Crimson pygmy barberry bush

Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy’

  • Attributes: Genus: Berberis Species: thunbergii Family: Berberidaceae Recommended Propagation Strategy: Seed Stem Cutting Country Or Region Of Origin: Holland Wildlife Value: Berries attract birds. Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): urban conditions; heat; erosion; range of soil types, except wet; seldom damaged by deer; drought; pollution Dimensions: Height: 2 ft. 0 in. – 3 ft. 0 in. Width: 3 ft. 0 in. – 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Shrub Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Habit/Form: Dense Rounded Maintenance: Low Texture: Medium Appendage: Spines Thorns
  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Red/Burgundy Fruit Value To Gardener: Showy Display/Harvest Time: Fall Winter Fruit Type: Berry Fruit Length: < 1 inch Fruit Width: < 1 inch Fruit Description: This plant has .2-in., red, oval berries in summer that persist into winter. Berries attract birds.
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Gold/Yellow Orange Red/Burgundy Flower Inflorescence: Insignificant Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Size: < 1 inch Flower Description: This plant has waxy, pale yellow to orange to red flowers.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Leaf Color: Gold/Yellow Green Purple/Lavender Red/Burgundy Deciduous Leaf Fall Color: Red/Burgundy Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Shape: Obovate Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: < 1 inch Leaf Description: This plant has alternate, simple, deep crimson leaves with bronze tinge. Leaves are .5 to .7 in.-long (though can reach 1.25 inches long) and can be greenish-red when grown in shade. This plant has a single spine at each node.
  • Stem: Stem Color: Brown/Copper Red/Burgundy Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Description: Some stems are brittle. Thorns are attached to the stem.
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Coastal Slope/Bank Landscape Theme: Cottage Garden Drought Tolerant Garden Rock Garden Winter Garden Design Feature: Barrier Border Hedge Screen/Privacy Security Small groups Specimen Attracts: Songbirds Resistance To Challenges: Deer Drought Dry Soil Erosion Heat Pollution Urban Conditions Problems: Problem for Children Spines/Thorns

Crimson Pygmy Barberry

Crimson Pygmy Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana’) is a lovely plant that brings immediate impact in your landscape. It features a truly useful compact size, and best of all—it works beautifully without fuss.

Highly ornamental, this deciduous ornamental shrub showcases outstanding crimson foliage that is overcast with a superb bronze sheen. Autumn adds a dash of brilliant orange for fall color. No wonder this plant won the Award of Garden Merit of the British Royal Horticultural Society!

Crimson Pygmy is resistant to disease, urban conditions, deer and insects and requires little pruning to maintain its tiny, full and arched shape.

This fabulous small accent shrub is a true little workhorse in the landscape. Besides the colorful foliage, the Crimson Pygmy Barberry offers a lot of interest with tiny yellow flowers for butterflies and a sprinkling of reddish-purple berries on the spiny stems for songbirds.

Crimson Pygmy Barberry is a naturally dwarf variety of Japanese Barberry. It stays small in stature and works in many garden applications throughout your yard.

Use it as a beautiful barrier in foundation plantings, a memorable border plant or in brightly colored mass plantings. It will easy enliven rock gardens all growing season long. Crimson Pygmy can also be used in containers to add a pop of color to your patio.

Savvy gardeners across the country love Crimson Pygmy Barberry. It’s adapted across a wide range and performs well in Zones 4-8. If you give it protection from the afternoon sun, it will thrive in Zone 9, too.

Even though the Crimson Pygmy Barberry is known to produce fewer seeds that other Barberry varieties, some states do have regulations against the Barberry genus. Count on Nature Hills to protect your community in restricted areas. We use Plant Sentry™ online software to stop shipments of regulated plant material.

If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind, easy care small shrub that’s sure to draw attention with its pop of color, then Crimson Pygmy Barberry is your shrub. Order today!

How to Use Crimson Pygmy Barberry in the Landscape

Crimson Pygmy Japanese Barberry looks terrific along a foundation or walkway. It maintains a compact, rounded form and true color consistently from spring until frost.

Plant it at least three feet from a walkway. There are small thorns, which make it an incredible barrier plant. You’ll love the color, but potential intruders will think twice about getting too close.

Live on a corner lot? Include a low hedge of this plant to stop people from “cutting” across your lawn. Place it anywhere you want a friendly, colorful way to direct traffic through your landscape.

