En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Friday - May 14, 2010

From: Elmhurst, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Pollinators, Propagation, Shrubs
Title: Non-blooming or fruiting Oregon grape holly in Elmhurst IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an Oregon grape holly bush that has never bloomed and has never had fruit. I have had the bush for at least 6 years, it is approximately 5 ft tall. Have had no problems, just no flowers/fruit. Any tips?

ANSWER:

According to this USDA Plant Profile on Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry), it does not grow in Illinois. Of course, you can purchase any plant and plant it wherever you want to; that doesn't mean the plant is going to like it.

From a website from Ohio State University we extracted this information about Oregon Grape Holly; highlighting some areas we thought were pertinent to your problem:

"Culture:

  • partial sun to full shade
  • does best in partial shade in moist, rich, well-drained, acidic soils; not especially tolerant of alkaline pH soils, poor soils, compacted soils, clay soils, wet soils, heat, full sun, exposed sites, or at windswept corners of foundations
  • propagated by seeds, stem cuttings, or division of multi-stemmed parent plants
  • Barberry Family, with several minor disease and pest problems, but most often troubled by improper placement in the landscape (see above), resulting in stunting, foliage chlorosis, and/or foliage Winterburn
  • moderately available, in ball and burlap or container form
  • needs a protected site in Winter against prevailing winds, channeling winds, and direct sunshine (as do all broad-leaved evergreens to avoid Winter foliage dessication)

From this website, Paghat's Garden, we learned that mahonias do not fruit well unless they are able to cross-pollinate with other mahonias. If you have just the one bush, and no others are growing in your neighborhood, that could explain the no fruit, but not necessarily the no flowers. Even if there are mahonias around close, they are bee-pollinated, and there has been a drastic shortage of bees all over the world in recent years.

Frankly, we have no ready answer as to why your shrub is neither flowering nor fruiting; we can only follow clues that point to it not flourishing where it is.  We suspect climate conditions, as it is native to Oregon and the northwest, flourishing in woodlands. Another culprit could be the soil you have; in a woodlands, with generations of fallen leaves, the soils are acidic, which this plant requires. We don't know of any soil amendment, fertilizer or spray that would correct those problems sufficiently to make the plant feel at home.

 

From the Image Gallery


Hollyleaved barberry
Mahonia aquifolium

Hollyleaved barberry
Mahonia aquifolium

More Shrubs Questions

Native plants for a garden in Panama City, FL
May 10, 2013 - I live in zone 9 in Florida. We are looking for plants which will be attractive all year long for the front of our house's landscaping which faces north. I need a specimen bush which doesn't get ov...
view the full question and answer

Damaged leaves on bottlebrush buckeye from Glen Mills PA
June 09, 2013 - My recently planted bottlebrush buckeye plants' leaves are looking damaged but it doesn't look like insect or fungus damage. They look battered by wind but I don't understand why that would happen...
view the full question and answer

Problems with native palms in Austin
April 10, 2011 - We had a large variety of California fan palms and blue sabal palms in our yard that were damaged during the last freeze. We found that several of them now have "spear pull," which means we could p...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a creek bank in Northern Illinois
March 26, 2009 - Hello. I live in Northern Illinois. The creek (northern exposure in a wooded area) on the back of my property has bare muddy banks and is subject to seasonal floods. I want to plant something hardy t...
view the full question and answer

Shrub for Dallas Street
August 20, 2014 - I am looking for a native shrub for Dallas, Texas. It is full sun with a maximum height of 3 feet to border the street edge of a shopping center. It will get irrigated.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center