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Mahonia Soft Caress, fern-like leaves for a Japanese garden

Mahonia soft caress

With surprising bamboo-like leafage, the Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ is a shrub that will make you feel in the Far East.

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ key facts

NameM. eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’
Family – Barberry family
Type – sub-shrub, evergreen

Height – up to 3 feet tall, 5 wide (1m x 1.5m)
Exposure – part sun or shade

Soil: ordinary to rich  –  Blooming: fall  –  Harvest: spring (berries)

It’s also a very stylish plant with graphical leafage that will do great in modern designer gardens.

Read also:

How to plant Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

Planting Mahonia ‘Soft caress

Soft Caress Mahonia planting Usually, Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ is sold in pots.

  • The best season to transplant them to the ground is Spring or Fall, right after purchasing.
  • Plant it in the ground directly after purchasing will make for only a single move.
  • This is much better to reduce transplant shock.

Follow these guidelines on planting a shrub.

Where to plant your Soft Caress:

It grows best in shade or part shade, so you can plant it in the following situations:

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

Unlike other mahonias, this hybrid can still thrive even if drainage isn’t optimal.

  • It shouldn’t be a spot with stagnant or standing water, but any normal garden area should be fine.
  • With its distinctive Asian touch, why not create a Japanese garden?

Mahonia Soft Caress care

Watering and pruning are the two tasks you’ll need to care for your mahonia well.


Apart from the first year, when the plant is still working on spreading its roots out, you won’t need to water your soft caress very often.

  • Water over the first year every fortnight in summer and only once a month in winter, if it doesn’t rain.
  • Later on, in case of drought or strong heat wave, watering a bit will help the plant stay beautiful.

You can also cut the need to water over all with hydrocrystals. These are mixed in with the soil upon planting in tiny amounts, but for five years they’ll regulate water and help the plant grow without any need to water at all.

Fertilizer for Soft Caress

It doesn’t require much fertilizer. Simply using mulch will both help keep the ground cool and break down into useful nutrients.

  • Unlike other Mahonia species that prefer mineral mulch, you can use plant based mulch for your Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’.

Pruning, trimming Soft Caress Mahonias

Mahonia soft caress careThere usually isn’t any need to prune the plant, since it stays smallish even when mature. It’ll rarely grow any taller than 1 yard or meter.

If it grows to more that 1 yard or meter wide, it means new shoots are growing from the roots or from fresh new seedlings.

Since it’s a slow grower, it’s easy to keep under control. If you do need to “shrink” it, spring is the time to do it.

  • If you wish to prune it, best prune in early spring.
  • Simply cut it back by a third for best results.
  • Pruning it back every three years will help it grow lush and dense.

Soft Caress Winter and Summer care

Winter care

Soft Caress Mahonia in fallThis shrub is quite hardy, coping well with cold weather dropping down to 14-15°F (-10°C).

  • Remember, however, that this shrub likes part shade and shade. This means it must be sheltered from strong winds.
  • In open ground, it won’t be as hardy.

You can protect it in winter if it gets any colder. It’s normal for leaves to turn red when the cold gets too harsh. New, green leaves will grow back in spring.

Summer care

It will help to spread mulch at the foot of your Soft Caress so that the soil doesn’t dry 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.
  • Mahonia Soft Caress will thrive with any type of mulch. It needn’t only be acidic or mineral.

Diseases and pests on ‘Soft Caress’

There aren’t many diseases or pests that will attack your plant.

Even though there aren’t any spikes, deer aren’t very fond of the plant.

Propagating Mahonia Soft Caress

Cuttings and layering

‘Soft Caress’ is a variety protected by a plant patent (#PP20183). This means it’s not allowed to propagate and sell the plant without permission from the patent holder.

  • According to current laws and regulations, this patent will expire on September 27th, 2026.
  • From that date on, it will be possible to propagate the plant on your own for whatever purpose you intend!

If your shrub is dying you can snip a branch off and propagate that so it can survive.

Note that for cuttings, best is to select stems at the end of summer.

When layering or marcotting, remember to stake the branch you’re working. On Soft Caress, they aren’t as strong and might break before the marcot is ready.

Reproduction through seeds

If you’re willing to risk growing a plant that will probably be slightly different, however, you can recover seeds from your Soft Caress and plant those!

  • The difference in the offspring is due to cross-pollination.
  • Offspring aren’t covered by the patent so you can propagate them at will.

Clump division

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

  • Spring is the best time to divide this plant.

Learn more about the ‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia

Beautiful and rare appeal, all year long

In summer, leaves of the ‘Soft Caress’ are aptly named: they sway with the breeze in a soft and fragrant way. They’re long and thin, much like those of bamboo.

Landscaping with mahonia soft caressUnlike common Mahonia, this shrub doesn’t have any spikes or thorns, whether on the stems or on the leaves.

The deep, olive-green color of the leaves contrast magnificently with the gold yellow blooming, a heart-warming sight during drab fall and winter days. With mild to cold weather, blooming will last up to three weeks.

It’s perfectly possible to eat the berries that form afterwards: ‘Soft Caress’ berries are edible, for instance in the form of Mahonia berry jam. You can even eat them raw, although there are a few precautions to note.

The foliage is evergreen, meaning it will stay on the plant over winter. Come spring, older fronds die out and are replaced with newer ones.

Origin of the Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

The mother species of this special cultivar is Mahonia eurybracteata, with full name Mahonia eurybracteata subspecies ganpanensis.

  • It grows in the wild in China.

Although the wild species has many of the same characteristics, the one commonly found in garden centers is the ‘Soft Caress’ variety.

Smart tip about the Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

Plant Soft Caress in pots or planters, it will do great on a deck, terrace or patio!

Images: CC BY 2.0: Rosewoman, CC BY-SA 2.0: Leonora Enking, Megan Hansen
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