When it comes to choosing an evergreen plant that requires a low-maintenance, bearberry becomes an ideal choice.
This perennial offers year-round interest to any landscape. Just prepare the proper conditions for growing the pretty creeping shrub.
Then, before you start to cultivate this attractive bearberry plant, or maybe you more familiar know it as kinnikinnick, it is better to learn about detailed information on how to grow and care for the herbaceous perennial.
Besides, this article presents the benefits of using hardy shrub. Find out some amazing facts, too!
Characteristics of Bearberry Plant
The creeping stems consist of tiny and thick leaves that develop by turns one after the other. These trailing branches spread out widely from the prominent rooting system.
Thus, the growth habit has a form of compact mats. They grow at less than 15 cm tall.
Interestingly, when the creeping stems touch the ground, they will develop new roots.
Therefore, a bearberry plant can be a massive colony that horizontally covers the soil surface. The new shoots have a hairy look with a red hue.
On the other hand, mature twigs are brown or gray. These older branchlets will turn into papery-peeling branches. Besides, They sheathe with leathery and rounded leaves.
Bearberry ground cover has green leaves that become bronze in the winter season but returning into a greenish color in spring.
In addition, small clusters of flowers start blooming in April. These bell-like blossoms come in pink or white color.
Then, the flowers will set red fruits that ripen in August. Their look resembles a berry. Also, there are five seeds in each drupe.
When raw, they taste bittersweet and tend to be flavorless. Thus, people rarely consume them as food, but some animals do.
Gardeners can cultivate bearberry from seeds, branch, and pre-rotted stem cuttings. Start sowing the seedlings in summer to succeed in the germinating process in spring.
However, this growing method will give a different result from other propagation techniques.
Since developing new roots from a bare cutting is very difficult, pre-rooted stems are more efficient.
Propagating from the softwood can be successfully done in the dormant season. Then, plant them in containers before transplanting them to the garden.
Growing bearberry does not require specific soil conditions since it can thrive well in infertile land and sandy area. This shrub becomes the most adaptable groundcover, even in a location that lacks nutrition.
Even though this plant does not require a location that is fertile and rich in nutrients, keep the pH of 5.5 since it prefers acid soil. Ensure that you provide a large planting area to spread over the creeping branchlets.
Choose either partial shade or full sun sites for the sunlight requirement. Although its first growth is slow, the mats will cover the space rapidly.
You might plant several stem cuttings to get a quick coverage due to the initial slow-growing habit.
If your house has rocky soil and locates near hillsides, these spots work great for bearberry. Some areas around large trees and shrubs also require proper coverage.
Then, try to cultivate the plant on a stone wall, and the stems will fall through the surface to soften the edge.
Bearberry as Groundcover
Since the creeping shrub is salt-resistant, grow it as a groundcover near the seaside or salted areas.
After new shoots are developing, bearberry needs minimal care. Thus, regular watering is necessary for the first year of the growing season.
Keep the plant get sufficient water routinely for two years to help develop the stems in the ground.
As a groundcover, the shrub needs no pruning at all. However, do not be over-fertilizing because it can cause death. To improve the growth, apply 10-10-10 fertilizer every year in spring.
Pest Infections and Health Problems
Generally, if you can keep the bearberry plant dry, it can resist any diseases. Some health problems occur because of the damp roots.
Thus, make sure that the ground is not too wet since the rooting system cannot tolerate interruption.
The common diseases include black mildew, root rot, rust, leaf gall, and spot.
Some problems are due to the occurrence of several fungi such as Gloeosporium arctostaphyli, Phyllosticta pyrolae, and P. Vaccinii.
The signs of these leaf spots are the leaves that become purple before turning black with purplish edges.
Therefore, some ways to control the diseases are preventing over-watering, removing the infected parts, providing good air circulation by adding plant spacing, and avoid moist areas.
Exobasidium spp causes leaf galls on the bearberry plant. The leaves and flowers are getting white or brown due to the infection.
