Mahonia aquifolium | Oregon Grape Holly

A unique evergreen with shiny burgandy, pinatley compound leaves that look prehistoric and add great texture in the garden. Woodland naturalizing shrubs with branches that grow out in horizontal tiers. Although its leaves have an agressive appearance, learning a bit about it makes Mahonia shine in a new light. Oregon Grape Holly is more petite than its sister, Mahonia baelei but can be used in similar ways. Fragrant lemon yellow flowers (not the nicest) appear in late winter and burst into blueberry colored and then blue-black berries that dangle like grapes. Looks great in mass plantings and works well with grasses, coreopsis and ferns. Is often seen masking residential ac compressors, a stressful and rigorous job for any plant. Fantastic in deep shade in the deep South. It is a nice source of food for wildlife, too.

You don’t need to pull the volunteers that sprout in the spring. Most won’t last. Prune selectively on “THE 3 YEAR CYCLE”, prune 1/3 off of 1/3 of your plants each year. If you have 3 plants, each year prune 1/3rd of the branches off 1 of them. Keep moist with plenty of mulch.

A relative of Barberries and Nandina (if you can believe it). It may not flower if it doesn’t get at least a couple hours of sun each day, though. Best position is one that gives 2-4 hours of morning sun. One of the only plants that can tolerate the heat of an ac unit nearby. Choose plants based on color, some are not as attractive as others. Not happy in cold. Used by Native Americans to treat lots of ailments. Popular with herbalists to treat psoriasis.


‘King’s Ransom’ above, a toughy!

Variegated forms available, most cultivars are the bugandy color but sp seems to be dark green.
‘King’s Ransom’ a new cultivar with maroon matte leaves, interesting, compact
Mahonia bealei | Leatherleaf Mahonia very similar to M. aquifolia but matte green and larger
Mahonia japonica | Japanese Mahonia available, almost identical to M. bealei, Dir says differences are not manifest, especially since individual plants are many times hybrids anyway.

ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 7 – 9 | part sun to (prefers) full shade
GROWTH RATE ….. slow
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 3′ to 5′/same
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. Erect, rounded, horizontal branches, some stems shoot up tall
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 7 to 12 leaflets, rigid and leathery, ovate, each leaflet is 1″ to 3″ long, 1″ to 2″ wide, terminal is largest, prominant spines
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. alternate, pinately compound
LEAF COLOR ….. Evergreen | many shades, drk green to bugandy and maroon
FLOWERS | fragrant lemon yellow panicles in April, can be quite attractive or just too neon, depends on the plant.
BERRIES | beautiful blueberry blue turning black
SOIL does well in moist, slightly acid
Native to China introduced in 1845

UCONN Hortnet / Mahonia aquifolia

Virginia Tech Dendrology / Mahonia aquifolia

Wikipedia / Mahonia aquifolia

Dave’s Garden / Mahonia aquifolia