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Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia) (Mahonia aquifolium)



Authors as Published

Alex X. Niemiera, Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech (first published May 2009, last reviewed March 2024)


Foliage: Evergreen broadleaf

Height: 3 to 9 feet (depending on form) Spread: 5 feet

Shape: Upright, cane growth (very little side branching)

Oregon grape holly is a slow-growing, medium to large evergreen shrub with lustrous foliage and bright yellow flowers in spring which are followed by robin egg blue fruit in summer.

Plant Needs:

Zone: 6 to 8

Light: Partial shade to full shade Moisture: Moist to average

Soil Type: Sandy, loam, or clay pH Range: 3.5 to 7.0


Suggested uses for this plant include border, massing, and foundation plant.

Planting Notes:

Oregon grape holly must have shade during hot summer afternoons and protection from winter winds. Thus, planting on the east side of a house (within shade pattern) is ideal.


Easy to maintain.


No serious pests.


Consult local garden centers, including historic or public gardens and arboreta regarding cultivars and related species that grow well in your area.


‘Compactum’ is a low-growing cultivar (3 feet tall) with glossy foliage. Related species:

Leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei) has the same aesthetic and cultural requirements as Oregongrapeholly. However, it has a more coarse texture due to its larger and stiff-pointed leaves. There are reports of leatherleaf mahonia invading southern woodlands.


There are two forms of Oregongrapeholly in the nursery trade. One is a tall upright open form and the other is a more compact low-growing form. In both species (Oregongrapeholly and Leatherleaf), leaves are held stiffly horizontal on the shrub, making it an interesting specimen. Because of this tiered effect that mimics a pagoda, these species are commonly used in Asian gardens.

This material was developed by Carol Ness as part of the Interactive Design and Development Project funded by the Kellogg Foundation.

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Publication Date

March 5, 2024