Best time of year to prune barberry bushes


How to Prune Barberry Shrubs?

Barberry shrubs are often used to enhance garden or landscape areas. But to keep them looking beautiful, you need to know how to maintain them. This Gardenerdy article tells you more about this colorful and attractive shrub and its maintenance.

Did You Know?
Barberry can be of great medicinal use. It is used to treat skin infections, psoriasis, gastritis, ulcers, diarrhea, gallstones and inflammation of gall bladder, and even malaria. It is also effective in cleansing the liver, correcting anemia, and in treating hangovers.

Barberry shrubs or bushes, also known as berberis or pepperidge bushes, belong to a genus that contains about 450―500 different species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs. They are known for their thorny ‘barbs’ and wiry branches, and hence, the name ‘Barberries’. They are often used as fencing or for setting boundaries between yards. The Japanese barberry is one of the most common barberry shrubs grown in landscapes.

They are hard, woody, and deciduous shrubs. They bear bright yellow, fragrant flowers in spring. These flowers hang from the stem like a tear drop. The leaves of the barberry plant are small and oval-shaped with a fine texture. The attractive foliage with different colors from bright green to burgundy and gold, make barberries useful in landscaping. These shrubs are slow growers and grow steadily in a semi-spreading fashion. Most bushes grow to a height of 10 feet; however, there also exist some dwarf shrubs. They are extremely sturdy and grow even in harsh conditions. They thrive in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8.

Would you like to write for us? Well, we’re looking for good writers who want to spread the word. Get in touch with us and we’ll talk…

Let’s Work Together!

Barberry shrubs have a uniform growth, and hence, require very little maintenance. This is the main reason why barberries are often planted by garden owners as hedges or natural fences. A little bit of trimming and pruning at regular intervals is required for proper growth, as in case of any other shrub.

Barberry shrubs are decorative plants that are often used for landscaping. No one wants their shrubs to be grown out of control and in unwanted places. Hence, it becomes very important to trim or prune these shrubs timely. But for that, one should know when and how to prune your beautiful-looking shrub.

When to Prune Barberry Shrubs?
Pruning the barberry bushes yearly is important to aid in better growth and blooming. They produce fruits or berries that create seedlings. It is recommended that you prune the shrubs after they have fruited, during fall or winter. Dead woods should be removed during summer months, and the bushes should be pruned in the period between mid winter to late winters, i.e., before spring.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, barberry bushes should be trimmed at the time of planting. This is important as it encourages the shrub to develop a strong structure. The shrubs should be trimmed to six inches from the ground, and the diseased or damaged branches should be removed. This helps in encouraging healthy fruit and flower development. The first two years after planting are important for shaping up the barberry shrub or hedge.

If the shrub is old, leggy, or overgrown, then severe pruning is recommended, i.e., to cut back the older stems to the ground. It encourages dense and bushy growth of the plant.

How to Prune Barberry Shrubs?
Pruning these shrubs is not a very difficult task! Put on your safety glasses, heavy work gloves and other protective gear, and get started. The tools needed to prune barberry plant include pruning shears and long handled loppers. You will also need a nylon rope and a plastic drop sheet.
Start pruning your barberry bush to the height, width, and shape that you desire. You can wrap the obstructive branches in the plastic drop cloth and secure it with nylon rope till you trim the other branches.
Check for new sprouting plants and pull them out from the roots. Put all the pruning waste in a drag bag. Do not leave it on the ground as it may give rise to new growth. And last but not the least, protect yourself from the thorns of the barberry bush!

These colorful shrubs not only serve as hedge plants, but also create a nice backdrop for other plants in your garden. However, they require proper care and maintenance like any other garden plant. Happy gardening!

Like it? Share it!

How hard can I trim back this huge barberry bush? | The Kansas City Star

One barberry is much bigger than the other two. Submitted.


