All manzanitas have very specific requirements and only grow in certain areas. It takes intense heat for the seeds to germinate, so manzanitas help restore areas afflicted by wild fires. This is a plant that needs sunlight and perfect drainage, and often grows at high elevations. California is home to more manzanitas than any other region. Hairy Manzanita (Arctostaphylos columbiana) is found in the largest quantities in Southwestern Oregon. It is highly prized for its red, peeling bark. Pruning usually is done to expose its beauty. Its other qualities are the urn-shaped flowers in the spring and the fruit loved by wildlife that appears in the summer.
Pruning Hairy Manzanita
Study the growth habit. Decide whether the form is attractive or needs to be shaped. Allowed to reach maturity, hairy manzanita will reach around five to six feet tall. It has a natural, free-form growth habit. Removing some of the smaller lower limbs will reveal the colorful bark. Decide early if this is how you want to shape it so that it can be gradually trained. Manzanita is not a shrub that will tolerate mistreatment, so prune with care.
Prune the shrub early. A young shrub will have some twig and foliage dieback over the winter. This can be trimmed carefully with garden shears in the spring. If any branches are growing in awkward directions, use pruners to remove them while the plant is young. To reshape a neglected mature specimen, do it in phases. Never remove more than 1/3 of the branches the first season. It is better to gradually restore a manzanita or you risk losing it.
Maintain the shape. Be diligent about keeping your manzanita trimmed. It is always better than hard pruning. Since the flowers appear in spring, wait until they are finished if you want to enjoy them. You also may want to wait until the fruit develops in the summer. For these reasons, fall may be the best time to trim your manzanita. To create a bushier shrub, you can pinch-prune new growth in the spring.