Berberis aquifolium 'Apollo'



Common name/s ?

Oregon grape 'Apollo'

Skill rating



Northwestern USA.

Type of plant ?

Evergreen, perennial shrub.

Hardiness zone ?

RHS zone


EGF zone


USDA zone


Eventual size

To 1m height and 1.5m spread

Growth rate ?

Slow; it will reach its full height in 10 to 20 years

Shape it grows into

Relatively low growing, dense, bushy shrub.

Season/s of interest

Evergreen shrub, so year round foliage which turns attractively bronzed in winter, plus flowers in spring and fruits in summer/autumn.

Where to grow it

Happy in part or full shade.
Prefers well drained to moist soil.

Will grow in any soil type (in terms of texture and pH). Can be grown in exposed or sheltered sites.

Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo'


Evergreen, glossy, dark green leaves (on attractively red stems) are spiky and become deeply purple/red in winter. Clusters of yellow flowers appear in spring followed by black berries in summer and autumn.

What to use it for

Good in beds and borders and would be particularly suited to a woodland setting. It can be used as tall ground cover and on banks or slopes. The berries make it a useful addition to wildlife gardens.

As it requires little looking after and is drought resistant, it is good for a low maintenance garden.

How to look after it

This is a very vigorous Mahonia, which requires little maintenance. It is drought tolerant and very hardy in low temperatures. Pruning is only needed to control spread, increase density or renovate a tired shrub.

How to prune it

Prune in spring, once it has flowered. Remove any unwanted suckers around the edge of the plant to control its spread. If you want to keep it dense to have good ground cover, then you can shear it to just above ground level every other year (or annually).

Neglected shrubs can be renovated by cutting old branches down to ground level, leaving younger stems intact.

How to propagate it

This plant often self-propagates through suckers, so the resulting clump can be divided over autumn, winter or early spring, when the plant is dormant.

Semi-ripe cuttings can be taken from midsummer to autumn; take leaf-bud cuttings with two or more nodes (the nodes on Mahonia plants are quite close together), make a wound on one side of the stem about 1cm long and reduce the leaf to 2 or 3 pairs of leaflets. Put them in cutting compost and apply bottom heat of around 15 to 20°C. Alternatively, take hardwood cuttings in winter. Plants will flower from cuttings in three years.

Seeds can be collected from the berries when they are ripe (from early summer). Clean them thoroughly before sowing them.

Common problems

Generally this plant is not attacked by pests, however rust and powdery mildews may be a problem.

Other useful information?

This plant has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

This is the state flower of Oregon, USA.

In the past, Mahonia aquifolium was known as ‘yerba de la sangre’ (herb of the blood) due to its use as a blood purifier. Medicinally it is taken for skin diseases, gall bladder complaints, chronic hepatitis B, catarrhal gastritis and diarrhoea. It is also used in cooking to make jelly from the juice of its fruits, or the juice can be fermented to make wine.

Native Americans also used the roots of many Mahonia species for medicinal purposes.

The genus Mahonia was so named in 1818 to commemorate the late Bernard McMahon, an Irish-born nurseryman who settled in Philadelphia in the late 1700s.