common when using spray irrigation or hand-watering. Further evaporation of water can be slowed by using 2-3″ of bark mulch spread over the soil to conserve soil moisture.
Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet,’ like other manzanitas, produces thick, erect, small, shiny leaves, which help them to conserve water. Because ‘Emerald Carpet’ is exceptionally suited to our climate and particularly our dry summers, it looks green and healthy year round. The new growth is an attractive lighter shade than their usual emerald color. This manzanita produces white flowers with a tinge of pink in the spring, followed by bright red ornamental berries. These plants also display the classic, attractive, red-brown bark, which makes the shrub stand out from other less-interesting broad-leaved evergreens. They can be trimmed by thinning out any browning stems that are shaded out on the underside of the shrub.
‘Emerald Carpet’ is a very useful groundcover or low-growing shrub, which will reach a height of 1′ tall and 3-5′ wide. This cultivar is ideal for use in native or low maintenance gardens. It is also a great addition to habitat and pollinator gardens, as its low growth offers protection for small birds, and animals and bees are attracted to their flowers. Many native animals, besides bears, will also feast on their fruit! Plant ‘Emerald Carpet’ cascading over retaining walls or as an edging in mixed borders. USDA Zones: 6-9.
Planting and Care for Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’
- Plant in full sun to part shade.
- Plant in soil with good drainage.
- Grow in acidic to neutral soils.
- Water regularly until established, then infrequently.
- Mulch around plants to conserve water and suppress weeds.