As you can see in this picture, I have one barberry that has thrived much better than the other two. Is it possible to cut back hard the large barberry bush to make it more the size of the smaller bushes? – Marilyn


It would appear that you have two different species or varieties of barberry. The two smaller ones appear to be the old Crimson Pygmy variety and the larger one looks like just the plain old “red.” Because of this fact I don’t think you can keep them looking the same. Barberry can be cut back hard and will recover although it will be slow. You cannot simply shear the plant to “size” as it will open up to just a stemmy appearance. You will need to either cut back all branches to about a foot and let it regrow and then start shaping like the others. Or you can hand prune each branch back to a lower branch or stem until you reach your desired size. Either way it will open up the plant and will not very pretty for a few weeks to month. It appears that you shear these plants so once the regrowth gets to a point you can shear like the others. Is that clear as mud? – Dennis

Local News at Your Fingertips

Get unlimited digital access for just $3.99 a month to #ReadLocal anytime, on any device.


barberry bush poisonous holly barberry bush poisonous to dogs.

barberry bush poisonous invasive poisonous plant control red barberry bush poisonous.

barberry bush poisonous red barberry bush the best known species is also as common pruning rocket shrubs red barberry bush red barberry bush poisonous.

barberry bush poisonous are barberry plants poisonous to dogs.

barberry bush poisonous poisonous berries are barberry plants poisonous to dogs.

barberry bush poisonous red barberry bush nana garden trees rock plants shrubs pruning leaf rocket red barberry bush red barberry bush poisonous

barberry bush poisonous common names barberry bush red barberry bush poisonous

barberry bush poisonous barberry bush care barberry bush berries poisonous

barberry bush poisonous barberry bush thorns poisonous

barberry bush poisonous barberry bush berries poisonous

barberry bush poisonous young succulent poisonous pink berries of burning bush ripening berries with bright red barberry bush thorns poisonous

barberry bush poisonous getting rid of barberry why and how native plant society barberry bush poisonous to dogs

barberry bush poisonous the tastiest berries that grow wild in north barberry bush poisonous to dogs

barberry bush poisonous red barberry bush with fruits in winter x shrubs size and ticks red barberry bush red barberry bush poisonous

barberry bush poisonous red barberry bush autumn ornamental shrub fruits dying pruning rocket red barberry bush barberry bush thorns poisonous

barberry bush poisonous gold barberry barberry bush berries poisonous

barberry bush poisonous if you crush the stems or foliage of creeper do not allow the juices barberry bush poisonous to dogs

barberry bush poisonous shrubs with poisonous berries seeds or leaves red barberry bush poisonous

barberry bush poisonous cc by barberry bush poisonous to dogs

barberry bush poisonous how to kill poison ivy barberry bush poisonous to dogs

barberry bush poisonous rhododendron toxicity barberry bush berries poisonous

barberry bush poisonous kite leaf poison barberry bush berries poisonous

barberry bush poisonous red berries of barberry from close up both healing and poisonous fruit barberry bush thorns poisonous

barberry bush poisonous barberry poison ivy patrol specialty landscaping invasive plant removal barberry bush poisonous to dogs

barberry bush poisonous cherry barberry makes for a wonderful low hedge barrier planting or single shrub accent after it blooms bright red berries enhance its barberry plant poisonous

Young barberry plant

Barberry Berberis glaucocarpa made its first impression on me as a painful thorn in the middle of my foot and the long needle used to get it out, when I was about 8 years old playing barefoot near a hedge on our farm at Kakariki in the Wairarapa. It’s been many decades since then and I’ve recently discovered that besides being a prickly menace, it is actually a very medicinal plant!

I kept an article that appeared in the Coast and Country paper entitled “Barberry – that blasted hedge out the back has special qualities” by Karina Hilterman a herbalist. I was intrigued by all the good things she said about it. This has given me a new appreciation for this maligned plant which was brought here to New Zealand from Europe as a stock proof hedge. It is actually native to the Himalayas – perhaps that’s why it is so tough!

It is a woody, evergreen or semi-deciduous shrub that grows 2-3 metres high, and is known for its sharp spines. The spines grow out from the branches singly or divided into groups of three where the oval to egg-shaped leaves grow. The leaves have small spines as well. Bunches of small yellow flowers appear during October and November followed by blue/purple berries that have a whitish

Barberry berries showing white bloom

coating or bloom. Birds disperse the seeds enabling barberry to spread easily. Because of this it is subject to Plant Pest Management strategies in several regions.

