Several types of barberry naturally grow small. These dwarf varieties won’t grow into towering, thorny giants that are difficult to prune.
Basic facts about Dwarf Berberis
Height – ½ to 1½ feet (15 to 45 cm)
Main types – Japanese barberry, hybrids
Barberry usually grows taller than a person. Some varieties, however, only reach ankle or knee height. These make for excellent low hedges or even indoor Berberis!
Here are the different types of dwarf barberry shrubs.
Dwarf Berberis thunbergii, the Japanese Barberry
The most common dwarf barberries are among the Berberis thunbergii varieties.
Several cultivars can be found in garden stores. Many more exist in botanical and ornamental gardens. Indeed, this plant was introduced to the West from Japan in the 1800s’, so it’s fairly widespread at this point.
- It’s actually qualified as invasive in some areas. Check if you’re concerned!
Not all Japanese barberries are small! Some grow to nearly 5 feet tall (1½ meters).
Here are the most notable dwarf Berberis thunbergii cultivars.
‘Crimson Pygmy’ – also called ‘Atropurpurea Nana’. This variety is deep purple color and never grows taller than 2 feet (60 cm) tall.
‘Orange Ice’ – stunning burning-ember-like orange tower. A little over two feet tall for one foot wide (65 cm tall for 40 cm wide). Amazing burst of color, especially in front of a deep green yew backdrop.
‘Monomb’ – or Cherry bomb ®. Bright red color, similar to that of the Bigarreau cherry. New growth is more vivid than old growth. Reaches to over 3 feet (1 meter). Similar to the Pygmy ruby ™ which is the ‘Pygruzam’ variety, botanically speaking), which grows only half as tall (1 foot 6 inches or 45 cm).
‘Barney’ or Sidekicks ™ – Deep wine-red color, lightening to fiery orange in fall. Among the shorter varieties, topping out at 1 ½ feet (45 cm) but easily kept under 1 foot (30 cm).
‘Gentry’ – with merchandizing name Royal Burgundy ®. A variety grown from the ‘Crimson Pygmy’ mentioned above. Nearly sterile (few fruits with germinating seeds). A possibility wherever invasive Japanese barberry is banned. 2 feet or 60 cm tall.
‘Red Tower’ – Not exactly a dwarf because it grows to slightly over 2 feet (70cm), but since its only half as wide as it is tall, it’s perfect for hort hedges and container separators on a terrace or shared balcony.
‘Mimi’, marketed as Sunjoy ® Mini salsa – Old growth is deep green, new growth is cherry red, exactly like the photinia shrub. 1 to 2 feet tall (30 to 60 cm).
‘Concorde’ – burgundy-red leafage, never any taller than 2 feet (60 cm). Like the ‘Gentry’, virtuously all seeds are sterile and won’t germinate.
‘Rosy Rocket’ – another variation of the atropurpurea family. Energetic, reaching fronds with leaves that have a metallic red-pink sheen. Grows slightly more than 3 feet tall (1 meter).
‘Criruzam’ or Crimson ruby ® – Perhaps the closest to a blood-red boxwood you can ever get. Wonderfully easy to prune within the two-foot plant range (60 cm).
‘Fireball’ – a cultivar selected in Czech Republic from crosspollination between an ‘Atropurpurea Nana’ and a ‘Goldalita’ Berberis thunbergii. 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm).
‘Ruby Star’ – a tiny, strawberry-like red color, growing one foot (30 cm) tall. Each leaf has a thin variegated white or pale yellow rim that is mesmerizing.
‘Admiration’ or B. thunbergii forma atropurpurea ‘Admiration’ – Finely chiseled leaves that are a warm, punch-red color. Each leaf has a thin margin that is yellow, making the shrub look like a work of art. Two feet tall (60 cm).
Pale green to yellow dwarf Berberis
‘Bogozam’ Golden treasure ™ barberry – two feet tall, lime-green leafage and bushy stems that branch out densely. Also sold under the name Bonanza Gold.
‘Lime Star’ – Lemon yellow-green leaves and a nice, round shape that maxes out at 1¾ feet (50 cm) wide and tall.
‘Grhozam’ sold under the Green Hornet ™ trademark – bright green foliage, excellent for edges. Alternate with lavender which complements it well in color and blooming. Same size, too, around 18 inches (45 cm).
‘Goldalita’ – Young foliage is pale yellow, turns lime green with time. Nearly two feet tall. Grows wider, sending up shoots from roots, but not taller (55 cm).
‘Monlers’ – also goes by Golden Nugget ™. One of the smallest, barely reaching 1 foot (30 cm). Pale yellow-green color.
‘Aurea Nana’ – Pale yellow, almost to the point of gold, foliage. The name “Aurea” comes from latin for “Gold”. Two to three feet tall. Minimally invasive, but sometimes banned simply because it’s a Japanese barberry.
‘Lena’ – Almost neon green, very beautiful in full sun. Stays small at under two feet (50-60 cm).
‘Anna’ – Barely reaching ⅔ of a foot (20 cm). Ideal for ground cover, perfect for designing motives along the ground with its yellow color. Young leaves dot the surface with red, magnificent.
Unique black dwarf Japanese Barberry
‘Lakatos Nana’ – tiny, almost black leaves. In winter, interspersed with small bright red berries, making this shrub look like a black cotoneaster… in miniature! Doesn’t even reach 1 foot high (10 inches or 25 cm).
Berberis hybrids, wonderful options
- A hybrid results from cross-pollination between two different Barberry species.
Several hybrids are also known to stay very small, even without much pruning.
‘Corallina Compacta’ – also called ‘Coral Hedge’. A Berberis x stenophylla hybrid. Narrow leaves, like those of rosemary, grows to around 1½ feet (45 cm). Wonderful orange-red flowers.
‘William Penn’ barberry – A Berberis x gladwynensis barberry hybrid. Quickly grows to 4 feet (1¼ meter), then slows. Long, far-reaching fronds with cute yellow flowers.
Learn more about dwarf barberry
Barberry for defensive hedges
Barberry is often used to grow defensive hedges. The sharp thorns that grow at each leaf node keep intruders away! Dwarf barberry is no exception.
- When working with dwarf berberis, wear gloves and protective eyegear!
- Though shorter than a normal hedge, dwarf barberry will hinder passing animals from weaving in and out of your yard.
- Plant a hedge against intruders
Birds and barberry
Birds love barberry because these thorns provide protection from predators, especially during the nesting period.
You’ll often find that vulnerable animals take refuge in its leaves. Occasionally, the seeds are gobbled up by passing birds. However, this is often towards the end of winter, when food is scarce. The berry isn’t what birds prefer! Add it as part of a mixed hedge for variety.
Read more about barberry:
Smart tip about dwarf barberry hedges
Plant your dwarf barberry as a low mixed hedge or edge around the vegetable patch. It will keep rabbits and deer away!
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Green ‘Bogozam’ dwarf barberry by F. D. Richards under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Deep violet dwarf barberry by Megan Hansen under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Crimson Pygmy barberry shrub by K M under © CC BY 2.0