Plant of the Week: Winter sun mahonia

Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun' is small to medium-sized evergreen shrub capable of growing ten feet tall and five feet wide. It becomes a prized specimen when it blooms in the late fall or early winter, producing fragrant yellow flowers. These inflorescences develop into clusters of waxy blue berries eaten by many bird species. Mahonia has pinnately compound leaves with spiny dark green leaflets and a whorled branch arrangement.

Mahonia species are often referred to as Oregon grape-holly. This common name comes from the Pacific Northwest native, Mahonia aquifolium, and while the genus superficially resembles hollies (Ilex sp.) they are not closely related. Mahonia belongs to the barberry family, Berberidaceae.

Mahonia × media is an interspecific hybrid and its parent species are Mahonia lomariifolia and Mahonia japonica, both of which are native to Taiwan and China.

First selected by Slieve Donard Nursery in Ireland circa 1966, the 'Winter Sun' cultivar was chosen for having a compact, upright growth habit with more fragrant flowers.

Mahonia x media prefers part shade but will tolerate full sun if adequately watered. It thrives in most soil types and once established will be drought tolerant. Given sufficient protection from winter winds, Mahonia can be grown in USDA Zones Five through Nine.

Winter Sun mahonia is in bloom on the High Line, making it one of the earliest bloomers in the plant collection. Its winter bloom, along with its evergreen foliage, makes it an invaluable plant for the winter garden.

PLANTING TIP
Plant Winter Sun mahonia in a sheltered, preferably eastern-facing site. It appreciates a moisture-retentive, but draining soil. Place where its blooms and fragrance can be readily appreciated in winter, such as near a path or seating area.

WHERE TO FIND THIS PLANT
You can see the Winter Sun mahonia in the High Line's Chelsea Thicket, between West 20th and West 22th Streets.


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