It likes to grow in waste places, reverting hill country where it helps control erosion if allowed, scrub and forest margins, all these places have empty niches once occupied by native plants and serve to cover and protect the land. They also grow around old house sites and were planted as hedges around gardens, in the case of our long time ago home. Huge old shrubs with arching branching are shelter for stock and birdlife.

The name Berberis is from Arabic for barberry and glaucocarpa (Lat.) = fruit with a bloom. There are two other species in NZ Darwin’s barberry (Berberis darwinii), which is taller growing up to 4 metres high and is evergreen. Its flowers are deep orange growing in long clusters and the leaves look like holly leaves growing in groups of 3 to 5. Coming out of the same place are 5 pronged sharp spines.It flowers Jan-Dec growing in Southern NI and from Central Canterbury to Stewart Island. Then there is Berberis vulgaris, a deciduous, (loses its leaves) shrub up to 2m, with oblong red fruit growing in Canterbury and Otago, around old homesteads.

Now to it’s medicinal, nutritional qualities.
To start with the flowers and young spring leaves are edible, tasting a little sour, a good thing to enhance a detox after winter. I will be trying them next spring.
The most medicinal parts are the bark of the roots and stems which are bright yellow, the color of Berberine, a healing alkaloid the plant contains. It has several other alkaloids including tannins, malic

Barberry bush loaded with berries

acid and citric acid giving the flowers, leaves and fruit the slightly sour taste. These alkaloids have proven anti-cancer properties.

It is a broad spectrum antibiotic – helps with urinary tract infections and its bitter taste stimulates digestion and bile flow, improves liver function and that in turn helps skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis.

Its specific speciality treatment though is for the gall bladder – inflammation and gall stones. The part that had me interested is that it increases blood flow to the spleen (site of my former autoimmune disease), white blood cell count and strengthens the immune system. It is also used for fungal and respiratory infections.

But how to take it you might ask?

You can make a tincture by digging some roots, scrub off the dirt and shave off the bark – I just cut up the roots and put them in a jar and then covered that with vodka. Probably best to dry the roots first. Shake the jar every few days and after 6 weeks strain the remedy. The dose Karen recommends is 1-3mls 3 times per day.

You can also prepare it in water called a decoction. Use 1 tsp of bark to 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil, simmer for 10-15 minutes, cool and strain. Drink the liquid 3 times per day adding honey to “help the medicine go down”. Traditionally barberry was used to treat fevers, cholera and typhus.

It is also a dye plant – the yellow shade depending on the whether the mordant was lye or alum.

I visited our boundary hedge and ate some of the berries which I found surprisingly nice to eat, no big stones and a little tart.
I had the idea to create a bliss ball where the tastiness would make them less sweet.

Barberry, Peach Bliss Balls
3/4 almonds, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 barberry berries – I soaked them as they were a bit shriveled up.
3/4 cup dates soaked

Barberry, Peach Bliss Balls left, berries, pink berry soak water and root tincture

1/4 cup dried peaches
Pinch salt
Pinch cinnamon
1 T carob powder
1/4 coconut

Process the nuts and seeds until reduced to crumbs in a food processor.
Add the fruit, salt, carob, coconut and spices and mix until it all binds together. Roll into balls and coat with coconut.

The same evening I made a marrow, tomato, onion, garlic, turmeric, cumin stir fry and thought the barberries would go well so added them once it was on my plate and I really enjoyed it.

Spare a plant or two you never know when you may need Barberry.

Special thanks to Karen Hilterman, medical herbalist.

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer

6 ratings

Thursday – December 01, 2011

From: Knoxville, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: North American Plants with Poisonous Thorns
Answered by: Becky Ruppel


Are there any plants in North America that possess poisonous thorns?


In North America there are few plants that have poisonous thorns. The members of the Solanum (nightshade) genus have thorns and are reported to cause injuries that are slow to heal due to poisonous thorns. Many members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) have many poisonous parts (i.e. leaves, stems, fruit, roots, seeds) that cause severe irritation to mammals. The members of this family are widely distributed across North America.

Another group of plants that have poisonous “thorns” is Stinging Nettles. They have tiny hairs on the underside of their leaves that ‘sting’ and cause skin irritation and a burning sensation if they are brushed against.

Finally, most plants that have thorns can cause mechanical injury, and some injuries result in pieces of the thorn breaking off in the skin. It would seem as if these plants had poison, but in fact, the swelling and redness around a wound is caused by a foreign object logged in the skin.

