Mahonia, superb in winter

Mahonia is a simply beautiful shrub during winter.

Main Mahonia facts

NameMahonia
FamilyBerberidaceae
Type – shrub

Height – 3 to 6 ½ feet (1 to 2 meters)
Exposure – full sun, part sun, shade
Soil – ordinary

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – January to April

Caring for this plant from planting to pruning will ensure that you’ll have nice growth and beautiful blooming.

Planting mahonia

Plant your mahonia in fall or spring but avoid frost spells and high temperatures.

If you must plant it in the sun, avoid places that would be too hot and if possible favor part sun.

  • It doesn’t require sunlight and will grow perfectly fine in the shade.
  • It loves cool soil with a lot of humus.
  • Refer to our guidelines for planting shrubs.

Propagating mahonia

Blue berries of the mahonia plant grouped in a radial pattern.Whether it be propagated through seeds, cuttings, or dividing suckers, mahonia boasts an array of options to multiply it.

However, cuttings and sucker division are the easiest and quickest methods.

Prepare mahonia cuttings at the end of of the summer, on soft-wood growth.

  • Collect stems from new growth.
  • Remove lower pairs of leaves, keeping only the topmost one or two pairs at the crest.
  • Dip the base of the cuttings in powdered rooting agents (an optional but recommended step).
  • Put the cuttings in special cutting soil mix, under some kind of shelter to avoid direct sunlight.

Division from suckers is best performed in spring.

  • You can plant the suckers directly in the ground with a mix of soil mix and garden soil.
  • You can also have them grow roots in nursery pots first and then transfer them to the ground in fall.

Pruning and caring for mahonia

Pruning isn’t really needed but it may help make the foliage more dense or to reboost the vigor of your mahonia.

If you wish to reduce or rebalance the shrub:

  • Prune your mahonia after the blooming season.
  • Never cut branches back by more than ⅓ their length.
  • Remove dead or sick branches.

Watering mahonia

Watering must be regular albeit with small quantities during the first year, especially if it was planted in spring.

After that, watering is needed in case of high temperatures or prolonged dry spells.

In summer, mulch the base of the shrub in order to retain a certain moisture level and also avoid weed growth.

Learn more about mahonia

Native to Asia or North America, mahonias  number over 70 species among which you’ll appreciate ‘aquifolium’, ‘bealii’, ‘hybrides media’, ‘japonica’, ‘lomariifolia’ and ‘wagneri’.

The name “Mahonia” was chosen to honor the American botanist Bernard Mc Mahon.
The official French name for this shrub is mahonie.

The spectacular blooming of mahonia makes is one of the rare shrubs to bear such floral bunches over winter.

With its very ornamental appearance, this prickly, leathery-leaved shrub will appeal to you anytime of the year.

You can even nurture dwarf mahonia cultivars in pots on a terrace or balcony.

Mahonia fears neither cold nor freezing since it can withstand temperatures falling to -4°F (-20° C).

Smart tip about Mahonia

Plant daffodils or tulips at the base of the tree to create clustered spots of color in winter.

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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Mahonia flowers shared by Delorian under © CC0 1.0
Mahonia berries shared by Hans under © CC0 1.0

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