Both Arbutus unedo, native to Europe, and the Arbutus x Marina hybrid, are broadleaf evergreens commonly referred to as ‘Strawberry tree’. The parentage of the Marina hybrid likely includes A. unedo and the native Pacific Madrone, A. menziesii. Both species are becoming extremely common (over-used) in western landscapes.
Culture for Arbutus
Performs best on well-drained, slightly acidic soils. Drought tolerant but requires summer irrigation. A. unedo is typically grown as a large shrub, while the Marina hybrid is commonly a small tree with single or multiple stems.
Concerns about Arbutus
Both types are commonly damaged by thrips foliar feeding, and Phytophthora root disease is an issue for over-watered or poorly drained sites. An unknown gray/black canker has recently started killing specimen plants from Southern CA north to British Columbia. Both species in CA are also being attacked by a leaf and twig miner which causes twig and branch death.
Management Practices for Arbutus
Arbutus will lose some drought tolerance if irrigated with turf-grass as it will develop shallow roots. Heavy pruning can lead to sunscald of thin red bark. Promote overall vitality through proper mulching and prescription fertilisation to avoid canker disease. Thrips and leafminers can be managed with systemic or topically applied treatments.