Considering plants outside of North America there are several plants from Africa that have poisonous thorns such as Gymnosporia buxifolia or Dichrostachys spp.

I acquired my information about thorny plants from the Botanical Dermatology Database. There is lots of information there if you would like to read further about the affects of plants with thorns.

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Plant identification of tree in North Carolina
September 07, 2011 – I live in North Carolina have found a tree on our property that has thorny branches and round fruit (perfectly round) with a fuzzy outer layer that starts out green but then turns yellow. The inside r…
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing, Horse-safe Pasture Tree for Okeechobee, FL
July 05, 2012 – I’m looking for a fast growing tree to plant in pasture that’s safe for horses.
view the full question and answer

Trees poisonous to horses from Landrum SC
April 15, 2012 – Please tell me if the following trees are poisonous to horses: hickory, beech, poplar, and redbud. Thank you very much.
view the full question and answer

Butterfly Garden, non-poisonous to Dogs, in Taylor MI
March 27, 2014 – I have a small fenced yard with a patio that my dogs have free access to. I would like to create a butterfly garden and add other plants that are non toxic to my dachshunds. Any suggestions. I am f…
view the full question and answer

Is Texas Mountain Laurel Honey Toxic in Fulshear, TX?
March 11, 2012 – Toxicity of Texas Mountain Laurel HONEY I know the seeds and leaves of the Tx Mountain Laurel are toxic. But, is honey that comes from the Mountain Laurel toxic too? I heard that it is, but can’…
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Buy Barberry Shrubs Online | Garden Goods Direct

Barberry Shrubs for Sale Online | Garden Goods Direct

Barberries are among the most popular shrubs around. They are very hardy, deer resistant, they have small thorns that make them an excellent barrier or hedge, in fact, some insurance companies recommend planting them as foundation shrubs under windows to deter break-ins. They are equally happy in full sun or partial shade, and they come in all different colors ranging from bright red like Barberry Admiration with its golden leaf margins to the cooling dark red (almost purple) Barberry Crimson Pygmy and everything in-between. Each variation adds plenty of interest to the landscape. They do lose their leaves during the winter in colder zones, so plant them with other shrubs that are evergreen. During the spring summer and Fall, nothing pairs better in our opinion than the hot reds of barberries with the cool blues and greens of conifers like Blue Chip Juniper. Our offering of barberry shrubs is ever-growing and we are pleased to be able to offer this wonderful group of plants.

Have you considered adding barberry shrubs to your landscape, but aren’t sure where to start?

Information on our best-selling Barberries:

Barberry Crimson Pygmy: Crimson Pygmy Barberry is a dwarf, densely branched shrub displaying deep crimson colored foliage all season long. The best color is achieved when planted in full sun. Excellent color contrast against green or gold-leaved plants.

Admiration Barberry: Admiration Barberry is guaranteed to make your friends do a double take! Red hot leaves are edged in neon yellow. It holds its color well through the summer even in the full sun. Admiration Barberry is sure to capture attention!

Barberry Rosy Glow: Rosy Glow Barberry is a dense, older cultivar which grows 3′-6′ tall and takes to pruning well. in the spring the newly emerging leaves are purple, but as they mature they turn a rose-pink mottled with bronze to purplish red splotches.


What is a Barberry?

Barberries are tough and easy to grow shrubs that are great for adding color and texture to small spaces. Barberries are deer, rabbit, and disease resistant, salt tolerant, and low maintenance. These shrubs are evergreen in warmer regions, but they are extremely cold hardy and can grow as deciduous shrubs in cooler growing zones. Choose non-invasive cultivars like the varieties we carry.

How to Prune Barberry Shrubs

Dwarf Barberry plants do not generally require pruning. For large or overgrown Barberries, prune out ⅓ of the oldest stems yearly. Minor pruning can be done anytime. When to Prune Barberry Bushes? Japanese Barberries should be pruned in winter. If you are concerned with the potential of losing some of the inconspicuous blooms in spring, just perform Barberry bush pruning right after flowering instead.

