Mahonia aquifolium is a slow growing evergreen shrub with upright stems, forming colonies through its creeping rhizomes. Height generally 3-6 inches, up to 9 feet, with a 3-5 feet spread. Two forms seem to exist, one is upright and open, the other more rounded, dense and broad. The foliage is glossy, with serrated holly-like leaves, turning purple-bronze in fall. The flowers are bright yellow, borne on 2-3 inches terminal racemes, mildly fragrant, appearing in mid spring. The fruit is a small dark purple-blue berry, appearing in fall. Traditional food of Northwest Native peoples. Prefers fertile, moist, acidic soil and shade. Will develop chlorosis in high pH soils. Can contract leaf rusts, leaf spots, barberry aphid, scale and whitefly, although healthy plants are usually trouble free. In hot sun may get leaf scorch. Great shade plant, in border, or foundation plantings, or as specimen. Native from British Columbia to Oregon, introduced 1823.
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Size: Height: 5 ft. to 5 ft.
Width: 3 ft. to 3 ft.
Plant Category: shrubs,
Plant Characteristics: decorative berries or fruit,
Foliage Characteristics: evergreen,
Flower Characteristics: fragrant,
Flower Color: yellows,
Tolerances: deer, heat & humidity, pollution, rabbits, seashore, slope,
Bloomtime Range: Mid Spring to Mid Spring
USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant
Light Range: Shade to Part Sun
pH Range: 4.5 to 6.5
Soil Range: Sandy Loam to Some Clay
Water Range: Normal to Moist
FertilizingHow-to : Fertilization for Young Plants
Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Look for a fertilizer that has phosphorus, P, in it(the second number on the bag.) Apply recommended amount for plant per label directions in the soil at time of planting or at least during the first growing season.
How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants
Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.
LightConditions : Full to Partial Shade
Full shade means there is little or no light in the growing zone. Shade can be the result of a mature stand of trees or shadows cast by a house or building. Plants that require full shade are usually susceptible to sunburn. Full shade beneath trees may pose additional problems; not only is there no light, but competition for water, nutrients and root space.
Partial shade means that an area receives filtered light, often through tall branches of an open growing tree. Root competition is usually less. Partial shade can also be achieved by locating a plant beneath an arbor or lathe-like structure. Shadier sides of a building are normally the northern or northeastern sides. These sides also tend to be a little cooler. It is not uncommon for plants that can tolerate full sun or some sun in cooler climates to require some shade in warmer climates due to stress placed on the plant from reduced moisture and excessive heat.
Conditions : Partial Sun, Partial Shade
Part sun or part shade plants prefer light that is filtered. Sunlight, though not direct, is important to them. Often morning sun, because it is not as strong as afternoon sun, can be considered part sun or part shade. If you live in an area that does not get much intense sun, such as the Pacific Northwest, a full sun exposure may be fine. In other areas such as Florida, plant in a location where afternoon shade will be received.
Conditions : Full to Partial Sun
Full sunlight is needed for many plants to assume their full potential. Many of these plants will do fine with a little less sunlight, although they may not flower as heavily or their foliage as vibrant. Areas on the southern and western sides of buildings usually are the sunniest. The only exception is when houses or buildings are so close together, shadows are cast from neighboring properties. Full sun usually means 6 or more hours of direct unobstructed sunlight on a sunny day. Partial sun receives less than 6 hours of sun, but more than 3 hours. Plants able to take full sun in some climates may only be able to tolerate part sun in other climates. Know the culture of the plant before you buy and plant it!
WateringConditions : Outdoor Watering
Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:
* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.
* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.
* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).
* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.
* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.
Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants
Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
PlantingHow-to : Pruning Flowering Shrubs
It is necessary to prune your deciduous flowering shrub for two reasons: 1. By removing old, damaged or dead wood, you increase air flow, yielding in less disease. 2. You rejuvenate new growth which increases flower production.
Pruning deciduous shrubs can be divided into 4 groups: Those that require minimal pruning (take out only dead, diseased, damaged, or crossed branches, can be done in early spring.); spring pruning (encourages vigorous, new growth which produces summer flowers - in other words, flowers appear on new wood); summer pruning after flower (after flowering, cut back shoots, and take out some of the old growth, down to the ground); suckering habit pruning (flowers appear on wood from previous year. Cut back flowered stems by 1/2, to strong growing new shoots and remove 1/2 of the flowered stems a couple of inches from the ground) Always remove dead, damaged or diseased wood first, no matter what type of pruning you are doing.
Examples: Minimal: Amelanchier, Aronia, Chimonanthus, Clethra, Cornus alternifolia, Daphne, Fothergilla, Hamamelis, Poncirus, Viburnum. Spring: Abelia, Buddleia, Datura, Fuchsia, Hibiscus, Hypericum, Perovskia, Spirea douglasii/japonica, Tamarix. Summer after flower: Buddleia alternifolia, Calycanthus, Chaenomeles, Corylus, Cotoneaster, Deutzia, Forsythia, Magnolia x soulangeana/stellata, Philadelphus, Rhododendron sp., Ribes, Spirea x arguta/prunifolia/thunbergii, Syringa, Weigela. Suckering: Kerria
How-to : Planting Shrubs
Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and deep enough to plant at the same level the shrub was in the container. If soil is poor, dig hole even wider and fill with a mixture half original soil and half compost or soil amendment.
Carefully remove shrub from container and gently separate roots. Position in center of hole, best side facing forward. Fill in with original soil or an amended mixture if needed as described above. For larger shrubs, build a water well. Finish by mulching and watering well.
