With its dense crown of curiously gnarled branches, Greenleaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula) evokes visions of the Great American Southwest for many gardeners. This native North American beauty isn't very large, attaining a maximum height of 3 to 6 feet. Greenleaf Manzanita is often used for erosion control. It's fire resistant, and stems have the unusual habit of rooting when living limbs touch the ground. Arctostaphylos likes full sun and warm summers followed by heavy snowfall; with few exceptions, this plant should be pruned infrequently.
Use clean, sharp pruning shears to remove only wood that is diseased or dead in late summer. Pruning stems from the Greenleaf Manzanita's dense crown will ruin the appearance of the shrub. Remember that this plant takes care of itself very well in the wild without anyone pruning out its natural growth.
Trim off stem tips only if they show obvious signs of damage or disease, as this is where flower buds form on the current season's growth.
Prune off a few of the lower limbs of mature specimens to show off the beautiful red inner bark of the plant's uniquely gnarled trunk. This attractive feature is revealed when the plant periodically drops shreds of its outer bark. Cut off one branch at a time, then step back a few paces. Look the Manzanita over from several angles and distances, and evaluate the plant's appearance before removing the next limb.
Prune off a few more of the lowest limbs to train the Greenleaf Manzanita to tree form. As in Step 3, take your time and remove one limb at a time and look the plant over in between each cut.