How to Plant Barberry

Plant Barberries in full sun to part shade. Dig a hole twice the width of the root ball of your plant. Once placed in the hole the root ball of your plant should be slightly higher than the soil line. Fill the hole with water, back fill the hole with soil, and tamp the soil down gently with your hands to remove air pockets. Apply 1 to 2 inches of mulch around your plant and water again until the water begins to pool. Water daily for the first week.

How to Grow Barberry Bushes

Barberries are adaptable to any soil that drains well. After planting be sure to water deeply 1 to 2 times per week for the first 2 to 3 months while your plant is establishing. Once established Barberries are drought tolerant and little to no maintenance. Apply 1 to 2 inches of mulch to protect the roots in extreme temperatures and keep the soil moist. There is no need to prune this shrub. However, if you prefer a manicured look, prune in winter. Fertilize with our balanced slow release fertilizer in spring.

Where to Buy Barberry Bushes

For the best selection and quality, buy Barberry bushes online. We ship them directly to your home from our North Carolina nursery. At PlantingTree we are a family owned online garden center that offers healthy, high quality trees and plants for sale online. Scroll up to view our available inventory of Barberry for sale.

Featured Barberry Varieties

Crimson Pygmy Barberry

Growing Zone 4-8

The Dwarf Crimson Pygmy is a small version of the Japanese Barberry plant. With stunning purple-red foliage this colorful shrub is sure to add some excitement to your landscape.

Orange Rocket Barberry

Growing Zones 4-9

This fabulous upright, columnar bush has outstanding color. New growth is vibrant coral orange and ages to a deep red. At only 2 to 3 feet wide and about 5 feet tall this neat shrub fits just about anywhere.

Rose Glow Barberry

Growing Zones 4-8

This versatile shrub is perfect for beginners. It has fabulous red foliage that deer avoid. This compact Barberry grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide at maturity.

Sunjoy Citrus Barberry

Growing Zones 4-8

The Sunjoy Citrus is a dwarf Barberry bush with outstanding yellow color. This compact plant only grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide so it’s perfect for small yards and pots. This plant is unique and is a faster growing substitute for boxwood bushes.

Sunjoy Gold Pillar Barberry

Growing Zones 4-8

The Sunjoy Gold Pillar is a compact columnar barberry bush with outstanding color. New growth is vibrant red-orange and ages to a yellow gold. This columnar shrub only grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 1.5 to 2 feet wide so it’s perfect for small yards and containers.

Sunjoy Tangelo Barberry

Growing Zones 4-8

This stunning bush has outstanding and colorful variegation. Orange leaves are highlighted with brilliant green margins. This exciting shrub grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide so it’s perfect for foundation plantings under windows.

Be sure to browse our Shrubs and Deer Resistant Shrubs for additional options.

Japanese Barberry: A Threat to Public Health

I have a confession to make. Almost two decades ago, when I was a first time homeowner and newbie gardener, I actually bought and planted Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Not only did I not know any better, I was encouraged to buy it. I visited my local nursery and told them I was looking for a shade-tolerant, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance shrub that had to be deer resistant. The rest of the particulars really didn’t matter to me.

I was shown a few different cultivars and told any of them would work well in my garden. So I grabbed three purple-leafed shrubs (the exact cultivar long forgotten) and went home and planted them. And basically forgot about them for years because they thrived in my garden. Little did I know that by planting those shrubs, I was negatively impacting the local ecosystem and I was endangering my family.

While many gardeners know about Japanese barberry’s strongly invasive habits, at least 20 states have reported it be invasive, many gardeners may not realize that the presence of Japanese barberry has been linked to an increased risk for Lyme disease.

A multi-year study, taking place in Connecticut, is looking at the relationship between Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), white-tailed deer, white-footed mice and blacklegged ticks. The results were recently released from the first two years of the study and are a bit surprising. In essence, the study found the larger the number of this plant in an area, the higher the incidence of Lyme disease carrying ticks.

Among the study’s early conclusions:
• White-tailed deer do not browse Japanese barberry, helping it to outcompete native shrubs.
• Dense stands of Japanese barberry provide favorable habitat for all life stages of blacklegged ticks. As ticks mature, they require host mammals of increasing size.
• Larval blacklegged ticks feed primarily on small host mammals, white-footed mice are a favorite. Several characteristics of Japanese barberry, including early leaf-out, dense thorns and an a wealth of fruit, all combine to create an ideal habitat for mice that is free from predators and has abundant food.
• Mature Japanese barberry is the perfect height for questing adult ticks to attach themselves to deer as they pass by.
• Eliminating Japanese Barberry will decrease the number of blacklegged ticks which in turn will significantly reduce the risk of Lyme disease.

