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Mahonia japonica Bealei group (photo courtesy of Doreen L. Wynja)
Mahonia japonica Bealei group (photo courtesy of Doreen L. Wynja)

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Zones 3B, 4-12, 14-24
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Full, Partial
Regular Water

Mahonia japonica Bealei group

Leatherleaf mahonia
Evergreen, Shrubs, Decorative fruit or berries


Related to barberry (Berberis) and described under that name by some botanists. Easy to grow; good looking all year. Typically spiny-edged leaves are divided into leaflets; foliage can be quite prickly, so avoid setting mahonias too close to walkways or in other areas where they might snag passersby.

Yellow flowers are borne in dense, rounded to spike-like clusters and followed by berrylike, typically blue or blue-black (sometimes red or brown) fruit with a powdery bloom. Generally disease resistant, though foliage is sometimes disfigured by a small looper caterpillar. Fruit of all mahonias attracts birds. In general, pruning is needed only to remove old, damaged stems or to correct rank growth; cut those stems all the way to the ground.

Mahonia japonica Bealei group

Native to China. Grows to 10–12 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide, with a strong pattern of vertical stems and horizontal leaves. The leaves reach over a foot long and are divided into 7–15 broad, thick, leathery leaflets to 5 in. long. Foliage is yellowish green above, gray-green below, with a small yellow patch at the base of each leaflet. Blooms in late winter, producing erect, 3–6-in.-long blossom spikes at ends of branches. Powdery blue berries. Striking against a background of stone, brick, wood, or glass. Plant in rich soil amended with ample organic matter. Takes sun in cool-summer areas; does best in partial shade elsewhere. Regular water.

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