Mahonia eurybracteata, a yellow-blooming shrub for fall

Native to China, Mahonia eurybracteata has only been made available to the world at large in the past two decades. Growing this plant in your garden will definitely give it an elegant Asian touch!

Mahonia eurybracteata facts

Name – Mahonia eurybracteata
Former name – Mahonia confusa
Family – Berbericaceae (barberry family)

Type – evergreen low shrub
Height – about 3′ tall (1m)
Exposure – part sun or shade

Soil – average, better if rich
Blooming – fall (September to November)

This mahonia plant with wispy, bamboo-like leaves will stand out in both gardens and planters. The variety most often found in stores is the Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’.

Planting Mahonia eurybracteata

Specimens bought from a store

You’ll generally find the Mahonia eurybracteata in the form of potted shrubs.

  • Best is to plant them in the ground in spring, followed by fall.

Follow these guidelines on how to plant a shrub.

Where to plant your new Mahonia

As long as the soil isn’t waterlogged, anywhere in the garden is fine.

  • Don’t plant in a spot with stagnant or standing water.

It thrives most in shade or part shade, so you can plant it in the following situations:

  • In a shrub bed or flower bed around the house, near a wall, or to the side of a garden shed.
  • North-facing part of the house (or South-facing if you’re in Australia or New Zealand)
  • At the brink of your tree forest
  • Under tall trees

Sowing Mahonia eurybracteata from seed

Seeds can be sown in late winter in nursery pots, indoors.

  • After about a month, they’ll germinate.
  • Keep them in nursery pots, upsizing them until fall when you can transplant them to the ground.
  • Alternatively, transplant them directly in the ground in spring if you’re available over the summer to water them in case of hot weather.

Mahonia eurybracteata propagation

Cuttings

Cuttings and layering are two very effective ways to propagate your M. eurybracteata.

These techniques do work very well. When preparing cuttings, it’s best to select stems at the end of summer.

When air-layering or marcotting, remember to stake the stem you’re working with.

Reproduction with seeds

Your Mahonia eurybracteata will bear hundreds of berries, each of which contains from 2 to 5 seeds. That’s a lot of sowing power!

  • Since Mahonia eurybracteata is still rather rare in our parts, seeds will either appear from self-pollination or from cross-pollination with other species.
  • Common mahonia is often the “Mahonia aquifolia” species which is different but sometimes cross-fertile with the Mahonia eurybracteata species.
  • Because of cross-pollination, it’s probable that not all flowers go to seed. Also, only few seeds will be fertile and germinate!
  • More specifically on the Mahonia berry

Dividing the clump

This Mahonia will send out shoots from base. It’s possible to split the plant clump with a sharp spade.

  • Spring is when to divide this plant.

Mahonia eurybracteata care

Watering & Fertilizer

Watering M. eurybracteata

Only during the first year will you need to water the plant. Indeed, the root system isn’t very developed at the start, and it’s important to help it through the first summer heat waves.

  • In the following years, only water during long, hot droughts.
  • Heat won’t kill the plant, but if it doesn’t have any water at all, it will dry out and die.
  • Drought tolerance only appears once the plant is well established.

M. eurybracteata can develop quite a deep root system if need be, with time.

Fertilizer

Not much fertilizer is needed. It will survive on poor soil, but for it to thrive you must give it some sort of fertilizer at least yearly.

Pruning Mahonia eurybracteata

Trimming

There usually isn’t any need to prune the plant. All the species and cultivars won’t grow very large for a shrub. Expect it to reach a maximum size of 1 yard or meter tall and wide.

  • If you do need to trim it smaller, do so in spring

Controlling spread and invasiveness

Usually, these hardy plants are slow growers. They’re easy to keep under control. If, however, they start growing too large for the plot of land you’ve allocated to them, there are several things you can do:

  • cut dead flowers off when they’ve wilted away. This will deprive you of those edible berries, but it’ll also keep the seeds from sprouting.
  • If you’ve the time, better harvest the mahonia instead and use the seeds for food!
  • Divide the clump and gift or discard the portion you remove. You’ll only need to this once or twice a decade, though.

