An erect evergreen shrub 3 to 6 ft high, with smooth, brown bark; branchlets glabrous. Leaves bright green, lustrous, narrowly ovate to lanceolate or oblanceolate, with a pointed apex and tapered base, 1 to 21⁄4 in. long, usually held erect, on stalks 1⁄3 to 1⁄4 in. long. Flowers in lax terminal racemes or panicles, borne in spring; corolla pink, urn-shaped, about 1⁄4 in. long. Fruit globose, bright red, flattened at the top, glabrous.
Native of California. By all accounts this is the most beautiful of the taller manzanitas, but by no means an easy plant to satisfy, even in Californian gardens. In the British Isles a position against a sunny wall, in very well-drained soil, is likely to suit it best. If tried, it might for good measure be associated with the equally beautiful but demanding Ceanothus purpureus, which should flower at the same time and grows on the same hillsides in Napa County, California. Both are safer in a neutral or slightly acid soil. Seed of A. stanfordiana requires pre-treatment in sulphuric acid if quick germination is to be obtained, but cuttings strike readily.
In subsp. hispidula (Howell) Adams, the branchlets are glandular-hairy and the leaves dull green.