Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos Uva-ursi ‘Big Bear’)

Plant: Table of Contents

The Fascinating World of Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Big Bear’)

From lush forests to expansive meadows, the diverse universe of plants never ceases to captivate us. Among this natural splendor, the common bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Big Bear’) stands out as a charming and versatile species. Whether adorning garden landscapes or providing valuable medicinal benefits, these evergreen shrubs hold a special place in horticulture and herbalism.

What is Common Bearberry?

Common bearberry, scientifically known as Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Big Bear’, is a low-growing evergreen shrub that belongs to the family Ericaceae. This plant is native to a variety of diverse habitats, including coniferous and mixed forests, moorlands, and alpine tundra across North America, Europe, and Asia. With its prostrate, trailing habit and tiny, leathery leaves, common bearberry adds a distinctive touch to natural landscapes and garden settings. The plant’s botanical name, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, translates to “bear’s grape” in Latin, reflecting its historical use as a favorite snack for bears and the grape-like appearance of its berries.

Key Takeaways – Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Big Bear’)

Before delving deeper into the enchanting world of common bearberry, let’s take a quick look at some key takeaways that will guide us through the various aspects of this remarkable plant.

  • Common bearberry is a low-growing evergreen shrub with small, leathery leaves and a trailing growth habit.
  • It belongs to the family Ericaceae and is prized for its ornamental value in gardens as well as its medicinal uses.
  • Common bearberry thrives in well-drained, acidic soils and is known for its tolerance to harsh conditions, making it ideal for various landscapes and regions.
  • The plant’s berries hold significant medicinal properties and have been traditionally used to promote urinary health and address various ailments.

Now, let’s embark on a comprehensive journey through the cultivation, uses, care, and fascinating characteristics of common bearberry, illuminating the diverse facets of this captivating plant.

Cultivation of Common Bearberry

Cultivating common bearberry, also known as the Big Bear variety, brings forth an array of enriching experiences for both amateur gardeners and seasoned horticulturists. Understanding the plant’s cultural requirements is pivotal in ensuring its thriving development and enduring beauty.


Common bearberry exhibits strong resilience to dry conditions and thrives in well-drained soils. Once established, the plant demonstrates remarkable drought tolerance, reducing the need for frequent watering. When provided with proper moisture, especially during the initial establishment phase, common bearberry can flourish and embellish its surroundings with its charming foliage and berries.


In its natural habitats and cultivated landscapes, common bearberry showcases a preference for full sun to partial shade. Providing the plant with adequate sunlight is crucial for promoting robust growth and the development of vibrant foliage. While it can tolerate partial shade, ensuring exposure to sunlight for a significant portion of the day is beneficial for optimal performance.


The soil requirements for common bearberry center around the necessity for acidic, well-drained soils. The plant thrives in environments with low pH levels, making it well-suited for acidic soils commonly found in coniferous forests and heathlands. Ensuring proper drainage is essential to prevent waterlogging and sustain the plant’s health and vitality.


Common bearberry adapts well to nutrient-poor soils and typically does not require regular fertilization once established. Applying a light layer of organic mulch, such as pine needles or bark chips, around the base of the plant can aid in conserving soil moisture, suppressing weed growth, and gradually enriching the soil as the mulch decomposes. This natural approach supports the plant’s nutritional needs while aligning with its preference for lean, well-drained soils.


In terms of pruning, common bearberry generally requires minimal intervention, owing to its naturally compact and low-growing habit. Occasional pruning to shape the plant or remove damaged or overgrown branches can be undertaken as needed. Additionally, removing spent or damaged foliage can help maintain the plant’s aesthetic appeal and vitality. Pruning tasks can be performed during the plant’s dormant periods, contributing to its overall well-being and visual allure.


When considering the propagation of common bearberry, several methods can be employed to propagate new plants and expand their presence in garden landscapes. These methods include:
Seed Propagation: The collection and sowing of ripe berries can be utilized to propagate common bearberry from seeds. This method grants enthusiasts the opportunity to grow new plants from the plant’s seeds and observe the progression of their growth and development.
Cutting Propagation: Stem cuttings can be used to propagate common bearberry, offering a viable means of generating new plants with qualities similar to the parent plant. Selecting healthy, non-flowering stems during the growing season and utilizing them for cutting propagation can yield successful results and expand the plant’s presence.

Container Popularity

The compact, trailing nature of common bearberry makes it an excellent candidate for container gardening. The plant’s low-growing habit, ornamental foliage, and charming berries contribute to its appeal as a container plant, enhancing the visual allure of outdoor spaces and patio settings. When cultivated in containers, common bearberry can thrive as a graceful groundcover, gracing its surroundings with its elegant presence while requiring minimal maintenance.

Common Diseases

While common bearberry is celebrated for its resilience and adaptability, it may encounter some challenges associated with plant diseases. Understanding the potential diseases and their management can aid in preserving the plant’s health and vigor.

