Barberry (Berberis)

Quick facts and care essentials

Shrubs

• Evergreen or deciduous
• Climate zones vary
• Full sun or partial shade
• Regular to moderate watering

Their ability to endure extremes of soil and weather makes the barberries, especially the deciduous sorts, good choices for harsh climates. Branches are spiny ― one reason barberries are favored for barrier hedges. The plants described below have small leaves and bear yellow spring flowers followed by autumn berries.

Barberries grow vigorously and need regular pruning to keep inner branches from dying. They prosper in ordinary garden soil and will tolerate heat and dryness.

Wintergreen barberry (B. julianae). Zones 4-24, 28-32. Evergreen. A dense, very thorny green shrub to 6 to 8 feet tall and wide, wintergreen barberry is often grown as a barrier hedge. Berries are blue black. This species is hardy to 0 °F/-18 °C, but there's some cold damage to leaves at low temperatures (unless they are protected by snow). A dwarf form, 'Nana', grows just 4 feet high and wide.

Japanese barberry (B. thunbergii). Zones 1-24, 28-41. Deciduous. Often grown for colorful fall foliage; used as either a specimen plant or a barrier hedge. The species grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. Its dark green leaves turn yellow, orange, and red in fall; autumn berries are red and beadlike. Popular cultivars include 'Atropurpurea'(same size as the species) and 'Atropurpurea Nana' ('Crimson Pygmy'), to 1 ½ feet tall and 2 ½ feet wide; both have red foliage that turns gold in fall.