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Plant of the Month November 2021

Mahonias are easy to grow in sun or shade and they are not too fussy about soil conditions. The only thing they might not enjoy is a boggy place. Do not be afraid to prune them hard after flowering, or they will get leggy.

See all the Mahonia listed in Shoot here.


Mahonia japonica makes a big shrub that can seem overpowering when its stems start to go grey and gaunt but, like all mahonias, it can be cut back after flowering. The best thing about M. japonica is that its flowers smell heavenly.

The first of the crosses between Mahonia lomariifolia and Mahonia japonica was Mahonia 'Charity', which is large but handsome. Untouched, it will probably end up about 5ft high (1.8m) and almost as wide, but it can be controlled by pruning. Mahonia 'Winter Sun' is smaller than Mahonia Charity' or Mahonia 'Lionel Fortescue' and better scented but all of these hybrids, as well as `Buckland', are first-class shrubs with AGM

Companion Plants
Any winter flower looks good in a group backed by a mahonia. Hellebores, snowdrops, winter honeysuckle, even the common winter jasmine, will look better in the company of the mahonia's strong leaves. Fashionable tropical plantings can take a dash of mahonia but they also suit traditional borders. It is hard to think of a garden where a mahonia would look out of place.

From November until March, yellow, faintly scented flowers appear above long, evergreen, pinnate leaves. The best plants smell of lilies of the valley and their berries, unlike those of the holly, can be made into jam.

The Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, is a native of North America and named forms are among the choicest evergreens. The leaves of `Apollo' and `Atropurpurea' look as though they have been burnished with purple polish.