If the plant is balled-and-burlapped, remove fasteners and fold back the top of natural burlap, tucking it down into hole, after you've positioned shrub. Make sure that all burlap is buried so that it won't wick water away from rootball during hot, dry periods. If synthetic burlap, remove if possible. If not possible, cut away or make slits to allow for roots to develop into the new soil. For larger shrubs, build a water well. Finish by mulching and watering well.
If shrub is bare-root, look for a discoloration somewhere near the base; this mark is likely where the soil line was. If soil is too sandy or too clayey, add organic matter. This will help with both drainage and water holding capacity. Fill soil, firming just enough to support shrub. Finish by mulching and watering well.
ProblemsPest : Whiteflies
Whiteflies are small, winged insects that look like tiny moths, which attack many types of plants. The flying adult stage prefers the underside of leaves to feed and breed. Whiteflies can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 500 eggs in a life span of 2 months. If a plant is infested with whiteflies, you will see a cloud of fleeing insects when the plant is disturbed. Whiteflies can weaken a plant, eventually leading to plant death if they are not checked. They can transmit many harmful plant viruses. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Possible controls: keep weeds down; use screening in windows to keep them out; remove infested plants away from non-infested plants; use a reflective mulch (aluminum foil) under plants (this repels whiteflies); trap with yellow sticky cards, apply labeled pesticides; encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden; and sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant.
Fungi : Rusts
Most rusts are host specific and overwinter on leaves, stems and spent flower debris. Rust often appears as small, bright orange, yellow, or brown pustules on the underside of leaves. If touched, it will leave a colored spot of spores on the finger. Caused by fungi and spread by splashing water or rain, rust is worse when weather is moist.
Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and provide maximum air circulation. Clean up all debris, especially around plants that have had a problem. Do not water from overhead and water only during the day so that plants will have enough time to dry before night. Apply a fungicide labeled for rust on your plant.
Fungi : Leaf Spots
Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.
Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.
Pest : Scale Insects
Scales are insects, related to mealy bugs, that can be a problem on a wide variety of plants - indoor and outdoor. Young scales crawl until they find a good feeding site. The adult females then lose their legs and remain on a spot protected by its hard shell layer. They appear as bumps, often on the lower sides of leaves. They have piercing mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Scales can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Prevention and Control: Once established they are hard to control. Isolate infested plants away from those that are not infested. Consult your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal recommendation regarding their control. Encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden.
MiscellaneousConditions : Deer Tolerant
There are no plants that are 100% deer resistant, but many that are deer tolerant. There are plants that deer prefer over others. You will find that what deer will or will not eat varies in different parts of the country. A lot of it has to do with how hungry they are. Most deer will sample everything at least once, decide if they like it or not and return if favorable. A fence is the good deer barrier. You may go for a really tall one (7 to 8 feet), or try 2 parallel fences, (4 to 5 feet apart). Use a wire mesh fence rather than board, since deer are capable of wiggling through a 12 inch space.
Conditions : Pollution Tolerant
Air pollution is becoming a bigger problem each day. Pollutants in our air damage plants. The plants are damaged by absorbing sulfur dioxide, ozone, peroxyacetyl nitrate, ethylene, and nitrogen dioxide through their pores. Cell membrane damage may result in leaf drop, blotched or burnt looking leaves, or off-colored tissue between veins. Vehicles and industrial processes are the key culprits and conditions worsen on hot summer days. Though planting only pollution tolerant plants is not the solution to this problem, it is a visual band aid. Your Cooperative Extension Service may have a list of plants that are more pollution tolerant in your area.
Conditions : Rabbit Tolerant
As cute as they are, rabbits can really damage a vegetable garden. Young, tender lettuce plants seem to be their favorite. If a free-roaming dog is not a possibility for you, consider installing raised vegetable beds and covering tender shoots with netting. If you have ample room, you can opt to plant enough for you and the bunnies. Scents don't always repel animals, as they get used to them and are often washed off in the rain.
Conditions : Slope Tolerant
Slope tolerant plants are those that have a fibrous root system and are often plants that prefer good soil drainage. These plants assist in erosion control by stabilizing/holding the soil on slopes intact.
Glossary : Border Plant
A border plant is one which looks especially nice when used next to other plants in a border. Borders are different from hedges in that they are not clipped. Borders are loose and billowy, often dotted with deciduous flowering shrubs. For best effect, mass smaller plants in groups of 3, 5, 7, or 9. Larger plants may stand alone, or if room permits, group several layers of plants for a dramatic impact. Borders are nice because they define property lines and can screen out bad views and offer seasonal color. Many gardeners use the border to add year round color and interest to the garden.
Conditions : Erosion Control
Plants that help to control erosion have fibrous root systems that help to keep soil intact. Leaves and the overall form of a plant can prevent erosion by breaking up water droplets before they hit the ground, lessening splashing and runoff.
Glossary : Evergreen
Evergreen refers to plants that hold onto their leaves or needles for more than one growing season, shedding them over time. Some plants such as live oaks are evergreen, but commonly shed the majority of their older leaves around the end of January.
Glossary : Shrub
Shrub: is a deciduous or evergreen woody perennial that has multiple branches that form near its base.
Glossary : Fragrant
Fragrant: having fragrance.
Glossary : U. S. Natives
Native plants require lower maintenance and usually have less pest problems. They are key components in the xeriphytic landscape and backyard wildlife habitat. Select your region and the search will look for all plants in the database that are native to your area.