Family: Berberidaceae
type : Evergreen, Shrubs
sun exposure : Varies by Species
water : Varies by Species
Plant Details

These useful and easy-to-grow plants remind many people of holly (Ilex), though they're closely related to barberry (Berberis). Handsome, typically spiny leaves are divided into leaflets. Showy yellow flowers are borne in dense, rounded or spikelike clusters in late winter or spring. Blooms are followed by berrylike blue, blue-black, or red fruit that attracts birds. Prune to reduce size or lankiness, cutting selected stems to the ground or to a node. Avoid planting too close to walkways and sitting areas, where prickly foliage might snag passersby. Generally pest free and seldom browsed by deer. Provide well-drained soil.

oregon grape holly

mahonia aquifolium

  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • Native from British Columbia to Northern California.
  • Erect growth to 6 feet or taller; spreads by underground stems to 5 feet wide.
  • Leaves 410 inches long, with five to nine very spiny-toothed, oval, 1- to 212 inches leaflets that are glossy green in some forms, dull green in others.
  • Young growth is ruddy or bronzy; scattered mature red leaves.
  • Purplish or bronzy leaves in winter, especially in Upper South or where plants are grown in full sun.
  • Spring flowers in 2- to 3 inches clusters along stems; edible blue-black fruit with a powdery coating (makes good jelly).


  • grows 23 feet tall and wide and spreads freely to make broad colonies.
  • New leaves glossy, light to coppery green; mature leaves matte, medium green.
  • Kings Ransom' is an upright grower to 56 feet tall and 45 feet wide; dark bluish green leaves turn red-purple in winter.
  • Orange Flame, 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide, has bronzy orange new growth and glossy green mature leaves that turn wine red in winter.

Oregon grape holly can take any exposure, though it does best with some shade in the Lower South and wind protection in the Upper South. Use in masses as foundation planting, in woodland garden, as low screen or garden barrier. Control height and form by pruning; if woody stems jut out, cut them down to ground (new growth fills in quickly). Unlike other mahonias, this one needs acid soil; develops chlorosis (yellow leaves with green veins) in alkaline soil. Regular water.

mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress

  • Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9.
  • Grows 3 feet tall and 312 feet wide with soft textured, narrow, bamboo-like foliage.
  • Thornless.
  • Bright yellow flowers in winter, followed by dark blue berries.
  • Great texture for containers, Asian gardens, and as specimen.
  • Best in part to full shade.
  • Regular water.

chinese mahonia

mahonia fortunei

  • Zones LS, CS; USDA 8-9.
  • Native to China.
  • Grows to 6 feet high, 3 feet wide; stems bear 10 inches., matte green leaves with 7 to 13 spiny-toothed leaflets.
  • Undersurface of leaves is yellowish green, with heavily netted veins.
  • Flowers in short clusters in late summer to early fall; purple-black berries seldom develop.
  • Plant has an unusual stiff charm and is grown for form and foliage, not fruit.
  • Full sun to light shade.
  • Moderate water.

mexican barberry

mahonia gracilis

  • Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9.
  • Native to Mexico.
  • To 3 feet high, 4 feet wide.
  • Glossy leaves have 5 to 13 overlapping leaflets, each about 112 inches long.
  • Foliage is most colorful in full sun: leaves are lime-green when new, darker green in summer, and a lively mix of reds, oranges, yellows, and light green in winter.
  • Bright yellow, very fragrant blossoms in winter.
  • Blue fruit with a powdery sheen.
  • Tolerates extreme heat and poor soils, even hard-packed clay.
  • Needs little or no supplemental water.


mahonia japonica Bealei Group(Mahonia bealei)

  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • Native to China.
  • Grows 1012 feet high and 10 feet wide, with strong pattern of vertical stems, horizontal foliage.
  • Leaves over 1 feet long, divided into 7 to 15 broad, leathery leaflets to 5in.
  • long; leaflets grayish or bluish green above, olive-green below, with spiny-toothed edges.
  • Very fragrant flowers in erect, 3- to 6 inches-long, spikelike clusters at branch ends in earliest spring.
  • Blue berries with a powdery sheen.
  • Distinguished plant against stone, brick, wood, glass.
  • Takes sun in Upper and Middle South; best in part shade elsewhere.
  • Plant in rich soil with ample organic material.
  • Regular water.

mahonia oiwakensis lomariifolia(Mahonia lomariifolia.) BURMESE MAHONIA

  • Zones LS, CS; USDA 8-9.
  • Native to China.
  • Showy plant to 612 feet high and 6 feet wide, with erect stems that branch only slightly.
  • Young plants often have a single, vertical, unbranched stem; with age, plants send up more near-vertical branches from near base.
  • Clustered near ends of these branches are horizontally held leaves to 2 feet long.
  • In outline, leaves look like stiff, crinkly, barbed ferns; each has as many as 47 thick, spiny, glossy, green leaflets arranged symmetrically along both sides of central stem.
  • Flowers in winter or earliest spring grow in foot-long, erect clusters at branch tips, just above uppermost cluster of leaves.
  • Blue fruit has a powdery sheen.
  • Prune stems at varying heights to induce branching.
  • Needs shade at least in afternoon to keep deep green color.
  • Regular water.

mahonia xmedia

  • Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9.
  • Hybrids between Mahonia lomariifolia and Mahonia japonica.
  • Plants bear upright clusters of fragrant flowers in late fall and winter; generally resemble Mahonia oiwakensislomariifolia and require the same conditions.
  • Arthur Menzies grows to 15 feet high and half as wide.
  • Buckland and 'Charity' grow to 15 feet high, 12 feet wide; 'Faith' reaches 610 feet high and 6 feet wide; 'Hope' and 'Lionel Fortescue' grow to 6 feet high and wide; 'Underway' and 'Winter Sun' reach 45 feet high and as wide.

texas mahonia

mahonia swaseyi

  • Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11.
  • Native to Texas and Mexico.
  • Spiny growth to 35 feet tall, 5 feet wide.
  • Leaves are rosy when young, light green in summer, reddish purple in fall and winter.
  • Fragrant yellow spring flowers; bright red berries.
  • Good barrier plant; can be sheared but looks most attractive when allowed to take its natural shape.
  • Best in full sun; tolerates much heat.
  • Provide well-drained soil.
  • Needs little or no supplemental water.

agarita, texas currant

mahonia trifoliolata (Berberis trifoliolata)

  • Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9.
  • Native to Arizona, southern New Mexico, Texas.
  • To 8 feet tall, 6 feet wide.
  • Stiff, upright branches hold leathery, blue-green to gray-green leaves to 3 inches long, each consisting of three spiny-tipped leaflets.
  • Fragrant yellow flowers in spring.
  • Red berries ripen in summer; they make good jelly; also favored by wildlife.
  • Needs good drainage and full sun.
  • Tolerates heat and drought, thriving on little or no supplemental water.

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