Gardens in deer country appreciate this plant’s resistance to deer. Many people plant this shrub as a barrier plant to discourage deer from rummaging through their garden beds.

The delectably deep foliage makes a perfect contrast plant to bright golds, yellows and deep green plants. For a romantic, complementary design, try it with other pinks and reds.

Crimson Pygmy Barberry can hold its own in a rugged, hardworking landscape with groundcover Juniper shrubs and Russian Sage. Add Ornamental Grass and groundcover Roses for a magnificent display all season long.

It’s known for its ability to do well in cities and its tolerance to urban pollution, so it’s a perfect plant for commercial property owners.

People love to use it as an edging foundation plant in front of larger evergreen shrubs. Or, use it as a colorful replacement for Boxwood to set off a garden bed filled with blooming summer annuals.

To create a low hedge, plant them two feet apart on center. You’ll measure from the center of the first plant, to the center of the next.

Crimson Pygmy is wonderfully impactful in a massed planting. Keep them 2 feet apart on center. Use a zig-zag planting pattern, so they’ll grow together faster.

This add a depth of color when it’s repeated throughout a mixed landscape border. In Zone 9, it is quite often seen in part shade gardens planted with Azaleas or other dark green shrubs. It looks terrific in a Japanese or Zen garden.

Crimson Pygmy Barberry is a must-have for your yard. It’s tiny enough to fit in just about anywhere and offers a lot of interest for its small stature and hardy nature.

#ProPlantTips for Care

Even if you are busy, your Crimson Pygmy Barberry can thrive. This slow growing, natural dwarf shrub is very low maintenance.

Good drainage is important, but it will tolerate almost any soil type. It grows well in well-drained, medium moisture soil in full sun and thrives once established.

You can prune this pretty plant in late summer or early winter to help it keep its beautiful arching growth habit and lush little shape. It’s perfectly amenable to being shaped, if you want to treat it as a topiary or downsize it.

Snip any errant branches back into the mound to encourage bushy new growth. Wear gloves when you work with your Crimson Pygmy!

Crimson Pygmy prefers full sun but does well when given morning sun and afternoon shade in hotter climates. The more sun, the more purple-red the leaves become. In too much shade, you’ll see more green leaves.

Please baby it a bit as a new plant. Water it well when you unbox it, following our printed instructions in every box. For the first several weeks, get out there and poke your finger in the soil next to the plant every other day or so.

Is the soil starting to get dry? Drag the hose out and saturate the area. Is the ground under the surface still moist? Skip watering that day.

Once Crimson Pygmy gets its root system established in your native soil, it will only need infrequent watering. Plan to apply additional water during extended periods of drought.

In a normal year, Barberry isn’t a deer favorite, and it is listed as Deer Resistant. However, deer will eat anything if they are hungry enough. In deer country, use Deer Repellent Spray on every single new planting. Reapply according to the directions through the growing season.

The depth of color on the Crimson Pygmy is incredible. You can literally lose yourself for several minutes studying the beautiful leaves. Grab your camera when you head outside!

Fall in love with the beautiful little Crimson Pygmy Barberry. In return, it will give you many years of brilliant performance with very little care. Order enough for your project today!

Dwarf Barberry Care: How To Grow Crimson Pygmy Barberry Shrubs

If you think of barberry plants as primarily useful for defensive hedges, think again. Crimson Pygmy barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy’) is utterly gorgeous with deep crimson leaves that turn even more brilliant shades in autumn. Dwarf barberry shrubs like this will light up your backyard and contrast beautifully with lighter, brighter plants. For more Crimson Pygmy barberry information, read on.

Crimson Pygmy Barberry Information

Anyone growing a dwarf Crimson Pygmy barberry will be thrilled by the deep, rich color of the foliage. Dwarf barberry shrubs are only knee high, but the small, deep-burgundy leaves make quite a statement.

Dwarf barberry shrubs also produce flowers, small and bright yellow. They smell sweet and the color contrasts nicely with the leaves. But according to Crimson Pygmy barberry information, they

cannot compete with the gorgeous crimson foliage for ornamental value.

The flowers develop into red, round berries over summer and fall that please wild birds. Those growing a dwarf Crimson Pygmy barberry will find that the berries hang onto the branches long after the leaves fall. And before the shrub loses its leaves in winter, the color turns even brighter red.

