En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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


Holly-leaved barberry
Mahonia aquifolium

Holly-leaved barberry
Mahonia aquifolium

More Pollinators Questions

Will hybrid Tecoma stans attract hummingbirds from Glendale AZ
July 07, 2012 - We bought a bells of fire plant; would like to know if hummingbirds like them?
view the full question and answer

Duplicate of English holly for Eufaula OK
January 03, 2010 - I wish to have a shrub that would duplicate the red berries and foliage of English holly. Tolerance of cultivation is also desired.
view the full question and answer

Moving wildflowers into a pollinator garden in Webster NY
July 27, 2009 - I live in the Western New York area and would like to utilize unwanted wildflowers near our roadside and woodland area into a large pollinator garden I am creating. What is a safe way to move an enti...
view the full question and answer

Honeybees swarming around galls on oak trees
September 28, 2015 - A large number of honeybees have descended on a live oak tree in my backyard. They appear to be feeding on the numerous galls on the tree as if they were flowers. What's going on?
view the full question and answer

A list of bloom times for wildflowers in Michigan
July 03, 2013 - Hello, I am new to bee keeping and live in central Michigan. Can you tell me or do you know where I could find a list of the Michigan wild flower bloom times? This would be very helpful to me. Than...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center