The Winter Sun mahonia plant (Mahonia --- media Winter Sun), also called hybrid mahonia or grape holly, is an evergreen member of the barberry family. The shrub is the result of crossing two other plants, the Burmese grapeholly and Japanese mahonia. Winter sun mahonia is prized for the abundant, bright yellow blooms that it produces in December. It is hardy in the warmer climates of U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zones 7 through 9.
Winter Sun mahonia plants are covered with large leaves reminiscent of fern fronds. The leaves are tough, glossy and edged with spines. The shrub grows slowly, ultimately reaching a height of 8 to 15 feet and a diameter of up to 10 feet. Winter Sun mahonia develops several main stems as it matures, but maintains a mostly upward growth habit.
The foliage becomes tinted with bronze after the first frost, but the leaves remain on the shrub year-round. In early winter, usually during the month of December, sprays of yellow blooms cover the plant. These cheerful flowers brighten the winter landscape and fill the air with a pleasant fragrance. The flowers are followed by bunches of waxy, dark purple fruits that draw a host of birds to the garden.
Winter Sun mahonia does best in a location that receives partial sun and is protected from strong winds. Nutrient-rich soil that drains well while maintaining even moisture is ideal. Locations that have soggy, waterlogged soil should be avoided, as the roots cannot survive overly moist conditions. The plant can be introduced to the garden in spring or fall, though spring planting may offer an advantage by giving the roots more time to become established before winter.
Care and Maintenance
Winter Sun mahonia should be watered during hot, dry summer weather, especially for the first two to three growing seasons after planting. Flower production and foliage colour is enhanced by feeding with a slow-release, balanced fertiliser in early spring. Pruning is not a requirement but can be done after the bloom cycle is complete to control the size of the shrub.
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