How to Grow Crimson Pygmy Barberry

If you are growing a dwarf barberry shrub for its brilliant foliage, you’ll want to be sure to plant it in a full sun location. Although the plants can remain healthy in partial shade, the color develops best in sun.

The type of soil you offer the plant influences the type of dwarf barberry care they require. How to grow Crimson Pygmy barberry that don’t require much care? Plant them in moist, well-draining soil. Do keep in mind, however, these shrubs will grow in any soil that isn’t soggy.

Keep the ultimate size in mind when you consider grow Crimson Pygmy barberry plants and where to site them. The shrubs grow to 18 to 24 inches (45-60 cm.) tall and 30 to 36 inches (75-90 cm.) wide.

Is Crimson Pygmy barberry invasive? Barberry is considered invasive in some areas. However, the ‘Crimson Pygmy’ cultivar is less invasive. It produces fewer fruits and seeds than the wild type. That being said though, the shrubs cannot be considered “non-invasive.”

Crimson Pygmy Barberry

Last Updated: May 29, 2015 | by Mike McGroarty

Crimson Pygmy Barberry (berberis thunbergii autropurpurea nana) is a great, low maintenance landscape plant. The beautiful red leaves turn a deep burgundy by fall.

The color and compact habit of this plant make it a popular landscape plant. Crimson Pygmy Barberry only grows about 3 inches each year, and requires very little pruning.

It can be used as a border plant, or as an accent plant. It requires a location that is mostly sunny.

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Warning! This little beauty bites!

Just below those beautiful red leaves are the tinyest, and sharpest thorns you will ever encounter. But since the plant requires so little maintenance, you don’t encounter the thorns very often.

Just don’t plant Crimson Pygmy Barberry where little kids are likely to tread. Not only will it bite them, but Barberry plants are very brittle, and if stepped on the branches break completely off. Keep this in mind if you plan to use it along a walkway where snow shoveling will take place.

Crimson Pygmy Barberry is not to be confused with Rosy Glow Barberry, or Mentor Barberry, which are more upright growers.

Rosy Glow Barberry has the prettiest new growth of just about any plant you will see. The small leaves come out pinkish red in color, and appear to be pink and white variegated. Very nice plant if you need something that will get about three feet tall.

Mentor Barberry is the plant you want to use if you need to keep people out of an area. Growing to a height of six feet tall and loaded with very sharp, long thorns, this plant is not that much fun to get close to. Mentor Barberry has green leaves.

Red Barberry (Berberis thunbergii autropurpurea grows just like Mentor Barberry, but it has pretty red leaves, but still has those nasty thorns.

Back in my high school days a nursery that I was working for bought a whole field of these two varieties, and I was on the crew that had to carry them out of the field and load them on semi-trailer trucks.

The live thorns on the new growth are soft in the spring, but by winter they are very hard and sharp. But the worst thorns of all are the ones on the dead twigs that have fallen from the plants. And when you are digging and carrying full grown plants, you are constantly grabbing one of these twigs as you wrestle with the heavy plants.

I’ll never forget those few days we spent hauling those plants out of that field. Our hands were swollen a week later!

The best way to propagate Barberry plants is Intermittent Mist, but you might also try the techniques for Hardwood Cuttings of Deciduous Plants. Maybe even a little Bottom Heat if you don’t have Intermittent Mist.

Questions? I do my best to answer all questions on my blog…

Barberry Shrub

Barberry Shrub at Johnson Brothers Greenhouses

The barberry shrub is an excellent choice if you are looking to create a low maintenance, yet very attractive landscape. Working smarter and not harder is the end result of picking care free shrubs. Their foliage is interesting and their colors cover a wide spectrum.

We all would love to have more free time enjoying our garden rather than tending to chores, right? Well, the answer is to complementing low maintenance shrubs with care free annuals and perennials.
At the end of the page, we offer some companion ideas to get you started. It is not a comprehensive list, but it will get your creative juices flowing.

Reasons to Plant

Berberis Pow Wow at Johnson Brothers Greenhouses

There are a lot of great reasons to plant the Barberry shrub. It makes both a great companion shrub as well as being attractive enough to be the star of the show.

