Mahonia – growing

Q: Recently I saw some holly plants with several long bunches of blue berries. A gardener told me they were mahonia holly. I am wondering if I can successfully transplant a few small ones into my red-clay landscape. Are these slow-growing or fast-growing plants? How tall are they likely to be?

A: You saw a mahonia, Mahonia aquifolium. Mahonia is not a holly, but the stickery leaves sure mimic a holly. The blue berries give the plant another common name: Oregon grape. Birds eat the berries and spread the seed. Mahonia is common in abandoned woodlands and grows in a wide variety of soil types. It tolerates partial shade very well but leaves will be sunburned in full sunshine. You can transplant them easily when less than a foot tall. They get about six feet tall and four feet wide at maturity in four years.

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