Native Plants for the Intermountain West: Plant List

Bearberry in the Landscape

Amy Jo Detweiler, Oregon State University Extension Service

Scientfic Name:  Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Common Name:  bearberry, kinnikinnik, kinnikinnick, mealberry, Hog Cranberry, Sandberry, Mountain Box, Bear’s Grape

Description:  A cold-hardy, low-growing, mat-forming evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves that can spread from 3-15' wide. Adorned with pinkish-white, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers in spring (May-June) which turn to a red berry in fall. Plant can be 4-8" tall. Provides an attractive solid ground cover and can help to stabilize soil. Great addition to any rock garden.

Native Habitat:  Circumboreal including North America, Europe and Asia. Found at temperate higher north latitudes. Found between 500 and 11,000 feet. In North America, bearberry’s native range is from Labrador to Alaska, south to Virginia, Illinois, and Nebraska and in the mountains from New Mexico north through California to Alaska.

Cultural Requirement

Soil:  Prefers poor, sandy, infertile, excessively drained soils. Native to soils of forests, sand dunes, gravelly and barren areas. Prefers acidic soils with a soil pH of 4.5-5.5.

Moisture Tolerance:  Drought tolerant. Does not tolerate moist soils or off-drained sites.

Sun/Shade/Preference:  Full sun to part shade.

Transplanting:  Seedlings or cuttings should be handled carefully in container. Bare root planting is generally unsuccessful.

Propagation:  The best way to propagate is from pre-rooted stem cuttings, rooted cuttings or layering. Harvest softwood cuttings in late summer (mid-September to mid-October) using current season’s growth (2-6” long). Harvest rooted stem cuttings during the dormant season. Bearberry can also be propagated from seeds. Scarified seed sown in early summer will improve germination the following spring. Seeds need to be scarified and stratified prior to germination to reduce the seed coat and break embryo dormancy. Best purchased from a nursery.

Maintenance (pruning, fertilization, deadheading, division, irrigation, etc):  No pruning required. Does not require a fertilizer, but if used only apply once a year in spring using a basic 10-10-10. Remove weed competition to keep the stand healthy.

Insect, disease, or other problems:  For the most part pest free but can occasionally get leaf galls, black mildew, and rust.

Landscape Value

Use in the Landscape:  Serves well as an evergreen groundcover, cascading over a wall, in a rock garden and soil stabilization plant. Provides year round interest. Shows good salt tolerance. Drought tolerant.

Weediness/Invasive Potential:  Runners will root. Not known to be invasive.

Foliage:  Has simple, glossy green leaves that hold on through the winter (evergreen). Winter foliage color is bronze to reddish.

Flower:  Terminal clusters of small urn-shaped flowers. Perfect flowers are pinkish-white and bloom in late spring.

Timing:  May - June

Fruit:  Bright red to pink fleshy, berry-like drupe type fruits that are ¼ to ½ inch in size. Edible for some songbirds and game animals.

Form:  Low growing, trailing ground cover forms a mat. Spreads with runners coming from a single root. Runners will root.

Texture:  Fine.

Ultimate Size:  Height 4-8" and spread 3-15'.

Rate of Growth:  Slow.

Suggested Plant Partners:  Juniperus communis, Pinus ponderosa, Mahonia repens, Erigeron spp., Nepeta spp., Ajuga spp., Cotoneaster spp., Gaultheria spp., Euonymus spp.

Availability:  The genus species and ‘Massachusetts’ are most readily found. Nurseries growing the plants can be found at Oregon Association of Nurseries website Available from Monrovia.

Cultivars:  The genus Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and cultivar ‘Massachusetts’, ‘Vancouver Jade’, ‘San Bruno Mountain’, ‘Anchor Bay’, ‘Emerald Carpet’, ‘Point Reyes’, Wood’s Compact’, ‘Alaska’ ‘Big Bear’ Several others available but hard to find for purchase.


Native Plant Society of Oregon Klamath Basin Chapter, Common Plants of the Upper Klamath Basin. 2007. Koko Graphix. Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Kruckeberg, Arthur, R.1996. Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington.

Denver Water and American Water Works Association. 1996. Xeriscape Plant Guide. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado.

Busco, J., and Moran, N.R. 2003. Native Plants for High-Elevation Western Gardens. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado.