Berberis aquifolium 'Compacta'

Common Name: Oregon grape-holly 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Berberidaceae
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 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: Colorful, Good Fall
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer


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. Grow more than one shrub together for best fruit production (single specimens with no other pollinator in the area fruit poorly if at all). Hardy in Zones 5-8.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Berberis 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 and are attractive to birds. The flower is the State Flower of Oregon. Synonymous with and formerly called Mahonia aquifolium.

Genus name comes from the Latinized form of the Arabian name for the fruit.

Specific epithet means with leaves like holly.

'Compacta' is a low-growing selection of Oregon grape-holly that only reaches 2' tall at maturity. This cultivars takes on a spreading to mounding habit and will fill a 5' area. The new growth emerges a copper-orange color and matures to dark green. In winter the foliage takes on a dark purple-bronze color.


Improperly sited plants may suffer from leaf scorch. Leaf spots and rusts may occur. Watch for aphids, scale and whiteflies. Deer tend to avoid this plant.


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