Caring for M. eurybracteata in winter & summer

Winter care

This shrub is rather hardy, coping with cold weather dropping down to 14-15°F (-10°C).

  • Remember, however, to shelter it from strong winds.
  • In open ground, it won’t be as hardy.

You can protect the plant in winter if it gets any colder. Depending on the species and cultivar, some leaves might turn red and/or fall off during stark freezing.

Summer care

It will help to spread mulch at the foot of your shrub. This will keep the soil from drying out.

  • Mulch will reduce evaporation and keep the ground cooler
  • You won’t need to water except during the hottest days, and then only just a bit.
  • Any type of mulch will do, there aren’t any better or worse mulches for this plant, but plant mulch will also double as fertilizer.

Diseases and pests that attack M. eurybracteata

There aren’t many diseases or pests that will attack your plant. It’s still rare to see such plants, and local diseases haven’t yet taken hold on it.

You might notice aphids in spring, especially if ants are nearby.

Varieties and species of Mahonia eurybracteata

More and more special, beautiful varieties have appeared on the market, here are some of the most amazing.

  • Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Beijing beauty’ – leaves are laced with small teeth
  • Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Sweet Winter’ – among the narrowest, softest leaves
  • Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ (subspecies ganpinensis) – the easiest and most common variety, simply wonderful in planters.
  • Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Chalingba’ (subspecies ganpinensis) – long, elegant leaves with two to four soft spikes along thick, leathery leaves.
  • Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Marvel’ – smooth-edged leaves quite unlike any other variety
  • Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Narihira’ (or ‘Nara hiri’) – also a rather common variety, requires more water than others.
  • Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Indigo flair’ (or ‘sPg-3-018’ for the specific variety name) – a special variety with deep purple-green leafage.

Botanists distinguish two main types of Mahonia eurybracteata.

  • Mahonia eurybracteata subspecies eurybracteata which is slightly more widespread in its native range. It has slightly wider leaves, nearly an inch wide (2.5 cm).
  • Mahonia eurybracteata subspecies ganpinensis which has a more reduced native range, but is now more common since it has started to naturalize in different places across the planet. Leaves are narrower, maxing out at about ½ inch (1.5 cm).

Leaves are thin and wispy on the Mahonia eurybracteata shrub

Learn more about the magnificent Mahonia eurybracteata species

Threadlike leaves that sway in the wind

You’ll be immediately swayed off your feet when you first set your eyes on a wonderful Mahonia eurybracteata plant.

The beautiful thin leaves are soft and don’t have the typical “Mahonia spine” thorns or pricks on them. They’re still quite leathery to the touch, though, which makes them feel smooth (and helps fight drought, too).

Usually, the deep olive-green to silver-blue leafage is evergreen. In only turns red and falls in the coldest of regions.

Brilliant yellow flowers

And when the sun starts feeling far away, in fall, a power-packed yellow bloom takes you by surprise with a delicious fragrant scent reminiscent of the yellow mimosa tree.

Benefits for home & health

Mahonia eurybracteata, like its cousins in the Mahonia genus, shares many useful benefits. For example, it can be used to dye food and clothes.

Tart but delicious berries

It’s perfectly possible to eat the berries that form afterwards: Mahonia eurybracteata berries are edible.

Where does Mahonia eurybracteata come from?

It’s native to the Chinese region. Recently, new varieties have been introduced. Almost all the varieties that are easily available in English-speaking countries are protected by patents.

Specifically, some of the native varieties are endemic to the Sichuan province. As such, they grew up near the famed Sichuan pepper tree!

Smart tip about the Mahonia eurybracteata

These wonderful shrubs look like bamboo without any of the invasive drawbacks – they are excellent for Japanese gardens!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Mahonia eurybracteata leafage and blooms by Leonora Enking under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Thin wispy leaves by F. D. Richards under © CC BY-SA 2.0