Berberis Plant: Everything About The Barberry Shrub

 Purple Berberis plant

Berberis bushes and shrubs are very diverse: in size (from 50 cm to 2.50 m and more), in flower color, in foliage (deciduous or evergreen) and in plant habit. The vast choice among more than 450 species is therefore guided by the use for which you intend your shrub.

In this article, I have gathered for you all the information about this plant, its main characteristics and what you need to know to plant and grow it.

Characteristics of the berberis plant

Scientific nameBerberis spp.
OriginChina, Chili
FoliageDeciduous or evergreen
Rusticity-15°C to -20°C (-59°F to -68°F)
ExposureSun or light shade
SoilPreferably rich and fresh

The only common point to all the berberis resides in the presence of thorns, more or less marked.

On the practical level, their modest needs and the simplicity of their culture are two qualities shared by all the species.

How to grow a berberis

Offer full sun to deciduous species, especially to accentuate fall foliage colors; sun or light shade to evergreens.

Prune annually, after flowering for evergreens and after leaf fall for deciduous species, removing one-third of the length of the current year’s shoots.

How to grow berberis in a pot

Growing in a pot is only possible for berberis with small development. Provide a large pot of at least 50 cm side or diameter and repot only every 3 years.

Where to plant a barberry shrub

Berberis can be grown in low, colorful beds, in low or medium hedges and in pots, in association with yellow flowering shrubs such as broom, coronilla or forsythia, to contrast with their foliage.

Our selection of deciduous species

Here is a list of species I had to share with you.

Berberis × ottawensis

  • ‘Auricoma’, 2.50 to 3 m high and 1.50 m wide, is compact and upright, fast growing. The foliage is purple with a slight bluish sheen. For medium-sized beds and hedges, free or pruned.
  • ‘Superba’ is distinguished from the previous one by its abundant yellow flowers in May and its intense purple foliage turning crimson in autumn. Same uses.

B. thunbergii

It is a species with dull green foliage turning yellow and then purple in autumn, 2m high and wide. It is becoming less and less interesting as such but has given a number of more prized varieties:

  • Atropurpurea‘, 2m tall and 1.50m wide, has smaller, dark purple-red leaves and more compact growth than the type. Rounded form.
  • Atropurpurea Nana‘ is the dwarf form of the previous one, only 30cm high and 50cm in diameter. Ideal for rock gardens, as ground cover or in pots.
  • Bagatelle‘ has the same characteristics as the previous one but with light purple foliage.
    Green Carpet’, with a spreading habit from 1 to 1.20 m in all directions, is not very thorny and has small light green leaves that turn bright red in the fall. Ideal for bedding.
  • Rose Glow‘ appears as a clump of 1.20m in all directions. Flexible form due to arched branches. Leaves are variegated with purplish purple and creamy white.
  • Harlequin‘: same characteristics as the previous one; the variegation is more marked and the young shoots orange.
  • Golden Torch‘ has lemon-yellow foliage turning red in the fall. Numerous red berries.

Our selection of evergreen species

  • B. darwinii, 1.50 to 2m high and 1.20 to 1.50m wide, has small, spiny, glossy green, holly-like leaves and orange-yellow flowers.
  • Nana‘, with reduced dimensions, 80cm to 1m, has a rounded to flattened shape. Excellent for rock gardens and pot culture.
  • B. x media ‘Red Jewel’, 1 m high, compact habit, light red leaves in summer, dark red in winter. Suitable as ground cover and for rock gardens.
  • B. linearifolia ‘Orange King’, 2 m high and 1.50 m wide, narrow dark green leaves, compact habit, orange flowers. Can be grown singly, in groups and even in large containers.

In a nutshell

Berberis plants are an attractive and low-maintenance addition to many gardens. They are easy to plant and require minimal care. They add plenty of visual interest and color, and their scent can be quite alluring. Berberis plants have proven to be hardy and disease resistant, which makes them a popular choice for gardeners everywhere.

Whether as a foundation shrub or a mass planting, berberis plants are sure to make any garden look great!

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