Plant DetailShow Menu

Mahonia aquifolium

Previously known as:

  • Berberis aquifolium
Description

Drought tolerant; slow-growing, but prone to suckers and may form colonies. Best in light shade, as color will bleach out if grown in full sun, and dislikes summer heat.

2-3 in. racemes of yellow flowers in early spring are mildly fragrant, with raisin-sized blue-black berries in summer that crown the branches with rows of waxy, bluish fruit.

The leaves are glossy and shiny like a holly.  The fruits are dark blue/purple and form in clusters like grapes, but this shrub is neither a grape nor a holly.  This plant is the state flower of Oregon, hence its common name.  It is a member of the barberry family Berberidaceae. Some consider one of the best garden shrubs for eastern gardens, and is from the Lewis and Clark Expedition collection.  It is best planted in small groups in shade or woodland gardens.  It does not like highly alkaline soils.

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems: Leaf spots, rust, and leaf scorch from sun/wind.  Chlorosis on high pH soils; leaves can look burned but stems will regrow leaves next spring.

Cultivars:
  • 'Compactum'
    Reaches only 3'; bronze leaves in winter
  • 'King's Ransom'
    Hybrid, upright grower 5' blue-green foliage, bronze/purple in winter
  • 'Mayhan Strain'
    Dwarf, glossy leaves
  • 'Repens'
    Ground cover
  • 'Smaragd' or 'Emerald'
    4' tall, lustrous deep green leaves, bronze/purple in winter.
Tags:
#evergreen#birds#pollinators#drought tolerant#light shade#shrub#wildlife plant#fall interest#year-round interest#fire#deer resistant
Cultivars:
  • 'Compactum'
    Reaches only 3'; bronze leaves in winter
  • 'King's Ransom'
    Hybrid, upright grower 5' blue-green foliage, bronze/purple in winter
  • 'Mayhan Strain'
    Dwarf, glossy leaves
  • 'Repens'
    Ground cover
  • 'Smaragd' or 'Emerald'
    4' tall, lustrous deep green leaves, bronze/purple in winter.
Tags:
#evergreen#birds#pollinators#drought tolerant#light shade#shrub#wildlife plant#fall interest#year-round interest#fire#deer resistant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Mahonia
    Species:
    aquifolium
    Family:
    Berberidaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Berries make jelly, wine or purple dye; inner bark, yellow dye
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    British Columbia south to OR; Pacific Northwest
    Distribution:
    Northern North America
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds are attracted to fruits.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Blue
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Deep dusty blue/black edible berries in clusters give excellent fall interest
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Bright yellow 2.5" flowers are mildly fragrant
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    5-9 pinnately compound spiny leaflets per 10' long leaf. Petiole encircles stem. New leaves red-tinted turn glossy dark green.
  • Bark:
    Bark Description:
    gray-brown color, not of ornamental importance
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Stems have an inner yellow bark thickened corky appearance, they are thick and branch infrequently.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Woodland
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Fire
    Heavy Shade