The Q&A Archives: Snow On Compact Oregon Grape Holly

Question: Last October I planted one of your compact Oregon grape hollies. It was in great shape until we had a snowstorm on New Year's Weekend. For two weeks after it snowed, the bush was underneath snow. Once the snow finally melted, the leaves were gray-brown and dead looking. I have scraped along the bark and it looks like there's some green beneath, so I pulled off the dead leaves, cut back some of the branches and left others alone, and am hoping it will revive. I'm wondering if you can give any input on what happens to a compact Oregon grape holly that has been under snow for two weeks -- is it likely to revive? is there anything else I should do for it? -- and whether you think that these plants should be used where they might get snowed on. And if so, should they be protected somehow from the snow?

Thank you for any input you can give.

Heidi DeVos

Answer: This mahonia, according to Michael Dirr's "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" is hardy to ten degrees below zero. Snow is a good insulator and should not in and of itself cause a problem. This plant naturally bronzes during the winter, so that may be what you are seeing. However, it also tends to scorch when sunlight is reflected off snow and to drying out under windy circumstances. A newly planted plant is more susceptible to winter stress due to its still developing root system, too. At this point you might be patient and see how it turns out when the new growth starts again. Trim away any truly dead wood but allow the plant some time to recover. Next winter, you could try using an antitranspirant and possibly provide it with some shade and see if the coloring/foliage holds better for you. Also, take care that it is well watered during the fall so that it is fully hydrated when the cold weather hits.

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