Bearberry: Low-Growing Perennial Groundcover – Epic Gardening

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, most sometimes called bearberry, is the proper edible floor cowl for anybody combating poor soil or rocky soil situations of their panorama. Its frequent identify comes from what occurs to most of those crops – apparently bears love the fruit that the plant produces and can fortunately devour them in big volumes in fall as they’re fattening up for the winter. 

This isn’t restricted to bears, both; many forms of migratory birds will fortunately eat the berries. The intense pink bearberry is edible for people as nicely! You’ll be able to add visible curiosity to any house backyard with its darkish inexperienced leaves and pink flowers. 

It’s perennial and is an attractive, small-leaved floor cowl with pink berries. The flowers aren’t dramatic, nevertheless it seems good as an understory layer round bigger shrubs in addition to simply merely as a canopy for an area in your panorama you don’t intend to stroll on (it has woody stems that don’t make it appropriate for a lot foot visitors). 

This plant can carry out in each full solar and full shade, though it prefers full solar in most areas. The bearberry plant is the unsung hero of North America, feeding bears with its berries and performing as a medicinal plant in Native American cultures for hundreds of years. 

Fast Care Information

Bearberry flowers are formed like tiny bells. Supply: Cranbrook Institute
Widespread Title Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Scientific Title Widespread bearberry, kinnickinnick, bear’s grape, sandberry, barren myrtle, mountain field, and hog cranberry
Household Ericaceae, the heath household
Top & Unfold 12 inches tall and as much as 3-6 ft large
Gentle Full solar
Soil Sandy, acidic soil
Water Drought tolerant as soon as established
Pests & Illnesses Winter burn, aphids, root rot

All About Bearberry

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is a stunning, low-growing perennial shrub. Supply: Keith

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi can be recognized by many different names corresponding to bearberry, kinnickinnick, bear’s grape, sandberry, frequent bearberry, barren myrtle, mountain field, and hog cranberry. 

The bearberry plant is an evergreen shrub native to circumboreal areas around the globe corresponding to Canada, Finland, Russia, and many others. It prefers northern chilly climates and does greatest in USDA zones 2-6. Within the wild, their darkish inexperienced leaves are principally discovered on open slopes as they thrive in rocky soils. 

Bearberry crops (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) might be recognized by their woody stems, darkish evergreen leaves, pink flowers, and finally vivid pink berries. It’s a slow-growing perennial floor cowl that spreads through floor rhizomes. 

The Arctostaphylos uva-ursi plant grows in a mat which makes it helpful for panorama erosion management, and to fill in areas in backyard beds. It should entice butterflies and different pollinators to your gardens with its urn-shaped flowers. In reality, it’s the host plant for a number of butterflies together with the hoary elfin and brown elfin. 

In North America the bearberry plant has been used extensively by Native American tribes as a part of smoking mixtures, dried for tea, as an anti-inflammatory, and as an antiseptic. It additionally has astringent properties and has been used to scrub sores or small wounds. 


Bearberry buds forming
The flower buds are nondescript till they open. Supply: nordique

The Arctostaphylos uva-ursi plant is the proper species of floor cowl should you’re on the lookout for a low-maintenance evergreen that grows in spring and flowers in the course of the summer season. It makes a stunning addition to any backyard and can only a few necessities met, it’s going to set up and also you’ll have the ability to get pleasure from it yr after yr. 

Solar and Temperature

Bearberry crops thrive in full solar, nonetheless, they will tolerate mild shade. That being stated, you’ll get probably the most progress, flowers, and fruit whenever you give your bearberry full solar, moderately than partial shade. As talked about above they do greatest in USDA zones 2-6 and may tolerate chilly winter fall and climates. They tolerate the chilly so nicely that seeds can germinate in temperatures as little as 40 levels. 

The bearberry plant itself does greatest in a temperature vary of 40-77 levels Fahrenheit. As an evergreen shrub, the darkish inexperienced leaves are inexperienced year-round and don’t want safety from frost. They won’t, nonetheless, tolerate excessive warmth. 

Water and Humidity

The bearberry plant is extraordinarily drought tolerant as soon as established and should by no means have to be watered outdoors of any precipitation that you just obtain in your backyard. Because of this, it’s a nice landscaping possibility for low water or xeriscaped gardens. It will possibly tolerate each moist and dry rising situations, nonetheless, it is not going to tolerate standing water. In the course of the first yr of progress make sure you water your bearberry crops to get them established, then you may again off of watering. 

In the course of the winter it’s not essential to water this plant as it’s going to get all of the moisture that it requires from any snowfall. Within the mid-spring and summer season months, they might require barely extra moisture to cope with the warmth. Partial shade additionally helps with dry soil.


Bearberry and pine needles
Widespread in forests, bearberry is usually below pine bushes or in shady spots. Supply: Ed Suominen

In its native habitat, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi crops pop up in not too long ago disturbed or rocky soil and have a tendency to fill in slopes the place water drainage is ample. There it’s going to type a sloping floor cowl. Bearberry will tolerate and adapt to many various situations, together with salt within the soil, nevertheless it is not going to tolerate a soil ph outdoors of its most well-liked vary. It wants well-draining acid soil with a pH between 4.5-5.5. 

