bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) in NC piedmont

lecorbeau(7b)March 18, 2014

From the description in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens book of Native Alternatives to Invasive Species, bearberry seems to be exactly what I need for a slope in partial shade. The book says the hardiness range is 2 to 8, but in the description of native habitat range, it only goes south to Virginia.

Does anyone know if bearberry will grow in the North Carolina piedmont? I have clay, but I figured the slope would allow for drainage.



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Manzanitas are marginal in your area, as they are mostly native to summer-dry areas of the west (especially California). Some of the A. uva-ursi selections may work, though. I might try 'Massachusetts' which, as the name implies, is a selection from the northeast. 'Great Lakes', from the upper Midwest, would probably also be worth trying in NC. These two are *much* more tolerant of summer moisture than those native out here. All of the A. uva-ursi selections that I've seen are hardy to 0 F or lower.

It will probably not make it there in part shade, though. I strongly suggest planting it in a spot that gets full afternoon sun and no supplemental irrigation. Your summer rainfall and humidity are almost overwhelming, and the foliage and adjacent soil will need to dry out in between periods of rain. Clay is not optimal, but being on a slope would mitigate that. Plant it so that the crown is a good half inch above the soil line, so that you don't have water pooling around the crown. Most importantly, use a selection that grows east of the Rockies.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 9:30PM
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Thanks for the info. I'm afraid I wasn't very clear in my posting. It was Arctostaphylos uva-ursi that I was asking about.

My fear was not that it wouldn't be hardy enough, rather that it would be too warm here. The book I have says it is native as far south as Virginia, yet it says it lives in zones up to 8, so I wondered why it stopped at Virginia. It must be the heat and humidity combined, as you suggest.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 9:40PM
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There are many different forms of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Most are native to the Pacific coast. There are at least a couple native to the Rockies and some more east of there. They are all adapted to their native environments (e.g., the A. uva-ursi native to Anchorage is hardier than the A. uva-ursi native to Point Reyes, California). Thus, it is important that you grow a selection that can tolerate summer rainfall humidity, and this is why I suggested 'Massachusetts' and 'Great Lakes'. If you attempted to grow Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'San Bruno' (from the Central CA coast) in NC, it would contract root rot and die. And not just because of your climate, but also because it is adapted to utilizing mychorrizal fungi that are not present in your soil. (The forms of A. uva-ursi that grow in the eastern half of the country do not form strong associations with these symbiotic fungi.)

I am not sure why A. uva-ursi does not naturally grow south of Virginia, but that doesn't mean that it won't grow in North Carolina. (I grow eight different types of manzanita in my yard in Oregon, and seven of them are from 500 miles south or further in California.) The climates of VA and NC are similar. Unless there's a significant difference in the soil, my guess is that you could grow it. Heat would not likely be a problem, as manzanitas tend to thrive in it. Humidity and soil moisture would be your limiting factors.

If you use a selection from the eastern half of the country and can give it hot afternoon sun and no irrigation, I think it'd be worth a try.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 11:23PM
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Don't know anything about this plant BUT I have lived in S. VA and on NC piedmont and they are so similar in climate that I would not use geographic region as my sole criterion for growing it or not. I would definitely experiment!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 5:15PM
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Thanks to both of you. Now to find the plant.
Does anyone have any nursery suggestions for bearberry in the mid-atlantic?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 9:27PM
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I don't know about your local options, but Forestfarm sells both 'Massachusetts' and 'Great Lakes' via mail-order.

Here is a link that might be useful: Manzanitas sold by Forestfarm

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 12:32AM
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Thanks, OG!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 11:00PM
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Campanula UK Z8

All the bearberries are intolerant of lime so my alkaline soil is hopeless - shame as I love these (along with enkianthus, kalmia, rhodies and a host of other calcifuges).

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 5:08PM
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