The Manzanita Leader: Chieftain Manzanita
Chieftain manzanitas (Arctostaphylos x coloradensis ‘Chieftain’) add a beautiful structural element to landscapes and introduce a more natural look to our man-made urban environments. Plant them around large pine trees, over retaining walls and as foundation plantings around homes and businesses.
This plant is truly the leader of all Plant Select® manzanitas. It grows to a mature height of around two feet tall. The green, rounded leaves last all year, including through the winter! This plant is believed to be a cross between the groundcover kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and the bushier growing Arctostaphylos nevadensis.
These shrubs prefer a well-drained soil, so be sure to amend the soil to increase drainage when planting this gem in the urban environment. A few handfuls of sand in an oversized planting hole will do for each two gallon container planted. Water them regularly for a few years (like you would other woody shrubs). As they establish, you will notice that the Chieftain requires reduced watering and even flourishes in low water conditions. Be prepared to exercise your patience for a few years. Once it’s established, it can expand and thrive. (Even manzanita growers needed patience to bring mass quantities of this plant to market. Decoding consistent propagation techniques took some time!)
Plant maintenance is minimal to none. Prune the occasional branch for the simple reason of redirecting growth. For those who are meticulous about garden cleanliness, the mature height of 2 plus feet make this broadleaf evergreen easy to clean out using a small blower.
Chieftain is a texture plant. You’ll appreciate its other characteristics when you get up close and personal with it. For example, the smooth reddish-caramel bark and petite pink flowers that emerge in April will tantalize your taste for these plants all year.
Chieftain manzanita (Arctostaphylos x coloradensis ‘Chieftain’ )
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Water: Moderate to xeric, once established
Hardiness: USDA zones 5-8
Culture: Well-drained loam or sandy soil
Thanks to Ross Shrigley for writing this piece.