Mahonia japonica
Common Name: Oregon grape-holly 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Berberidaceae
Native Range: Japan
Zone: 6 to 8
Height: 5.00 to 7.00 feet
Spread: 7.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought


Easily grown in moist, well-drained soils in part shade (morning sun or sun dappled shade) to full shade. Also tolerates full sun, particularly in the northern parts of its growing range. Established plants tolerate some soil dryness and drought. Site in locations protected from exposure to strong winds. Plants will spread by suckering. Unless naturalizing is desired, suckers should be promptly removed as they appear. Single specimen shrubs may fruit poorly. Grow more than one shrub together for best fruit production.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Mahonia japonica is an evergreen shrub which typically matures over time to 7' tall and to 7-10' wide. Although native to China (not Japan), it has been extensively cultivated in Japan and is often commonly called Japanese mahonia. Pinnate-compound, leathery, holly-like leaves (to 18" long) grow in horizontal tiers. Each leaf has 7-19 narrow, stiff, spiny-toothed, oblong to lance-shaped, dark green leaflets (to 4" long). Fragrant yellow flowers in loose, spreading to pendant racemes (each to 4-8” long) bloom in late winter to early spring (March-April). Flowers are followed by ornamentally attractive grape-like bunches of small waxy fruits which mature to blue-black in late spring to early summer. Fruits are attractive to birds. Synonymous with Berberis japonica.

Genus name honors Bernard M'Mahon (1775-1816), American horticulturist and author of The American Gardener's Calendar (1806).

Specific epithet means of Japan.


No serious insect or disease problems. Leaf spots, powdery mildew and rusts may occur. Watch for aphids, scale and whiteflies.


Best in small groupings in part shade woodland areas. Shrub borders. Foundation plantings. Slopes. Open woodlands. Screen. Barrier plant (spiny leaves).