Barberry, original and ornamental

Barberry is an original shrub very much appreciated for its foliage, defensive properties and blooming.

Basic Barberry facts

Name – Berberis
Family – Berberidaceae
Type – shrub

Height – 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3 m)
Exposure – full sun, part sun
Soil – ordinary

Foliage – deciduous or evergreen
Flowering – spring, summer depending on the variety.

Planting barberry

There are several different barberry species, some of which are deciduous, others evergreen, but they’re all planted in the same manner.

It is best to plant barberry in fall to speed root development up.

Planting is possible in spring, taking great care to water regularly in the following summer.

Barberry is propagated through cuttings at the end of summer.

Pruning and caring for barberry

How to trim barberry

Two plump, ripe red barberry berries with a few nice sharp thorns to boot.Before diving into your barberry bush to prune it, wear your best and thickest gloves, because all those thorns are out to get you!

For hedges, go for one pruning each in fall and spring to shape it into the silhouette you desire.

As a standalone, it can be pruned back in fall more or less by ¼ its height in order to boost blooming in spring.

It is preferable to use gloves so that you don’t get hurt.

Watering and fertilizing

Barberry needs water over the 1st year after planting to take root well, especially if it was planted in spring.

Mulch on the ground helps retain moisture and will hinder weed growth which is a boon because weeding under all those thorns is not a pleasure.

If you feel that your barberry isn’t growing very fast, provide it with fertilizer in spring.

Interesting barberry varieties

For evergreen leafage and an early yellow bloom, you can use Berberis darwinii. Take note that it doesn’t resist freezing very well.

If you’re looking for a dwarf variety to set atop a mound, a low hedge or along edges, try out the Berberis thunbergii which stays evergreen in winter.

For a 6 ½ foot (2 meters) hedge, plant the Berberis umbellata which is an excellent opaque hedge.

Lastly, if you’re attracted to ornamental foliage, bring home the Berberis ottawensis ‘Golden Ring’ and its purple leaves gilded with yellow, or the Berberis vulgaris, still also purple but very dark.

Barberry diseases and pests

Barberry has been know to be contaminated by Septoria leaf spot fungus. It’s one of the plants that Septoria infects.

All there is to know about barberry

Autumn colors for barberry are deep red and fruits stand out in bright red.Barberry is a shrub that comes both in deciduous or evergreen varieties, but all these variations come with long protruding thorns.

Native to Japan, this thorn bush encompasses several hundred species and this provides for a variety of shapes and colors.

The most common variety is the Thunberg barberry, or Berberis thunbergii, frequently used to set up hedges.

It can be found with either green or purple leafage and the blooming ranges from pink to white through yellow and orange.

  • It is particularly well suited to creating defensive hedges and also to shrub beds.
  • Birds find it a haven because the nests they build in there are safe from most predators.

Smart tip about barberry

This shrub’s hardiness inspires awe, and you won’t need to add any fertilizer or other maintenance amendments.


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Leafy barberry bush by ewafairy under Pixabay license
Barberry berries up close by Clint Budd ★ under © CC BY 2.0
Red barberry hedge in fall by Marta Szewczyk-Dutka under Pixabay license