Besides, Manzanita aphids make the infected parts red. Therefore, it is essential to notice the symptoms that appear to get better treatment.
The most common sign is an abnormal outgrowth of tissue that usually thickens and becomes fleshy.
Some infected leaves and blossoms turn into pink galls. After they mature, fungal spores will cover the surface.
Their white coating from the spores creates a woody look. The color also changes into a brown hue. However, this healthy shrub can resist a few galls without causing any fatal damage.
Therefore, it is essential to remove the galls before they are getting mature and blooming new growth. Destroy the fleshy parts, although you do not see the white spores.
Another way to manage the disease is by adding distance and pruning the stems to decrease humidity.
The broom rust starts sporulating on the bearberry leaves in July. This disease infects the compact branches or other parts by creating yellow or orange marks on the surface.
This fungus uses it as a host plant to complete the lifecycle.
Some fatal problems that may appear are top-kill, wood decay fungi, reduced growth, and plant death.
Since the rust needs extra nutrition for the brooms, the shrub will get fewer nutrients. Then, the tip part of the infected sections can die.
After that, the dead infected parts will be an entrance for wood decay-causing fungi. They can destroy the structural substances of the stems.
Finally, the branches with lots of brooms will be dead. Thus, the most effective way to control the problem is by removing the damaged portions.
Interesting Bearberry Facts
Bearberry is natively from North America that belongs to the heather or Ericaceae family. This evergreen shrub is scientifically called Arctostaphylos uva-ursi.
It has several common names such as hog cranberry, Kinnikinnick, mealberry, and sandberry.
Kinnikinnick gets its name because this astringent shrub becomes the favorite food of bears. The bearberry produces edible fruits, although they mostly function as traditional medicine.
Thus, for medical uses, the plant is available in the form of tincture, tablet, or tea.
Furthermore, here are some other fun facts about the dwarf species of the bearberry plant:
- The shrub can function as a phytomedicine.
- A combination of the kinnikinnick leaves and other herbs has an essential role in American’s religious ceremonies.
- The word kinnikinnick means smoking mixtures in the Algonquian language.
- In the wild habitat, this creeping plant can have a lifespan of about 50 years.
- Its woody branches grow at a length of 1.8 meters.
- This groundcover mostly thrives in rocky and sandy locations that include ridge, shorelines, hilltops, and slopes.
Bearberry provides some wildlife values. Its flowers produce nectar that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
Some mammals such as deers, mooses, and elks are grazing on the leaves. They also become a source of larval food for a few species.
As well as the leaves and nectar, the edible fruits become the favorite winter food for bears, deers, and other small mammals.
Wrens, thrushes, robins, waxwings, and grouses prefer feeding on the drupes, except for humans since the taste has a lack of flavor.
Benefits of Bearberry
The bearberry generally functions as an ornamental groundcover and stabilizer in some critical locations.
It is because the dense mats provide better coverage on any infertile ground. Thus, this evergreen is ideal for growing near sandy banks, sand ridges, homesites, and commercial areas.
The common bearberry uses include an ingredient for smoke mix, astringent tea, and erosion resistance.
For medicinal purposes, this creeping plant can anticipate the growth of bacteria in the human urinary system.
However, the herbal medicine of bearberry is not for people who have an allergic reaction to any substance in this plant.
It is not suitable for someone who suffers from kidney illness and stomach irritation. Also, pregnant and breast-feeding women should not consume the product.
Some traditional medicines that contain bearberry extract are useful for curing urinary bladder, diuretic, antiseptic, and astringent.
They commonly function to treat headaches, cystitis, and strengthen kidneys.
Moreover, bearberry is perfect for wound healing. It consists of allantoin, ursolic, and tannic acid that can help to improve the growth of new cells.
However, do not overuse the product since there is Hydroquinone as a powerful substance that may damage the liver and kill bacteria.
In conclusion, keep growing bearberry in the landscape since this groundcover will give long-lasting visual interest throughout the year.
Importantly, bearberry offers effortless plant care to enjoy the attractive blossoms and drupes in all seasons.