Mahonia aquifolium

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 2 Professionals
Common Name: Oregon grape-holly
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Berberidaceae
Native Range: Western North America
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 5.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall, Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer

Culture

Grow in moist, organically rich, acidic, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers part shade locations. Site in locations protected from exposure to strong winds and full sun. Plants spread by stolons to form colonies. Unless naturalizing, suckers should be promptly removed as they appear. Single specimen shrubs fruit poorly. Grow more than one shrub together for best fruit production (single specimens with no other pollinator in the area fruit poorly if at all).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Mahonia aquifolium is an evergreen shrub that is native to rocky woods and coniferous forests in the Pacific Northwest from British Columbia to northern California. It is known by a large variety of different common names including Oregon hollygrape, Oregon grapeholly or Oregon grape. This is a suckering, evergreen shrub with a spreading to upright habit that typically grows 3-6’ tall and to 5’ wide, although it can be trained to grow taller. It is noted for its yellow flowers in spring, edible blue-black berries in late summer, pinnately compound evergreen foliage and ability to grow well in shade. Each compound leaf (to 10” long) typically has 5-9 spiny, ovate to oblong-ovate leaflets (each to 3” long). New leaves emerge red-tinted in spring, maturing to glossy dark green by summer. Foliage acquires purplish hues in fall and burgundy-bronze tones by winter, sometimes suffering from winter burn. Bright yellow flowers (to 2.5” long) bloom in terminal inflorescences (racemes) in April. Flowers are mildly fragrant. Flowers are followed by edible berries that ripen to blue-black by early fall. Berries are somewhat sour fresh off the plant, but make excellent jellies. Berries in clusters look like small grapes, the foliage is holly-like in appearance and the flower is the State Flower of Oregon, hence the common name. Genus name honors Bernard McMahon, 18th-19th century American horticulturist. Synonymous with and formerly called Berberis aquifolium.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Improperly sited plants may suffer from leaf scorch. Leaf spots and rusts may occur. Watch for aphids, scale and whiteflies.

Garden Uses

Best in small groupings in shady areas. Shrub borders. Foundation plantings. Woodland or shade gardens.