Manzanita Wood: The Versatile Hardscape Guide (Types & Uses)

When it comes to versatility, Manzanita Wood might just take the crown.

Much like the popular Spiderwood hardscape, it’s full of twisting branches and dynamic shapes.

Plus, it comes in a wide variety of sizes. From small sticks to titanic branches (and practically small trees) – there’s a piece that will fit your project perfectly.

Ready to find out all the best uses for Manzanita Wood and how to get the best from it? 

Let’s do it.

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What is Manzanita Wood Driftwood?

Native to mountainous regions of North America, Manzanita is a hardy shrub that’s bursting with character.

Twisting branches grow intertwined to produce a complex network of gnarled goodness.

The wood naturally comes with beautiful red bark, but it’s not entirely preserved in the final driftwood product. Instead, it’s often harvested from the ground where it has been long bleached by the sun (or sometimes sandblasted in-store) to produce a lovely pale hue. 

manzanita wood branch in terrarium
The warm hue was present in one of my Manzanita branches. It contrasts the green plants wonderfully.

Despite being a shrub, it produces a surprisingly strong hardwood that’s highly stable and rot-resistant.

Just what we’re looking for in driftwood, right?

It’s also actually not a single plant but rather a family of plants from the Arctostaphylos genus.

The natural variation in the wood – and the multiple species of Manzanita to source from – are what makes Manzanita Wood so incredibly versatile.

Manzanita Wood Uses (In Terrariums & Aquariums)

Honestly, when it comes to hardscape, there’s not much that Manzanita Wood can’t do.

As a material often used in florist displays, you know you’re on to something super aesthetic. Widely favored for its diverse shapes and styles, it’s great as either a feature piece or just for natural accents.

We had a field day searching through all these different Manzanita Wood branches.

There’s no taming the wild growth of this beautiful wood, so if you can’t beat them – join them. 

Plus, it’s of a neutral pH and doesn’t leak tannins like other hardwoods, so you can be confident it’s not going to upset the balance of any ecosystem you add it to.

Here’s how you might use them effectively in a project.

As a Centerpiece

If you choose a “head branch” (as I’d call it) with the full network of smaller branches coming from it, you have yourself a stunning centerpiece.

Of course, you’ll need a fairly large container to accommodate these pieces, but it may be the only hardscape you need.

I’ve even seen these propped up vertically and had moss carefully attached to the smaller branches, effectively recreating the look of a living tree. Seriously stunning stuff!

manzanita wood head branch in tank
It’s a really popular choice for paludariums.

As a Mount for Epiphytes

Larger gnarled branches can provide so much structure to a scene, and they also offer planting opportunities for epiphytes.

The likes of air plants, orchids, and Bromeliads could all be nestled into the crooks of these branches. Bringing the 3D space to life and giving a natural rainforest feel.

forked manzanita wood branch
This piece is ideal – an Air Plant would look brilliant wedged in the forked part.

They still make fantastic centerpieces, too.

Just be careful with these, as Manzanita Wood isn’t a particularly lightweight material. These dense branches can get heavy and can easily crack a glass container if they slip.

As Highlights

Much like the ever-popular Spiderwood, Manzanita Wood often comes in small assorted branches. 

These are great as highlights in a larger scene.

terrarium with manzanita wood
I think this piece of Manzanita Wood really adds a little depth to the terrarium without overpowering it.

Adding multiple pieces of wood into a densely packed plant area creates depth and gives the illusion of a wild undergrowth beneath. Try different combinations of branches to achieve your desired result.

Where to Buy Manzanita Wood

Manzanita Wood seems to be pretty abundant in the US, so it’s widely available online (though it’s very difficult to find in the UK – it literally took us years to track some down).

Just make sure you know what kind of listing you’re getting.

Sometimes, the branches are WYSIWYG “what you see is what you get,” like this shop on Etsy (all of the above examples are like this – you get the exact branch in the image).

๐Ÿ‘‰ Shop Manzanita WYSIWYG on Etsy.

Others give an example size, but you don’t really know the exact shape that’s going to arrive. With the smaller highlight branches, having a few together definitely looks better – so it can pay to get a few branches to hedge your bets for a better final look.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Shop Manzanita on Buceplant.

Over to You

Manzanita Wood is a favorite wood of mine, but how does it stack up for you?

For more driftwood inspiration, check out my guide to terrarium wood.

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