Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Pacific Madrone, Arbutus
Arbutus menziesii

Family: Ericaceae (er-ek-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Arbutus (ar-BYOO-tus) (Info)
Species: menziesii (menz-ESS-ee-eye) (Info)

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

3 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Provides winter interest

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

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There are a total of 22 photos.
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7 positives
1 neutral
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive lsjogren On Jan 2, 2014, lsjogren from Vancouver, WA wrote:

I had about 15 of these, just unplanted volunteers, in my backyard here in Vancouver WA. Since they are native to the area and are beautiful plants it seems a bit surprising you can't find them more easily at nurseries. I found that the place you can find them is at native plant nurseries. The one I get mine at is Watershed Garden Works in Longview WA. Before I knew about that nursery I was going way further to find them. The ones at Watershed are small but mine have done very well. One reason people don't seem to grow them more is the perception that they are hard to grow. Yes, I understand that getting one growing in a pot is difficult- that seems to be why nurseries don't grow them more. A worker at Watershed told me once that in the last batch they had done, they had started about 600-700 pots and only about 100 were successful. But they sell them for only $12 retail, and of the 30-40 I have planted, only a couple have died, the rest are doing fine. Although I did notice the other day that they got quite a bit of leaf spot lately. The ones already in my yard are about 7-8 years old and they do shed their leaves quite a bit so they are not real bushy, but that just helps accentuate the beautiful trunk and branches. The owner of Watershed advised me the new ones may need water for two summers, not just one, but once they are established, the rule for maintenance is: just leave them completely alone. Don't water them, and by all means do not disturb their roots.

Negative Jon0523 On Feb 13, 2009, Jon0523 from Green Valley, AZ wrote:

This is certainly a very beautiful tree. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and always have admired their beauty. I also owned a home in a grove of them for three years. As a gardner in this situation it is important to REALLY like them because other gardening activities are impossible among or near these trees. The beautiful peeling bark is never a significant problem. The PROTRACTED midsummer HEAVY leaf drop is the killer. The leaves are like giant plastic potato chips. They are very slow to decompose or compost and will smother everything beneath them . Unless completely raked up they will rattle around your property for months. This tree casts a dense shadow as well. Birds love the berry crop which will disappear quickly.

Positive Jungleman On Jul 14, 2008, Jungleman from Pasadena, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This plant is highly prized in Seattle - my hometown. People who have trees in their gardens actually ask visitors to refrain from walking around its root zone, though in the wild, they are extremely trod upon in parks and such.

I think it is much more fussy about drainage than anything else. If you have a slope - this is the plant for that place. The Arbutus on the University of Washington Campus are dieing due to too much air pollution - they do seem to have a sensitivity, and they are along a very busy 15th Ave. NW!

The Arbutus menziesii offers beautiful shade, lush green leaves, and rich red and orange shedding bark and trunk. If you get a regular breeze you are treated to a crisp rustle when it is breezy. This is a native plant, so will need very little in the way of water in general, so once established - leave it be. It will send down deep tap roots.

As a side note, the Eucalyptus ficifolia looks somewhat like this tree in some strains. I almost stopped my car driving in Pasadena, CA the other day thinking I had seen a "Madrona" - as we call them in the Northwest!

Positive katrinas On Mar 26, 2008, katrinas from Redondo Beach, CA (Zone 11) wrote:

The southern range for this plant is at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, CA, where the trees are shorter and low branching.

Positive ebwpete On Sep 9, 2006, ebwpete from Oakland, CA wrote:

Madrone is very difficult in cultivation, but totally worth the effort. everyone I know who lives near one or w/ one absolutely reveres this amazing tree. The bark is one of its outstanding features. It varies from cinnamon red to bright orange and then it peels off, exposing brilliant chartreuse underneath.

If you live in the hotter parts of its natural range, grow it in mostly bright shade until it's a couple years old. Water it at MOST, once per week during the driest part of the year. NEVER water it if the soil is moist 1" under the surface in hot weather. If it croaks, try another one. it's one of the only trees I know of which is totally worth the extra effort and expense. It prefers sandy soil where its roots can eventually get to a moist spot - deep, deep, deep under the surface [like 30 ft or more!]. If it has excellent drainage, it can take more water and will grow very fast.

In containers, it needs to be potted up regularly - quickly even. Very difficult to keep happy in containers for more than a couple of years.

Positive cramgeorge On Jul 27, 2006, cramgeorge from Seattle, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

A beautiful tree that grows wild here in the pacific northwest and enjoys popularity among landscapers and gardeners.

Neutral dottik On Mar 2, 2005, dottik from Oakland, OR (Zone 8a) wrote:

An evergreen tree that grows wild in our area. Will come back from the roots if frozen or if cut down. Beautiful white bells in the spring. Bark peels off as tree grows with reddish colored wood underneath. Great firewood. Hardwood. Can be used for cabinets or furniture.

Positive ladyrowan On Mar 14, 2004, ladyrowan from Garberville, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

The Madrone is a close cousin to the oak, with its two biggest differences being twisted branches, and shockingly red flesh, just beneath the bark. This wood is very hard, and burns VERY hot, making it a favorite for wood heat in Northern CA, where it grows amongst the Redwoods.

Positive ianltaylor On Jun 25, 2003, ianltaylor wrote:

Easily propagated by lightly covering ripe fruit and kept moist in a sheltered location over winter. Keep moist till mid spring and then reduce watering. Plants may grow only 1 to 3 inches the first year. After the second year the plants grow rapidly. A very fast draining soil is recommended. Allow to dry significantly between watering. Roots do not like to stay wet. I have Bonsai Arbutus that have been in shallow pots for more than ten years. Only one fatality has occured during that time. Over watering was the problem. Do not attempt transplanting an Arbutus from open ground that is more than one year old. The success rate is less than one percent.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Garberville, California
Los Altos, California
Napa, California
North Fork, California
Pacifica, California
Medford, Oregon
Oakland, Oregon
Salem, Oregon
Tangent, Oregon
West Linn, Oregon
Bremerton, Washington
Des Moines, Washington
Olympia, Washington
Orting, Washington

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