But the sad fact is that today, even here in Connecticut where Japanese Barberry is on the invasive plant list, a first time homeowner and newbie gardener who walks into a local nursery and asks for a shade-tolerant, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance shrub that has to be deer resistant will probably be pointed towards Japanese Barberry.

Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ is one of the butterfly magnets in my garden

With a little education, we can help gardeners and plant sellers realize there are many native alternatives to Japanese barberry, including dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenia), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus) and Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica).

By simply choosing a native shrub that thrives in the same site conditions as Japanese barberry, we can create more wildlife habitat, reduce invasive species, protect local ecosystems and safeguard the health of ourselves and our families.

What’s your most hated plant? You know, the one that makes you cringe when you see it growing in someone’s garden? Or worse yet, for sale at a local nursery?

Leave Us Your Comments Below!

Click the Submit Your Comments button below to leave us your comments or questions!

  • Recommended!

Submit Your Comments

Japanese Barberry: A Threat to Public Health SKU UPC Model

Are there male plants?

Nov 20, 2019 by J

I have a small shrub that fits the description, except that it has no berries. Could this be okay to keep? There is a chance that the birds already ate all the berries, but, I probably would have noticed berries forming.

Jul 13, 2019 by Suki

I cringe when I see Winged Euonymous (Burning Bush) and Japanese Barberry. It’s maddening both are still being sold by retailers in CT.

Most Hated Plant

Feb 26, 2019 by NativesOnly

That’s easy, English Ivy! There are so many invasive plants that are bad but nothing smoothers and completely creates monocultures better than English Ivy. Sadly, it seems to be taking over every vacant property in the Southeast.

Barberry/Tick Habitat

Nov 08, 2018 by LJ

Good thing these plants are fiercely barbed, keeping warm blooded larger creatures, including people, away. Deer carry the ticks. Good thing they stay away from Barberry. Barberry root, bark and berries contains medicinal compounds which help in certain human diseases. Is it possible that the same habitat that is friendly to ticks is also friendly to Barberry? Ticks can’t survive w/o blood. Barberry is not food for ticks or deer. All plants, leaves on the ground in fall make good places for ticks. I know. I live in the woods. We do not have any Barberry. We have a lot of deer, and ticks. I am a landscaper for a living. I have seen very few babies sprouting from the parent plants in the landscape, although I have seen a few, but only where a thick layer of decomposing bark surrounds the plants. The forest floor is a great habitat for ticks, with or without Barberry.

Oct 22, 2018 by Tad

What you say about Japanese (or European) Barberry is true. Its also true that Berberis is a native genus. It is also true that all barberries provide hungry gap late winter food for birds and mammals. It is also true that its living barbed wire function of barberries protect not only mice and ticks but songbirds and young trees. In short dont plant it but dont make war on it either. Understand it and use it to help drive the diversity of your propery. For example, plant oaks or other native trees under the barberry to use its thorns to keep deer from devastating the young trees before they can get above the browse line. Or perhaps just leave the barberry if its providing shelter for songbirds near a birdfeeder. Above all avoid the herbicides which are much worse than the weeds.

Apr 25, 2018 by Michael Aherne

In term of tick habitat, do two 3′ to 4’tall barberry plants constitute a tick infestation? Are they a tick habitat. While they have been growing for more than 10 years they have shown no sign of spreading.

Japanese Barberry; A Threat to Human Health

Dec 09, 2017 by Gary Wilson

Japanese barberry for sure is at the top of my hate list. In looking for land to build my home in CT, I’ve seen stands of this that covers acres, and is very difficult to walk through as it’s all tangled and covers all the rocks so thoroughly, when it’s leafed out. Second on my list is likely Burning Bush, which while it looks nice and grows well, produces so many offspring that I’ve seen it covering both sides of some of the rural roads I drive on. State DEP’s should prohibit nurseries from selling these plants. Plant scientists should work at developing sterile cultivars. And more articles on effective means to control these plants would be appreciated.

