All About Oregon Grapeholly

Native to the Pacific Northwest, this handsome evergreen shrub can also be grown in many other regions.

Its growth habit varies from upright to spreading, and the plant slowly forms a small colony from stoloniferous roots. Oregon grapeholly bears long compound leaves; the glossy, dark green, spine-tipped leaflets look very similar to the leaves of English holly. It blooms in early spring, bearing showy 2- to 3-inch-long clusters of small bright yellow flowers. These are followed by clusters of edible, grapelike fruit that turn from green to a striking glaucous blue and eventually to black. In winter, the foliage often takes on bronze, plum, or red tones.

Common name: Oregon grapeholly

Botanical name: Mahonia aquifolium

Plant type: evergreen shrub

Zones: 5 to 9

Height: 3 to 6 feet

Family: Berberidaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Partial shade
  • Soil: Acidic, with good amounts of organic matter
  • Moisture: Evenly moist but well-drained

Care

  • Mulch: 1 to 2 inches of pine needles, wood chips, or other organic mulch
  • Pruning: Occasional light pruning to remove damaged stems and shape plant
  • Fertilizer: Topdress annually with compost

Propagation

  • Seeds, cuttings, or division of offshoots

Pests and diseases

  • Few pest or disease problems
  • Susceptible to winter burn of foliage in windy, exposed sites
  • Leaves may become chlorotic in soils that are too alkaline (high pH)

Cultivars

  • ‘Compactum’ grows just 2 to 3 feet tall.
  • ‘Orange Flame’ has pretty orange-bronze new foliage.

Garden notes

  • Combine Oregon grapeholly with broadleaf evergreen rhododendrons and deciduous azaleas in lightly shaded areas under high-canopied trees.
  • When the fruits fully ripen in fall, they can be used to make jam or sauce (but you’ll have to compete with birds and other wildlife for the harvest).
  • Oregon grapeholly is the state flower of Oregon.

All in the family

  • Oregon grapeholly is a member of the barberry family (Berberidaceae). Nearly 80 percent of the species in this family are barberries (Berberis).
  • Herbaceous plants in the barberry family include mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), epimediums (Epimedium spp.), and twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla).

Where to buy
Cold Stream Farm, Free Soil, MI, coldstreamfarm.net
Forestfarm, Williams, OR, forestfarm.com