Disease Diagnosis

Several common diseases that may affect common bearberry include:
Leaf Spot: This fungal disease manifests as dark, circular spots on the plant’s foliage, potentially leading to leaf discoloration and defoliation. Maintaining proper air circulation and promptly removing affected plant material can aid in managing this disease.
Root Rot: Excessive moisture and poor drainage can predispose common bearberry to root rot, a condition caused by fungal pathogens. Implementing proper soil drainage and avoiding overwatering are essential measures in preventing and managing root rot.

Common Pests

In addition to potential diseases, common bearberry may also face challenges associated with pests that seek to exploit the plant’s resources. Being aware of these pests and adopting suitable control measures is pivotal in safeguarding the plant’s well-being.

Bearberry Common Pests

Common pests that may affect common bearberry include:
Spider Mites: These tiny arachnids can inflict damage to the plant by piercing its leaves and extracting sap, leading to stippling and discoloration. Utilizing horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps can aid in managing spider mite infestations and preserving the plant’s foliage.
Deer and Rabbits: These animals may graze on common bearberry, potentially causing damage to its foliage. Employing physical barriers or deterrents can help protect the plant from the browsing activities of deer and rabbits, ensuring its undisturbed growth and vitality.

Bearberry Plant Care Tips

To nurture common bearberry and promote its flourishing growth, several care tips can be integrated into the plant’s maintenance regimen, tailored to address its specific requirements and enhance its overall well-being:

  • Regular Monitoring: Periodically inspecting the plant for signs of diseases, pests, or environmental stress can aid in early detection and prompt intervention, fostering the plant’s health and resilience.

  • Appropriate Watering: Adhering to a watering routine that aligns with the plant’s moisture needs and ensures proper drainage can support its vitality and minimize the risk of issues associated with overwatering or waterlogging.

  • Mulching: Applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant can help conserve soil moisture, inhibit weed growth, and gradually enrich the soil, contributing to the plant’s nutritional requirements and soil health.

  • Pruning Maintenance: Engaging in occasional pruning to shape the plant, remove damaged foliage, or manage its overall appearance can contribute to its aesthetic appeal and overall vigor.

Botanist’s Tips

For those intrigued by the captivating allure of common bearberry, adopting the following botanist’s tips can enrich their understanding and appreciation of the plant:

  • Embrace Its Natural Habitat: Exploring the natural habitats where common bearberry thrives, such as moorlands and alpine tundra, can provide insights into the plant’s ecological adaptations and the diverse ecosystems that host its presence.

  • Observe Wildlife Interactions: Observing how wildlife, such as bears and small mammals, interact with common bearberry in its native settings can offer a glimpse into the plant’s ecological role and its significance for various animal species.

  • Cultivate Different Varieties: Embracing the diversity within the Arctostaphylos genus by cultivating various species and cultivars of bearberry can unveil the distinctive traits and attributes displayed by different varieties, enriching the horticultural experiences associated with this captivating plant.

Fun Facts

To add a touch of intrigue and fascination to the exploration of common bearberry, here are some compelling fun facts about this exceptional plant:

  • Historical Medicinal Use: Bearberry has been historically valued for its medicinal properties, with traditional uses encompassing the promotion of urinary health and the management of various ailments, illustrating its enduring significance in herbal medicine.

  • Wildlife Attraction: The berries produced by common bearberry serve as a valuable food source for wildlife, attracting an array of animal species, including birds and mammals, and contributing to the ecological dynamics of its native environments.

  • Cultural Significance: Common bearberry holds cultural significance in various Indigenous traditions, where it has been utilized in ceremonies and as a source of natural remedies, highlighting its enduring presence in diverse cultural contexts.

Links to External Resources

For further exploration of common bearberry and its captivating attributes, the following external resources offer valuable insights and perspectives:

  1. Missouri Botanical Garden – Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Big Bear’
  2. Royal Horticultural Society – Bearberry
  3. University of Maryland Medical Center – Bearberry


Common bearberry, embodied by the remarkable Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Big Bear’, emerges as a captivating symbol of resilience, versatility, and natural beauty. Whether gracing garden landscapes with its charming presence or contributing to the realm of herbal medicine with its beneficial properties, common bearberry invites us to embark on a journey of discovery and appreciation. As we delve into its cultivation, uses, care, and compelling characteristics, we uncover a rich tapestry of botanical wonders and timeless allure encapsulated within this remarkable plant. Through nurturing and celebrating common bearberry, we partake in the enduring legacy of a plant that has enchanted and healed throughout the ages, reaffirming its significance in our world of flora and natural heritage.

Picture of Peter Taylors

Peter Taylors

Expert botanist who loves plants. His expertise spans taxonomy, plant ecology, and ethnobotany. An advocate for plant conservation, he mentors and educates future botanists, leaving a lasting impact on the field.