How to Plant Mahonia


With more than 70 species and cultivars from which to choose, finding a mahonia shrub suitable for your landscape should be no problem. The leatherleaf variety (mahonia bealei), for example, produces fragrant yellow clusters of flowers in mid- to late winter. The flowers are replaced in the spring with berries in a deep-blue color. Depending on the variety, mahonia can reach up to 6 feet wide and tall, so plant in the back of the landscape with plenty of room for expansion. Mahonia is also known as barberry.

Step 1

Select a planting location where the sun level matches the requirement of the chosen variety. The sun level will be noted on the nursery card attached to the shrub. Most mahonia prefer partial shade (maximum of 3 to 6 hours of sun), though some can handle more sun. Mahonia can tolerate most soil conditions, but humus soil is best. The soil condition can be adjusted with organic matter when planting.

Step 2

Dig the hole three times as wide as the root ball and dig as deep as the root ball is tall. To improve soil conditions, particularly if the soil is firm clay, mix up to 50 percent organic matter such as compost or leaf mold with the removed soil.

Step 3

Place the mahonia root ball in the center of the hole, making sure that top of the root ball is level with the ground.

Step 4

Backfill the hole halfway and water to help settle the dirt. Finish backfilling the hole and slowly water again. Add about 3 inches of mulch. Water every two weeks during the first year.

Step 5

Prune in the spring, removing about 1/3 of the plant to shape the shrub and encourage new growth.

Tips and Warnings

  • Some states prohibit transporting mahonia across state lines to help prevent the spread of black stem rust, a disease of mahonia that can also affect grain crops, like wheat and barley.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Organic matter
  • Mulch


  • Mahonia, Year-round Appeal
  • Cultivars of Mahonia
Keywords: mahonia, barberry, plant mahonia

About this Author

Barbara Raskauskas is a certified e-learning specialist and certified Microsoft Office specialist. She has written web content, technical documents and course material for a decade. Raskauskas now writes how-to's, product reviews and general topics published on several websites, including Demand Studios.