Native to western North America, grape holly is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that will grow wonderfully in the shadier spots of your garden. Grape holly displays its new foliage in an alluring red color and has fragrant yellow flowers in spring. These blooms then give way to clusters of pretty blue-black berries. The berries from grape holly are edible and are actually quite tart. These berries can be used to make jams, jellies, and preserves. Grape hollies can be very useful in attracting wildlife to your garden, such as butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and many other species of birds, because they are drawn to the fruit and flowers of this versatile plant.
Grape hollies provide many different colors throughout the growing season. As new leaves emerge in the spring, they are red tinted and mature to a shiny dark green in summer. Some varieties have a beautiful blue green foliage. Foliage will begin to change from the dark green to a purplish color in fall and by winter grape holly will be a lovely burgundy-bronze color. The flowers of grape holly bloom around April and are a spectacular bright yellow color with a pleasant fragrance. The flowers are followed by edible berries that will be a blue-black color in the early fall. These berry clusters resemble small clusters of grapes, hence this plant's common name.
Grape Holly Care Must-Knows
Grape hollies look best when planted in small groups in shrub borders and foundation plantings. They work equally well when planted in either woodland or shade gardens. Grape holly is a quick growing shrub that can be useful as a privacy screen or native fence; be prepared, this quick growing tendency can also create a somewhat invasive plant. Be certain to check with local authorities to verify if grape holly is a problem plant in your area.
Pruning your grape holly can also help to control their spread. These plants are quite tolerant of pruning and can be cut down all the way to the ground if a fresh start is needed. Pruning should be done in early summer once the shrub has finished blooming. Typically they will not need much trimming unless they are spreading too much for your liking. Some varieties can also spread by runners and may form thickets with time.
Grape hollies prefer part shade to full shade areas of the garden. If they are planted in too much sun, the leaves may scorch, especially during the winter as many varieties are semi-evergreen to evergreen in nature. Similarly, they'll appreciate some protection from strong winds, which can damage the foliage. The best soils for this shrub are evenly moist, well-drained, and acidic or neutral (alkaline soils can be problematic for this plant).
More Varieties of Grape Holly
Leatherleaf Grape Holly
This variety of Mahonia japonica ('Bealei') bears blue-green leaves and blooms later than most in spring. It grows 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.
Chinese Grape Holly
Mahonia lomariifolia makes a bold statement in the landscape. Growing 6-12 feet tall, Chinese grape holly features spiny, glossy green leaves that form a backdrop for small yellow flowers in winter. Zones 7-10.
Mahonia eurybracteata shows off finely divided, glossy green leaves. Yellow flowers appear late in the season and are followed by clusters of blue-black berries. It grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 7-10.
Mahonia japonica is upright evergreen shrub with dark green leaves and pale yellow flowers from fall to spring, with clusters of pale blue berries. It grows 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 7-8.