Arbutus: Good climate for Arbutus

Discussion in 'Ericaceae (rhododendrons, arbutus, etc.)' started by Theresa Snow, Jul 24, 2004.

  1. Theresa Snow

    Theresa Snow Member

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    Hullo,

    I am wanting to plant an Arbutus tree on my parents' property, and I was wondering if the climate requirements for them are as strict as I've heard. They live on forested acreage just outside of Courtney. Thank you
     
  2. AM Downie

    AM Downie Member

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    Arbutus - how fussy?

    Arbutus trees are reasonably adaptible, but they do have some specific requirements. While they do not occur naturally in Courtenay (that I know of), they will grow very well there. Study their habitat in the wild (e.g. around Nanaimo) to get an idea of what they need to thrive:

    1. Acid soil (no problem in Courtenay). Never add lime to the soil around an arbutus tree!

    2. Full sun. Plant away from other trees. They are such sun-lovers that they will grow away strongly from other vegetation.

    3. Good drainage. They can't stand waterlogged, boggy, or poorly drained soils (e.g. where water stands for any length of time particularly in winter).

    They are tricky to get established. Plant them very small. Transplanting seedlings from the wild is a risky proposition. Most will die. Transplanting an arbutus tree of any size is virtually impossible, they will most certainly die. The root system is very fragile and they resent root disturbance.

    The best way to get one started in your garden is to buy very small (under 2 foot) seedlings in containers. Carefully cut the bottom of the container off (sharp secateurs work well) and plant the tree, (with what's left of the pot and all) in its permanent location. The idea is to minimize any shock or disturbance to the seedling's root system. They don't like being knocked out of a pot and jammed in the ground. Make sure you plant it a little higher than it was originally in its pot (never lower - the root system easily suffocates).

    Fertilizer is not needed - they thrive in poor mineral soil.

    Do not plant them in a lawn. They do not adapt well to summertime watering. This leads to fungal disease and possibly root rot. They love being baked and dry in the summer. Also, turf is a very strong competitor and will supress the growth of the arbutus. Clear as large a circle as you can around the tree, mulch it with leaves or gravel even to keep weeds down.

    Arbutus are messy - they drop leaves and flowers in late spring, fruit and bark in fall and winter. Best place is to plant them at the back of a shrub border or in a bed where the falling debris won't be such a nuinsance to clean up.

    The arbutus is among the most beautiful of trees, and well worth the trouble to accomodate them in gardens. Good luck!
     
  3. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    You can compliment your Madrone (Arbutus) planting with a Eucalyptus, which have similar requirements as Alex has pointed out.
     
  4. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I would also add that Arbutus are reported to be very mychorhizzae dependant. if you can get a few shovels full of soil from near an established arbutus (and please dont hurt the one you are taking soil from) when transplanting, do it. apply to the new planting hole and as close contact as possible to the viable roots of the new transplant. Good drainage is imperative.
     
  5. Gomero

    Gomero Well-Known Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Arbutus unedo is almost a weed in the sandy soils along the Atlantic Coast of Southwest France. They thrive in pure sand and can take extreme drought there: sometimes it does not rain for more than one month with temperatures hovering around 30-35°C, and the sand does not retain any water. They form the understory of the pine (Pinus pinaster) forests which were planted in Napoleonic times to stabilize the sands.

    And, although I also admit they are difficult to transplant, I have succeeded more than once transplanting fairly large plants.
    Is your Arbutus menziesii very different from our unedo?, I understand it is a little hardier (zone 3-7, 14-19) than unedo (zones 4-24). I believe the flowers of menziesii are in the Spring while the fruits follow in the Fall. The unedo has both flowers and fruits at the same time in the Fall, it is an outstanding display in any garden, as shown in the attached pic.

    Gomero,
     

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  6. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Gomero, You're right about the flower & fruit habits of each of these Arbutus species. Here too, A. menziesii is very prolific in areas that have prefect drainage and often quite rocky. On sandy roadside areas these pop up like weeds. Although Sunset zones rate menziesii at the low end of the scale (Sunset zone 3), there are much fewer trees in those areas. Also A. menziesii is a much larger tree than A. unedo.
    Thanks for the pics.
     
  7. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Actually, regarding the lime it seems not all ericads are calciphobes. Arbutus and Arctostaphylos are two examples of dry climate genera that may not fit the stereotype. Jacobson, WILD PLANTS OF GREATER SEATTLE notes under 'Madrona' that "The healthiest specimens grow by cement factories in the industrial area of Seattle's Duwamish River, suggesting it benefits from alkaline soils."

    Often associated with salal in the wild, if you have a patch of that on your place try it near there.
     

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