If you’re looking for a compact, easy care evergreen shrub that provides year-round interest - and will thrive in a dry shade garden - consider Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’!
I like to think of Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ as the gentler, more approachable relative of our beloved native Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium). Like Oregon Grape, ‘Soft Caress’ is a drought-tolerant evergreen shrub with fragrant sunny-yellow flowers. However, unlike Oregon Grape, its leaves and stems are thornless and soft rather than sharply poky and leathery.
‘Soft Caress’ is a great plant to use if you’re looking to bring a bit of texture into your dry shade garden. Its leaves look a bit like palm leaves – with slender, thread-like leaflets arrayed along a graceful central stem. For maximum effect, try planting it with some of the broader-leafed shade loving shrubs like Hosta, Hellebore, Osmanthus, and Viburnum davidii – or underplant it with dry shade-loving perennials like Epimedium and Heuchera.
From late fall to early spring, flowers appear in long ‘candles’ held above the foliage. These flowers not only help to brighten the winter garden, they’re also a great source of nectar for pollinators and other beneficial insects during the winter and spring, when few other plants are in bloom. The flowers are followed by decorative silvery-blue berries that add to the visual interest of the plant – and are popular with songbirds.
Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ gets about 3’ by 3’ and maturity. It prefers part shade (morning sun is ok) to full shade and well-drained soils, and does well in containers as well as in the ground. This graceful, low maintenance shrub will be a welcome addition to your shady garden!