Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

Plant Guide

Mahonia repens

Common Name
Creeping Mahonia
CA Native
California Native
Plant Type
Ground Cover
1' - 3' x 1.5' - 3'
Flower Color
Bloom Time
  • Spring
Dark Green
Deer Resistant
Rarely Damaged
Wildlife Value
  • Attracts Beneficial Insects
  • Bees
  • Seed and Fruit for Birds
Growth Rate
Adverse Growth Factors
Special Features
  • Attractive Berries
  • Erosion Control
  • Fall Color
  • Fragrance
  • Low Maintenance
Water Use
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Low
Soil pH
5.5-6.4 (acid)
  • Partial Shade
  • Shade
Soil Type
Not Particular
Good Drainage
Description and Cultural Plant Tips

Mahonia repens is a ground cover that looks very much like a dwarf English Holly. The fragrant yellow flowers are produced for about two months in the spring. They produce a large dark blue berriy with a white dusting. They are edible when fully ripe and can even be used for making jam. They need a frost or two to make them really sweet so in Marin they can be picked in late fall and frozen for a short period before they are used. The berries will stay on the bushes through the winter if the birds don't get them. The leaves  turn from bronze to purple with some yellow and red leaves mixed in. It spreads from underground stolens and above ground by suckering. It is resistant to oak root fungus. In nature it grows best under evergreen canopies whose needles help to acidify the soil. Great for a dry shady hillside.

Plant slightly above grade in any type of slightly acidic soil with good drainage. Water well after planting and mulch in a 2' - 3' diameter circle around plant. Will struggle in full sun and have reduced foliage. If  planted in deep shade,  it will not produce many flowers. Therefore, In the hotter parts of Marin, light shade is recommended. In coastal Marin this plant will tolerate some direct sun. It is drought tolerant but it will spread faster with a little summer water.

This plant is much loved by bees and butterflies. The berries are a great draw to birds.

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