Leatherleaf Mahonia

Common names: leatherleaf mahonia
Botanical names: Mahonia bealei

Truly a colorful shade shrub for all seasons, the hardy leatherleaf mahonia offers fragrant flowers in late winter and blue grape-like clusters of fruit in mid to late spring.  Leaf color, when grown in the shade, is dark to almost blue-green.

Size: 4 to 6 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide
Flowers: lemon yellow
Bloom time: late winter
Leaves: dark green with bluish cast, spiny Pests and Disease: no serious insect or disease problems

Growing in North Texas
Leatherleaf mahonia may be planted at any time in North Texas.  However, fall is the best planting time because it gives the plant’s roots time to establish before summer heat.  Plant leatherleaf mahonia in a shady location.  Morning sun is tolerated, but full sun diminishes the leaf color and may kill the plant.  Space plants on 3-foot centers.  Several plants in a line serve as an effective barrier to foot traffic because of the spiky leaves similar to holly.

Leatherleaf grows in light to heavy soil with good drainage.  Clear the area of turf grass and weeds and amend the soil with 3 to 4 inches of completely composted organic material.  Dig a hole equal to the plant’s soil ball.  Backfill hole with soil and press to firm around the plant.  Add root stimulator and water thoroughly.  Cover the area with 3 to 4 inches of mulch placed at least 2 inches away from the trunk.

Few pests bother leatherleaf.  Aesthetic pruning can be done in the spring.  Keep soil moist, but not soaking wet. Fertilize with a slow release lawn fertilizer in the spring, twice during the growing season, and in the fall.  Add mulch as needed to maintain 3 to 4 inches.

Note:  The blue berries are a bird favorite!


“Texas Gardening Guide”; Dale Groom; Cool Springs Press; 1997;
“Easy Gardens for North Central Texas”; Steve Huddleston; Color Garden Publishing; 2009
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: Leatherleaf mahonia
Texas A&M University Extension Service: small shrubs

Keywords (tags):  shade, perennial, flowering, shrub

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