Mahonia is a somewhat unusual family of shrubs, known for their great texture and shade-friendly nature. They’re closely related to Barberry plants, and they share many similar traits. In fact, many botanists believe that they should be considered the exact same species because some Mahonia and Barberry varieties have even cross-bred.
In the landscape, they’re known as easy-growing, low-maintenance plants for gardeners of all skill levels.
Gardeners love these plants for a few great reasons.
Nearly every gardener understands the frustration of gardening in Full Shade. Most plants like sun, especially bloomers. It can be very tricky trying to put together an impressive garden display in shady conditions. However, without much sun, landscape texture is key. Fortunately, dynamic texture is something that Mahonia plants have in spades. Some aptly named “Leatherleaf” varieties have thick, glossy and pointed leaves. Meanwhile, others have light feathery, fern-like leaves. Either way, they create stunning interest in group plantings, as well as mixed garden beds where they can contrast with other plants.
One of the best ways to lighten up a shade garden is bright flowers. Fortunately, many of these varieties feature sprays of golden-yellow panicle blooms in winter or early spring. These flowers do an exceptional job of bringing new interest to your cold-weather landscape or garden. Furthermore, some varieties follow these blossoms up with waxy blue-black berries that are also eye-catching seasonal accents.
The foliage on these plants is quite reliable, particularly with the leatherleaf varieties. Some plants can be high maintenance and a little dramatic at the drop of a hat, losing their leaves for any unclear reason. But Mahonia plants don’t do that. They’ll keep your landscape covered throughout the year.
As mentioned earlier, one of their greatest strengths is their tolerance of Full Shade. However, don’t hesitate to plant them in Partial Shade either. A little bit of sun will do them good.
They grow best in neutral soil. If your soil is well above or well below neutral pH, you may run into issues with your plant’s long-term success. Also, they need good soil drainage in their planting locations. Avoid spots where water pools regularly.
Plant them in partial shade gardens with contrasting textured or colored plants, like Camellias or Nandinas. Also, they go phenomenally well with Hostas.
Mid-spring and early Fall are great times to plant because of the mild temperatures. Gardeners can plant in either of these times successfully, however, where you’re located will determine which is most ideal.
For these cooler areas, we recommend planting in mid-spring. This gives your plant plenty of time over the season to get established in your landscape before winter shows up. We still recommend covering your plants overnight during hard freezes to help ensure your plant’s survival.
For these warmer areas, early fall is a slightly better time to plant because your plant will be mostly safe from the extreme summer heat. It will then have plenty of time to grow into your landscape before the next summer rolls around.
Currently, we offer the Soft Caress Mahonia and Marvel Mahonia, both from the Southern Living Plant Collection. These varieties exemplify some of our favorite traits of this species, but in very different ways.
The Marvel is very similar to classic leatherleaf selections. However, it has some “quality-of-life” upgrades on the traditional cultivars. It has a more dense and compact growth habit, as well as darker, more richly colored leaves. At maturity, it reaches a tame 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide rather than the 10 foot tall and 5-6 foot wide common leatherleafs. Yellow upright flowers crown the top of the plant in winter and develop into waxy black berries.
The Soft Caress is great for shorter applications, with no pruning required. This is because it reaches only 3 feet high and 3.5 feet wide at maturity. Its foliage is light and feathery, dark green in color and evergreen. It also features bright yellow upright flower panicles in winter, but it does not have berries. It has an immediate texture effect on shaded gardens.
We grow and mature our Mahonia plants into the pots that they’re shipped in. We never ship anything bare-root or loose in a sack with soil. Our plants are watered and carefully secured in our custom boxes before being shipped straight to your front door. Once you receive your order, we guarantee your plants for the next 30-days. If they die during this period (as long as the cause of expiration is not clearly the result of gross negligence on the part of the customer), we’ll replace them free of charge. If you have a concern regarding the health of your plant that doesn’t require immediate replacement, we’ll extend your warranty out by an additional 2-3 months. Please let us know quickly if you have any problems with your order on arrival. We aim to please! You can reach us at [email protected] or 1-866-618-5659.