Barberry is an original shrub 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 loves sun-bathed or shaded places.
  • In a hedge, space plants at least 40 inches (1 m) from each other.
  • Refer to our picture and video guidelines on planting shrubs.

Barberry is propagated through cuttings at the end of summer.

Pruning and caring for barberry

How to trim barberry

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. Don’t neglect this 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. Make your fertilizer from weeds!

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 barberry 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.

If you’re growing barberry indoors, in a container, it will certainly encounter the usual household pests:

  • aphids
  • red spider mite
  • scale bugs

All there is to know about barberry

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.

Most of the barberry species can be grown as bonsai plants.

  • How to grow a barberry bonsai
  • You can start a bonsai from either seedlings or from fresh stumps of older specimens.

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 license
Barberry berries up close by Clint Budd ★ under © CC BY 2.0
Red barberry hedge in fall by Marta Szewczyk-Dutka under license


These dense, spiny-stemmed plants, especially the deciduous species, tolerate climate and soil extremes. They require no more than ordinary garden care and are not browsed by deer. Each year, thin out oldest wood and prune as needed to shapelate in the dormant season for deciduous kinds, after bloom for evergreen and semievergreen types. Barberries make fine hedges. Species grown for their foliage can be sheared, but those grown for their spring flowers and the fruit that follows are best pruned informally, because they bloom on the preceding year’s growth. To rejuvenate overgrown or neglected plants, cut them to within a foot of the ground before new spring growth begins. Flowers are yellow unless other- wise noted.

darwin barberry

berberis darwinii

  • Evergreen.
  • Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9.
  • Hardy to 10F.
  • Very showy barberry from Chile.
  • Fountainlike growth to 510 feet tall, 47 feet wide.
  • Crisp, dark green, hollylike, 1 inches leaves.
  • Orange-yellow flowers are borne so thickly along branches that foliage is hard to see; these are followed by profuse dark blue berries that are popular with birds.
  • Spreads by underground runners to form a thicket.

berberis x gladwynensis ‘William Penn

  • Evergreen; drops some leaves at 0 to 10F.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • Resembles Berberis julianae in general effect but has broader, glossier leaves and is faster growing, with denser growth.
  • Reaches 4 feet tall and wide.
  • Good display of spring flowers and bronzy fall color that shades to yellow and purple.

berberis x irwinii

  • See Berberis x stenophylla ‘Irwinii’

wintergreen barberry

berberis julianae

  • Evergreen to semievergreen.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • Hardy to 0F, but foliage is damaged by severe winter cold.
  • Chinese native.
  • Dense, upright, to 6 feet tall and wide; angled branches.
  • Spiny-toothed, dark green, leathery leaves to 3 inches long; reddish fall color.
  • Blue-black berries.
  • One of the spiniest barberries; good as barrier hedge.
  • Tolerates more shade than most barberries.

korean barberry

berberis koreana

  • Deciduous.
  • Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7.
  • Hardy to 35F.
  • Korean native grows erect to 46 feet and not quite as wide.
  • Densely foliaged in medium to dark green, 13 inches leaves that turn purple in fall.
  • Fragrant flowers in drooping, 3- to 4 inches clusters.
  • Bright red fruit.

berberis linearifolia ‘Orange King(Berberis trigona ‘Orange King’)

  • Evergreen.
  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • Hardy to 0 to 10F.
  • This selection of a Chilean species has an open growth habit to 5 feet tall and wide, with narrow, glossy, 2 inches leaves.
  • Short clusters of deep orange flowers; bluish black fruit.

mentor barberry

berberis x mentorensis

  • Evergreen to deciduous hybrid of Berberis julianae and Berberis thunbergii.
  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • Hardy to 20F but loses some or all leaves below 0F.
  • Compact growth to 7 feet tall and wide.
  • Dark green, 1 inches leaves turn a beautiful red in fall where winters are cold.
  • Berries are dull dark red but are rarely seen.
  • Easy to maintain as a hedge.
  • Tolerates hot, dry weather.

