Growing Berberis (Barberry)

Latin Name Pronunciation: ber'-ber-iss

Barberries, especially the Japanese varieties (B. thunbergii) are primarily grown for their ornamental foliage, fall color, and bright berries. The Common Barberry, B. vulgaris, has given all Barberries a bad name because it is a host for a rust disease of wheat and has become invasive in woodlands. Japanese Barberry may or may not behave aggressively in the garden, and its varieties are popular because they are very adaptable as well as attractive. These small, colorful shrubs make fine accents in perennial borders and foundation plantings, and their forbidding spiny twigs are useful in barrier hedges.

Light/Watering: Full sun; tolerates shade but colorful foliage will turn green in shade. Water thoroughly after planting, and then give a new plant a good soaking once a week during summer, unless rainfall is plentiful (more than 1in per week). Please note that more is not better. When in doubt, don't water.

Fertilizer/Soil and pH: Average to dry soil; will not tolerate constantly wet soils. We recommend against fertilizing at planting time and during the first growing season in your garden. Plants need time to settle in before being pushed to grow. Most established plants grow best if fertilized with a light hand. Here at the Farm, we fertilize shrubs and trees just once -- in early spring -- with a light but even coverage of a balanced, granular fertilizer (such 10-10-10 or an organic fertilizer).

Continuing Care: Very adaptable to heat and drought, and easily transplanted. Can be sheared to maintain desired shape.