Native Plant Trust

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

red bearberry

Bearberry is a beautiful, glossy, creeping evergreen perfect for sandy soils in full sun. It establishes well with some care during the first year, and with protection from deer in winter. The name Arctostaphylos comes from two greek roots, one for "bear" and the other "grape;" the specific epithet has the same meaning, referring to this species' circumpolar distribution and historic importance as a food source for bears (though it won't attract them to your yard unless they were already there!).

Click on these links to read in detail:  General Description | Benefits | Ecology | References

Height: 3-6 in
Spread: 2-3 ft
Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Characteristics & Attributes

Cultivation Status
Soil Moisture
(58) Northeastern Highlands
(83) Eastern Great Lakes Lowlands
(59) Northeastern Coastal Zone
(84) Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens
(82) Acadian Plains and Hills
Ornamental Interest
Winter Interest and/or Evergreen
Spring Bloom
Summer Fruit
Fall Foliage
Attracts Wildlife
Attracts Songbirds
Other Pollinators/Wildlife
Attracts Bees
Deer/Rabbit Resistant
Salt Tolerant
Urban Environment
Drought Tolerant
Additional Attributes
Low Maintenance
Erosion Control/Soil Stabilization
Landscape Use
Rock garden
Rain Garden
Attractive Fall Foliage and/or Ornamental Fruit
Red Fruit
Red to Purple Fall Foliage
Growth Habit

North American Distribution

General Description

Bloom Description: White, occasionally pink-tinged bell-shaped flowers appear in late May.

Growth Habit & Shape: Bearberry is a creeping evergreen that will spread out over a wide area by rooting in with stolons, remaining no taller than a few inches.

Soil Preferences: This evergreen prefers very sandy soils, rocky outcrops and well-drained sites.

Root Description: Bearberry has a tough, creeping root system with fibrous roots that shoot off the main stems.

Garden Uses: This is an attractive and excellent garden ground cover on sunny, sandy banks, along roadways, rock walls, rockeries, parking strips, and other sunny places in urban areas. It's a great choice for restoration and soil stabilization in open, sandy, rocky sites.

Best Management & Maintenance: This plant thrives on neglect and requires poor, sandy soils. Winter mulch, such as pine boughs, are used as cover for protection from harsh winds and deer browse. It can be slow to establish, and may need additional water during its first season depending on the soil type.

Common Problems: Biotic: no serious disease or pest problems. Deer will browse evergreen foliage in winter, so cover with pine boughs to protect the plant.


Ornamental Value: Arctostaphylos is a wonderful evergreen groundcover for difficult, acidic, sandy, sunny locations. The flowers are attractive, small, and bell-shaped, and produce a profusion of large red berries in the fall.

Wildlife Benefits: The berries provide food for birds and mammals in late winter and deer will browse the foliage in winter. It serves as a host plant for 14 species of lepidopterans and is very interesting to the smaller of our native bees.

Other Practical/Environmental Benefits: erosion control, soil stabilization, weed suppression

Use in place of: creeping Euonymus species


Coastal dunes; open areas in acidic temperate and boreal forests; high montane sites on acidic, sandy, or rocky soils.

Response to Disturbance: Bearberry has variable but resilient responses to disturbance: it will spread if a sudden opening in the canopy occurs, and it regenerates from seeds or scraps of root after more intensive disturbance such as fire. Its resistance to trampling and browsing by deer or other ungulates depends on seed provenance and ecotype, but in general the speices recovers well from occasional physical damage, and survives winters under snowpack.

Native State Distributions:
Canada: AB, BC, LB, MB, NB, NF, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Wetland indicator status: UPL


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red bearberry - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi from Native Plant Trust
red bearberry - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi from Native Plant Trust
red bearberry - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi from Native Plant Trust
red bearberry - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi from Native Plant Trust
red bearberry - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi from Native Plant Trust
red bearberry - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi from Native Plant Trust
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