rosemary barberry

berberis x stenophylla

  • Evergreen.
  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • Hardy to 0F.
  • Narrow, 121 inches-long leaves with rolled-in edges and spiny tip.
  • Species is 10 feet tall, 15 feet wide, but selections are more commonly grown.
  • Corallina Compacta, called coral barberry, reaches 1 feet high and wide and bears nodding clusters of bright orange flowers and bluish black fruit; effective in rock garden or as foreground plant.
  • Irwinii, to 45 feet tall and wide, resembles a compact-growing Berberis darwinii.

japanese barberry

berberis thunbergii

  • Deciduous.
  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • Hardy to 20F.
  • Graceful habit with slender, arching, spiny branches; if not sheared, usually reaches 46 feet tall with equal spread.
  • Densely covered with roundish, 12- to 112 inches-long leaves that are deep green above, paler beneath; leaves turn yellow, orange, and red before they fall.
  • Beadlike, bright red berries stud branches in fall and through winter.
  • Use as hedge, barrier planting, or specimen shrub.
  • This species has become invasive in many parts of the South (roughly including Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina and points north); in these areas, choose low-seed selections and avoid planting near open lands.


  • Bright golden yellow foliage.
  • Best color in full sun (though it can’t take it in Coastal South), but plant will tolerate light shade.
  • Slow growing to 2123 feet tall and wide.

Golden Nugget

  • Dwarf selection reaching 1 feet tall and wide.
  • Golden leaves may be tinged orange.
  • Sets few or no seeds.


  • Extra-dwarf bright green selection.
  • Like ‘Crimson Pygmy’ in habit but fuller and rounder.


  • To 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide, with rich green foliage that turns vivid yellow, orange, and red in fall.

berberis t

  • atropurpurea.
  • This group contains plants with leaves in the red to purple-red range.
  • All develop most intense color in sun.


  • Similar to ‘Crimson Pygmy’ but with smaller, glossier, deeper red-purple leaves and a narrower shape; 1122 feet tall and wide.
  • Sets few or no seeds.

Cherry Bomb

  • Like ‘Crimson Pygmy’, but 4 feet tall, with larger leaves and more open growth.
  • Regular water.


  • Grows 18 inches tall and wide, produces maroon-purple leaves that go red in fall; small flowers, red berries.

Crimson Pygmy

  • (‘Atropurpurea Nana’).
  • The most widely sold Japanese barberry, this selection grows 1122 feet high and 2123 feet wide.
  • New leaves are bright red, mature to bronzy blood red.
  • Sets few or no seeds.

Golden Ring

  • Grows 3 feet tall and wide.
  • Reddish purple leaves with a thin green or golden green border.

Golden Ruby

  • Dwarf selection reaching 2 feet high and wide.
  • Leaves open coral, then turn purple-red with golden margins.
  • Sets few or no seeds.

Helmond Pillar

  • Columnar form grows 6 feet tall, 2 feet wide, with reddish purple foliage.
  • Sets few or no seeds.

Pygmy Ruby

  • Grows 112 feet high, 3 feet wide, with deep red foliage.
  • Sets few or no seeds.

Rose Glow

  • To 46 feet tall and wide.
  • New foliage marbled bronzy red and pinkish white, deepening to rose and bronze with age.
  • Very popular.

Royal Cloak

  • Compact, mounding to 4 feet high and at least as wide.
  • Large, dark purple-red leaves.

berberis trigona ‘Orange King

  • See Berberis linearifolia ‘Orange King’.

warty barberry

berberis verruculosa

  • Evergreen.
  • Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7.
  • Hardy to 0F.
  • Native to China.
  • Neat, tailored looking.
  • Will reach 45 feet tall and wide but can be kept to 112 feet Perky, inch-long leaves are glossy, dark green above, whitish beneath.
  • In fall and winter, the odd red leaf develops as a highlight here and there.
  • Black berries with a purplish bloom.
  • Very choice and effective on banks, in front of leggy rhododendrons or azaleas, in foreground of shrub border.
  • Tolerates poor soils.

wilson barberry

berberis wilsoniae

  • Deciduous to semi-evergreen.
  • Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8.
  • Hardy to 5F.
  • Native to China.
  • To 6 feet tall and wide, but it can be held to 34 feet Light green, roundish, 12- to 1 inches leaves give a fine-textured look.
  • Beautiful coral to salmon-red berries.
  • Makes a handsome barrier hedge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *