How to grow mahonia

Mahonia is a valuable shrub for winter colour. Find out how to grow it, in our detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do Plant in July

Do Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does flower in January

Plant does flower in February

Plant does flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does flower in November

Plant does flower in December

Fruits
Fruits

Plant does not fruit in January

Plant does not fruit in February

Plant does not fruit in March

Plant does not fruit in April

Plant does not fruit in May

Plant does not fruit in June

Plant does not fruit in July

Plant does not fruit in August

Plant does fruit in September

Plant does not fruit in October

Plant does not fruit in November

Plant does not fruit in December

Mahonia is also known as the Oregon grape, which points to its North American origins. The small blueish fruits (or grapes) follow a display of fragrant, golden yellow flowers. These winter blooms provide an invaluable source of pollen and nectar for winter-active bees and other pollinators when there’s little else in flower. With their evergreen spiny foliage, mahonias look fantastic underplanted with contrasting foliage plants that also thrive in shade, for example elephant’s ears, fringe cups and epimedium.

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Where to plant mahonia

Planting a mahonia in a pot
Planting a mahonia in a pot

For best results grow mahonias in moist but well-drained soil, in partial shade.


How to plant mahonia

Dig a generous hole, adding well-rotted compost and a sprinkling of micorrhizal fungi. Plant the mahonia, making sure the rootball sits just below the soil’s surface, and firm in well.

Watch Monty Don plant a mahonia in this TV clip from Gardeners’ World:


Propagating mahonia

Mahonias can be successfully propagated by layering or stem cuttings in June and July.


Mahonia: problem solving

Mahonias are generally pest-free, but look out for rusts and powdery mildew in dry weather.


Care and maintenance

Pruning mahonia
Pruning mahonia

Prune every other year to encourage bushy growth and apply a mulch of well-rotted garden compost or manure around the base of the plant in spring and autumn.


Mahonia varieties to try

Mahonia repens
Mahonia repens
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  • Mahonia x media – with typical bright yellow, fragrant flowers from late autumn to late winter. It looks particularly good at the back of borders
  • Mahonia aquifolium ‘Apollo’  – a compact cultivar, that grows in a neat spreading dome. The glossy, dark green leaves, flush purple in winter with the characteristic yellow flowers appearing in early spring, followed by blue-black berries
  • Mahonia repens  – a creeping Oregon grape with a low-growing habit, this makes great groundcover in shady areas. The attractive foliage turns purplish in winter and bright yellow, fragrant flowers appear in spring
  • Mahonia x media ‘Charity’  – with an upright habit and long leaves. Stalks of bright yellow, fragrant flowers are produced at the ends of branches from late autumn to late winter
  • Mahonia x media ‘Underway’ – a compact mahonia with an upright habit. Its bright yellow, fragrant flowers are produced in late autumn, earlier than other mahonias, followed by blue-black berries
  • Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ – a new variety with finely divided soft evergreen, bamboo-like foliage.It looks completely different to other mahonias and the yellow flowers appear in lates summer and autumn