General gardening topics

Growing Mahonia aquifolium Apollo – Oregon-grape

Last updated on January 22nd, 2020

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Mahonia Apollo

This generally pest-free evergreen shrub is also know as the ‘Oregon Grape’ shrub. It is an excellent, vigorous, eye-catching shrub ideal for planting as a ground cover 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 as in an open sunny area of the garden in more exposed areas and will flourish in most soil types which include chalk, loan, 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 – April
  • Prefers full or partial shade
  • Soil types: will grow in most soil types but 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 ground cover
  • Helps to supress weeds as a ground cover 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 un-pruned 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 a desired shape. If you use it as a ground cover plant then please see below:

If you grow it as a ground cover 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 and encouraging it to cover more area and forming a better ground cover 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 healthy growth.


It is generally very hardy and pest free but can suffer from rust and powdery mildew but these diseases are easy to spot and can be treated with a fungicide spray at the first early signs. At the first signs of disease remove all effected 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 by either seed in spring or by taking semi-wood cutting 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 cutting


  1. Take a cutting from a healthy branch from the current years growth approximately 6-12 inch 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 cutting individually.

To read more about taking cuttingsClick Here

Final thoughts

Mahonia ‘Apollo’ is an excellent ground cover plant which 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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