Content Detail

Oregon grape-holly is a semi-evergreen, upright to oval shrub maturing at 4 to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide with tendency to sucker. Bright yellow clusters of small flowers in early spring contrast against the burgundy fall leaves of last year’s growth. Glossy, holly-like summer foliage starts out burgundy maturing to blue green. Site in an area protected against wind and winter sun.

  • Family (English) barberry
  • Family (botanic) Berberidaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale North America
  • Size range Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet), Small shrub (3-5 feet)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites
  • Season of interest early spring, late summer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Creeping, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow

Size and form:

Oregon grape-holly is a semi-evergreen shrub reaching 4 to 5 feet high with a suckering habit.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to the northwestern United States in rocky woods and coniferous forests.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

Birds are attracted to edible berries that ripen to blue-black by early fall.

Bark color and texture:

The bark is stout and light brown. The unbranched stems have small winter buds.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color:

It has alternate, evergreen to semi-evergreen, glossy, compound pinnate leaves with five to nine leaflets. The leaflets are elliptical to ovate with spiny margins. New growth emerges reddish, changes to lustrous dark green in the summer, and then to a deep burgundy fall and winter color. Winter burn leaves drop off in spring as new growth is emerging.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

In April bright yellow clusters of erect, 2 to 3 inches long and wide terminal racemes bloom and contrast with last year’s burgundy foliage.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Edible blue-black berries with a whitish-blue cast (bloom) are borne in rounded clusters that resemble grape clusters. They persist into early winter.



Plant Care:

Oregon grape-holly refers to be planted in part shade to full shade in a protected site. The leaves of plants in northern climates tend to experience winter burn so protection from wind and winter sun is needed. Best in well drained, acidic, loamy soil. Tolerant of dry sites once established. Prune regularly to control size, but wait for old leaves to drop and new growth to begin in spring.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

It is not tolerant of alkaline soil, poor drainage, compacted soil, full sun, or exposed sites and can get leaf scorch, aphids, or scale. It is deer and rabbit resistant.


Compact Dwarf Oregon grape-holly (Mahonia aquifolium ‘Compactum’):

A dwarf form reaching 2 to 2 1/2 feet high with glossy leaves and bronze winter color.

Creeping Mahonia (Mahonia repens):

A species similar to Oregon grape-holly, this is a stiff, low growing, creeping plant reaching 10 to 18 inches high.

New Market Oregon grape holly (Mahonia x decumbens):

A hybrid of Mahonia aquifolia and Mahonia repens.



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