top of page
  • Writer's pictureAdmin

Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn'

Go seriously local! This species of manzanita was originally introduced by our own Saratoga Horticulture Foundation way back in 1955, which is why I am pleased to see it growing at West Valley College. According to San Marcos Growers and other sources, Mills College Botany Professor, Howard McMinn, provided the original specimens to Saratoga Hort. for breeding. Today, this cultivar is more readily available than the non-cultivar species.

If designing with, planting, or caring for California native plants is intimidating, consider this manzanita. Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn' is a reliable evergreen shrub that can be easily introduced into the ornamental garden. California natives can have a bad rap for being particular about soil, water (or a preference for minimal water), or pruning, but this manzanita appears to tolerate much of what we can throw its way.

Tolerant of light shearing to shape or more detailed pruning, Howard will also manage supplemental irrigation...within reason. Manzanitas still prefer well draining soil and not sit in soggy soil, so adjacent to lawns can potentially be problematic. To be clear, clay soil is also tolerated, but for such conditions watering should be minimized. Used with other drought tolerant species, this lush, dense, manzanita looks its best with minimal pruning to retain its natural form. Over time, its smooth red-brown stems will become more pronounced and sculptural, lending itself to creative pruning and dramatic form. So, give it a go in your next project.

West Valley College Campus Location: Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn'

Cilker (south and west facades)

Lat: 37°15'54.80"N

Long: 122° 0'41.36"W



Botanical Name: Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn'

Arctostaphylos: Greek, arktos, for bear, and staphyle, for bunch of grapes...not to imply a bear eating grapes but that the species produces (bears) a lot of fruit. This cultivar, however, appears to produce little.

Densiflora: Profusely flowering, hence "dense."

Common Name: Vine hill manzanita

Family Name: Ericaceae

Origin: Native; Vine Hill area, Sonoma County

design considerations

Positioning: Background, slopes

Garden Themes: Native, Mediterranean/dry/xeriscaping, pollinator, bird

Uses: Informal and formal hedges, border, foundation, screen

identifying characteristics

Type: Evergreen shrub

Form: Mound

Texture: Medium

Size: 8' tall by 7' wide, and may become wider with age

Outstanding Feature(s): Flower, bark

Stem: Red-brown, smooth, exfoliating


  • Type: Simple

  • Arrangement: Alternate

  • Shape: Elliptic

  • Margin: Entire

  • Color: Medium green

  • Surface: Glabrous

Flower: Winter into spring. Pale pink, pendulous, urn shape

Fruit: Summer. Small, round, turning from green to red when ripe. May linger into winter if birds have not acquired it.

cultural requirements, tolerances & problems

Sunset Zones: 7-9, 14-21

USDA Zones: 6,7

Light: Sun to partial shade

WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Low


  • Texture: Sand, loam, clay, rocky

  • Moisture Retention: Intermittent dryness

  • pH: Highly alkaline to slightly acidic

Tolerances: Deer, variable supplemental irrigation, verticillium


  • Branch Strength: Strong

  • Insects: Aphids

  • Disease: Armillaria, sudden oak death, insect gall

citations & attributions

Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.

Breen, P. "Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn." College of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University, Corvallis. Accessed on January 24, 2022, from

Calscape. "Howard McMinn Manzanita." California Native Plant Society, Sacramento. Accessed on January 24, 2022, from'Howard-Mcminn'-(Howard-Mcminn-Manzanita).

Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.

Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on January 24, 2022, from


  • All photos by TELCS.

17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page