Last Updated on June 12, 2023 by Real Men Sow
Mahonias are bold, often architecturally designed foliage plants. To make unique leaves, rows of richly coloured, holly-like leaflets can be elegantly laid out. They grow upright and spread more as they age, making them excellent back-of-the-border focal points.
The frost-hardy plants appear in the autumn, winter and late summer. These flowers are the most fashionable, producing long strings of delicate yellow flowers. The different varieties are available from late summer through winter to late March. They have a pleasant, but not overpowering, the scent that is said to be reminiscent of lily-of-the-valley. These are very popular with winter bumblebees.
Sparrows will leave flowers alone if they aren’t disturbed – Mahonia Aquifolium forms tend to be the most troubled. Blue-black berries grow to give another season of color. They are ideal hosts for summer-flowering Clematis once most of them have matured.
5 Best Mahonias
1. Mahonia Aquifolium ‘Apollo’
The plants are small and bushy, with a few yellow flowers and blue-black fruits. Its beautiful foliage and showy, fragrant late-winter and early-spring flowers. They are a valuable source of pollen for winter colonies of bees and other pollinators.
Mahonia Aquifolium “Apollo” is a compact cultivar. It forms a dense dome of dark green glossy leaves that have sharp edges. In winter, it takes on a purple flush. It bears yellow flowers in spring, with blue-black berries following. To get the best results, Mahonia Aquifolium “Apollo” should be grown in moist soil that is well-drained and in partial shade. To encourage bushy growth, prune every other year and mulch the base with well-rotted garden compost.
- Flowers: March-April.
- H x S: 1m x 1.5m.
2. Mahonia Eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’
This is a smaller variety with thin leaves and flowers that can open as early August as possible. Pots are a good choice. Soft Caress is an upright, compact, evergreen shrub that can reach 1.2m in height. It has narrow, spineless leaflets. In late summer and fall, a multitude of delicate, yellow-scented, honey-scented flowers are born. Blue-black berries follow.
- Flowers: August-October.
- H x S: 1m x 1m.
3. Mahonia x media ‘Charity’
Bold 60cm leaves with elegant arches of delicate blooms. It can reach 3m in height, but it takes some time.
Mahonia x media Charity’ is upright in habit and has up to 21 leaflets of dark green. From late autumn through late winter, bright yellow, fragrant flowers grow at the ends of branches.
The back of the borders is where Mahonia x media Charity’ shines particularly well. You will get the best results if you grow it in moist, well-drained soil in partial shade.
- Flowers: November-March.
- H x S: 3m x 3m.
4. Mahonia x media ‘Lionel Fortescue’
The flowers are held in a circle of upright spikes and have smaller, more angled leaflets. The ‘Lionel Fortescue” is an evergreen shrub that can grow to 45cm tall and has spiny, pinnate, spiny leaves. Bright yellow flowers with a scented fragrance, up to 40 cm in length. Blue-black Berries
- Flowers: January-February
- H x S: 3m x 3m
5. Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’
Winter flowering is more concentrated. The tightly packed spikes of flowers are held vertically to create a golden crown.
- Flowers: November-March
- H x S: 3m x 2m
How To Grow Mahonia
All people are happy in the full sun, in the overhead shade for part or all of the day.
You can grow them in any soils, but they should be able to drain water. They are generally hardy. Mulch in autumn with weedless organic matter. Feeding is not usually required.
There is no need to prune Mahonia x media regularly, but you can trim the excess shoots to a side or a rosette after flowering to improve their shape. Mahonia Aquifolium might need some shaping.