Since it’s salt tolerant and thrives in sandy acid soil, this bearberry makes frequent appearances alongside coastlines stuffed with salt as nicely. 


Bearberry crops can survive in poor soil situations so fertilizing will not be completely mandatory. Nonetheless, should you’d prefer to encourage your plant to unfold in a floor cowl trend extra shortly a fertilizer with a barely increased nitrogen content material will just do that. 

You could sacrifice some flowers and fruit to ensure that them to placed on extra inexperienced progress and unfold. It’s vital to not fertilize this plant greater than as soon as per yr as it will possibly simply be overwhelmed. 


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi doesn’t require pruning, however chances are you’ll select to prune away useless wooden or make use of some mild pruning to reshape and type the plant and intensify its darkish inexperienced leaves. One of the best time of the yr to prune this plant is in late spring or late summer season after the bloom time has handed. You’ll need to be sure that to depart the flowers on the plant to draw the butterflies! 


A bearberry plant might be grown from seed. Nonetheless, since it’s such a gradual grower, a significantly better possibility for this floor cowl is to propagate it from stem cuttings. Fill a pot with sand-dominant soil. New crops might be began by chopping off a stem, dipping it right into a rooting hormone powder, after which sticking it into moist sand to root in spring. 

In case you’re rising from seed it’s vital to remember the fact that they are going to require chilly stratification to type sprouts. It’s really helpful to retailer your seed within the fridge for 3 months earlier than planting it out within the backyard. Alternatively, you may sow them direct into the soil within the late fall and they need to sprout from the bottom within the spring. 


Ripe bearberries
Ripe bearberries are vivid pink and glossy. Supply: AllieKF

As talked about above, uva ursi could be very drought tolerant as soon as established, requires little to no fertilizing, no pruning, and is a really low upkeep inexperienced floor cowl planting that can fill and add curiosity to your panorama. There are just a few points value noting, nonetheless. 

Rising Issues

The most typical rising downside happens when the soil pH necessities usually are not met. Bearberry will present indicators of stress if the pH within the soil is simply too excessive. The leaves could flip bronze, it could stop to placed on new progress, and should not type flowers in any respect. It’s vital to notice that the leaves will flip bronze naturally in late fall shifting into winter, nonetheless, if the foliage is browning or reddened in the course of the spring and summer season this may be an indicator that the soil ph must be raised. 

The acidity of the soil might be raised with a soil acidifier that may be discovered at your native nursery or massive field backyard retailer. Observe the directions on the again of the package deal. 

Winter burn can is understood to have an effect on evergreens once they expertise lengthy durations of drought alongside frozen floor within the winter which prohibits their potential to switch water misplaced via the method of photosynthesis. Because the burns unfold, leaves could flip brown and die. 

Keep away from planting new crops in windy areas to forestall the extra lack of moisture from the soil in the course of the late fall and winter or apply mulch to assist retain it. Prune away useless wooden if new progress doesn’t reappear and type in your backyard within the spring. 


Aphids are the most typical pest for these crops due to their succulent foliage and fruit. In a house backyard, one of the simplest ways to battle aphids is to spray them off of your plant with a blast of water as quickly as you see them. 

To stop them from returning and/or overtaking your crops creating an setting that features quite a lot of flowering crops will entice pollinators and different helpful bugs that like to munch on aphids, like ladybugs for instance. In additional extreme infestations neem oil or insecticidal soaps may do the trick. 


Root rot is the most typical fungal illness to have an effect on bearberry crops. They don’t prefer to be in standing water so offering them with well-draining soil will assist keep away from this difficulty. Planting them in the correct soil helps too. Nonetheless, should you discover wilting though it has obtained loads of water, mushy stems, and an absence of latest progress then this could point out root rot. 

Letting your plant dry out utterly earlier than watering it once more may also help starve the fungus. The applying of copper fungicides has combined critiques in relation to treating root rot. 

Often Requested Questions

Cluster of bearberry flowers
A cluster of bearberry flowers in bloom. Supply: Aquila-chrysaetos

Q: Are bearberry berries toxic?

A: Sure and no. These fruits do comprise hydroquinone which might be poisonous and construct up within the liver. Because of this, people with liver problems shouldn’t devour bearberry. It’s suggested to not ingest greater than 10-20 grams of bearberry at anyone time. Signs of bearberry toxicity normally begin with nausea. 

Q: What does bearberry style like?

A: It has been described as tasting mildly candy and crisp, just like an apple. The fruit is generally tasteless when eaten uncooked, however cooking them brings out its taste. 

Q: What animal eats bearberry?

A: As its identify would recommend, bears! However different small mammals and birds eat them as nicely. 

Q: Is bearberry a local plant?

A: Bearberry is native to circumboreal areas throughout the globe like Canada, Russia, Finland, and many others. 

Q: How do you plant bearberry?

A: It may be began from seeds in early fall (the seeds choose a interval of stratification) or propagated from stem cuttings.

Q: Is bearberry straightforward to develop?

A: Sure, its most vital requirement is the correct soil acidity, in any other case it is rather low upkeep. 

Q: Is bearberry an evergreen?

A: Sure it’s an evergreen shrub.

Q: Will bearberry develop in clay soil?

A: It will possibly, however prefers sandy soils. 

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