General gardening topics

Growing Mahonia aquifolium Apollo – Oregon-grape

Last updated on January 25th, 2022

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Mahonia Apollo

This generally pest-free evergreen shrub is also known as the ‘Oregon Grape’ shrub. It is an excellent, vigorous, eye-catching shrub ideal for planting as a groundcover plant or in a small shrub border shrub as its forms a dome type shape. Relatively drought tolerant it is as at home in a woodland shaded setting just as much as it is in an open sunny area of the garden in more exposed areas. It will flourish in most soil types which include chalk, loam, clay and sand. The soil can be moist but ensure it is well-drained.

The palmate spiky leaves are thick and leathery to the touch and produce the most vibrant, stunning yellow-spiked flowers that reach out from within the centre of the leaves for the most fantastic display of yellow colour. After flowering, they sometimes produce black or purple berries. This is truly an all-season interest shrub with the leaves turning blushed purple in winter.

Quick Facts

  • Common Name: Oregon grape
  • Yellow spikes of flowers: February to April
  • Prefers full or partial shade
  • Soil types: will grow in most soil types but must be well-drained
  • Place of origin: Western North America
  • Height and spread: 1 metre (3ft) x 1.5 metres (5ft)
  • Spreads freely by suckering, making it good for groundcover
  • Helps to supress weeds as a groundcover plant
  • Soil Type: Well-drained/light, acidic, chalky/alkaline or dry soil
  • Award: RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit)
Mahonia apollo spring flowering evergreen ground cover shrub

Mahonia aquifolium ‘Apollo’ – Image credit:


Like with most Mahonia shrubs, they are best left unpruned except for pruning out any unhealthy, damaged or diseased growth. This is best done in spring after flowering has finished to generally tidy up and cut back to the desired shape. If you use it as a groundcover plant then please read the paragraph below.

If you grow it as a groundcover plant it will benefit from a hard pruning every two years to just above ground level. This will ensure new fresh growth is produced enhancing the plant, encouraging it to cover more area and forming a better groundcover effect.

After pruning, mulch around the base of the plant with well-rotted manure and compost to help put nutrients back into the soil and encourage new, fresh and healthy growth.


It is generally very hardy and pest free but can suffer from rust and powdery mildew, these diseases are easy to spot and can be treated with a fungicide spray at the first early signs. At the first indication of disease, remove all affected leaves and burn them (don’t put them in compost piles), then use a garden sprayer to spray with a fungicide to help prevent further spread.


They are best propagated either by seed in spring or by taking semi-wood cuttings in late summer to early autumn from semi-mature wood. The quickest and easiest way to propagate plants is by taking a cutting as seeds take longer to germinate and establish.

How to take semi-hardwood cuttings

  1. Take a cutting from a healthy branch from the current years growth approximately 6-12 inches long and remove around a third of the bottom leaves.
  2. Cut the top of the cutting at a slant just above a bud and cut the bottom of the cutting just below a bud so you have a cutting that is around 6-10 inches long.
  3. Dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting powder and make a small hole in your pot filled with compost. The compost needs to be 50% grit sand and 50% compost.
  4. Water well and place in a semi-shaded spot away from direct sunlight. The cutting should have started to root in spring and can be potted on into a larger pot. Plant more than you need as they may not all take. You can plant several cuttings in one spot or grow each cutting in a small individual pot. We recommend a 7cm pot if planting the cuttings individually.

For further information on taking cuttings, read our guide here.

Final thoughts

The Mahonia ‘Apollo’ is an excellent groundcover plant that is easy to grow in most locations and is very hardy. It is an excellent low maintenance plant with all-season interest. Great for early spring colour.

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  1. Keith W Thompson

    Hello John,
    I have taken same Mahonia cuttings fro a well establishes bush.

    I obtained the cuttings by tearing down at a branch level soaking them min water, dipping them in rooting powder and putting them in a rooting compost individually.

    Is there something additional that I should have done? They do not look too happy just now?
    Best wishes,

  2. John Moore

    Hi Keith, that sounds fine the way you took the cutting. As long as there alive I would just give them more time. I also wouldn’t always expect every cutting to take so it wouldn’t be unusual if you lost one or two. Hope this helps.

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