Here are some good reasons to use the Barberry in your garden this season:

  • The Barberry is very adaptable. They are hardy to zone 4, can take sun or shade, wet or dry, and they are practically indestructible.
  • Deer and rabbit do not eat barberry.
  • Planted en masse, the thorny barbs create a tough barrier, or “natural fence”.
  • Easy to grow and can be kept at most any size & shape through occasional trimming.

Using Barberry in the Garden Landscape

The Barberry shrub combines well with other deer resistant shrubs and plants since their thorny stems are formidable enough to keep most pests and animals away.

Some other great uses for the Barberry shrub are:

  • Can be used in a fragrant garden since their flowers have a nice fragrant scent.
  • Provide fours season, year-round interest: Spring flowers, summer foliage, fall berries and an attractive winter silhouette.

Companion planting

Using the Barberry shrub as a mid to front level shrub will create a nice backdrop for other plants. When planning your garden, remember to use contrasting colors in your garden design.
There are two varieties of Barberries, one reddish and the other yellow. Both colors combine nicely with a huge assortment of other colors, making them a great choice for a variety of garden color themes.

Here are great companion planting ideas for the Barberry:

  • The Canna is a great choice with its orchid-like summer flowers in red, orange or yellow. The leaves of the Canna are broad and lance-like like and come in a variety of colors.
  • The Mealy-cup sage with its oval leaves topped with violet-purple, flowers in summer.
  • Lambs Ears have woolly, silver leaves and spikes of tiny, purple flowers which bloom in summer. Try combining different varieties of Lambs Ears (both small and big) for a nice effect.
  • Sweet Alyssum produces sweet-smelling flowers in pink, purple, cream and white. This is an easy annual to grow and you’ll find that it often reseeds.
  • African Fountain Grass is a graceful, clump-forming ornamental grass with bottlebrush-like seed heads.
  • Boxwood shrubs are a great shrub to complement the Barberry. This evergreen shrub has small, dark, glossy green leaves that contrasts nicely with the Barberry’s thorny, red leaves.
  • Geraniums come in a variety of colors, such as red, pink or white flowers. Again, their rounded, bright leaves are a nice contrast to the Barberry’s.

So, this year try to design a garden that looks great but needs little or no maintenance. Make sure to include the Barberry in your garden plans and use other care-free plants for stunning color; attractive foliage, and lazy summer afternoons.

Crimson Pygmy Japanese Barberry

Crimson Pygmy Japanese Barberry

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 24 inches

Spread: 3 feet


Hardiness Zone: 4a


The most popular dwarf cultivar, loved for its reddish-purple foliage all season long and extremely compact, rounded habit; excellent for color contrast, especially when used in groups

Growing Place Choice Plants

Our Growing Place Choice plants are chosen because they are strong performers year after year, staying attractive with less maintenance when planted in the right place.

Click here for additional information.

Ornamental Features

Crimson Pygmy Japanese Barberry is primarily grown for its highly ornamental fruit. The fruits are showy scarlet drupes carried in abundance from early to late fall. It has attractive burgundy foliage throughout the season. The small oval leaves are highly ornamental and turn an outstanding dark red in the fall. It features tiny clusters of yellow flowers hanging below the branches in mid spring.

Landscape Attributes

Crimson Pygmy Japanese Barberry is a dense multi-stemmed deciduous shrub with a more or less rounded form. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This shrub will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and can be pruned at anytime. Deer don’t particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Spiny

Crimson Pygmy Japanese Barberry is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • Rock/Alpine Gardens
  • Border Edging
  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover
  • Container Planting

Planting & Growing

Crimson Pygmy Japanese Barberry will grow to be about 24 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 3 feet. It tends to fill out right to the ground and therefore doesn’t necessarily require facer plants in front. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 20 years.

This shrub does best in full sun to partial shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist growing conditions, but will not tolerate any standing water. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for a low-water garden or xeriscape application. It is not particular as to soil type or pH, and is able to handle environmental salt. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

Crimson Pygmy Japanese Barberry makes a fine choice for the outdoor landscape, but it is also well-suited for use in outdoor pots and containers. It can be used either as ‘filler’ or as a ‘thriller’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination, depending on the height and form of the other plants used in the container planting. Note that when grown in a container, it may not perform exactly as indicated on the tag – this is to be expected. Also note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

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