Prepared by Marjan Kluepfell, HGIC Horticulture Specialist, and Bob Polpmski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. (New 09/99. Images added 04/09.)
Barberries are often used in the southern landscape because they tolerate extreme soil and climate conditions and require minimum maintenance.
Red-Leafed Japanese barberry
Richard Old, XID Services, Inc. www.insectimages.org
The species most often found in South Carolina are wintergreen barberry, Mentor barberry and Japanese barberry.
Japanese Barberry: Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is the most popular landscape barberry. Many cultivars are available. It grows from 3 to 6 feet tall and 4 to 7 feet wide, depending on the cultivar. The shrub is medium to very dense with many thorns. The leaves are bright green in summer, changing to orange, scarlet and reddish purple in the fall. Japanese barberry is deciduous, and it is one of the first shrubs to leaf out in spring. This is true for most of the deciduous barberries. The yellow flowers in spring are not very showy, because they are small and borne under the foliage, but the berries are bright red in the fall. The ½-inch berries persist into winter and make an excellent winter effect.
Berries of Japanese barberry
Barry Rice, sarracenia.com, www.insectimages.org
Wintergreen Barberry: Wintergreen barberry (Berberis julianae) is an evergreen shrub with thorny branches. It grows about 10 feet tall and wide. The thorns and dense growth habit combine to make this an excellent barrier plant. The leaves are a lustrous dark green. They turn bronze or wine-red in the fall and remain so during the winter. Abundant yellow flowers in spring are followed by bluish-black, 1/3-inch, oval fruits that may persist into fall.
'Spring Glory' wintergreen barberry
Karen Russ, ©2008 HGIC Clemson Extension
Mentor Barberry: Mentor barberry (Berberis x mentorensis) grows 4 to 6 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide. It loses its leaves in winter, but may be semi-evergreen in warm areas. The dark green, leathery leaves turn orange to red in the fall. The yellow flowers in spring are not as showy as the flowers of other species, but they are still attractive. Mentor barberry does not produce any fruits.
Japanese Barberry: The growth rate of Japanese barberry is medium, 1 to 2 feet per year.
Wintergreen Barberry: Wintergreen barberry grows slow, 12 to 18 inches per year.
Mentor Barberry: Mentor barberry grows much faster, at a rate of 2 feet per year.
All barberries make excellent hedge plants because of their uniform growth rate, and they make excellent barrier plants because of the thorny nature of their stems. They can be used for massing, shrub borders and as foundation plants. Japanese barberry is often used to hold and furnish slopes and banks.
Barberries prefer sun or partial shade. They are tolerant of most soil types and withstand dry conditions. They tolerate urban conditions better than many shrubs.
Barberries transplant easily and withstand pruning well. This is best done immediately after flowering or in later winter.
Except with formal hedges that need shearing one or more times a year, pruning should be kept to a minimum. Shrubs that become overgrown may be revitalized by cutting them back very severely, even to within a foot or so of the ground, in late winter. Fertilize the shrubs in spring.
Normally, barberries are not seriously affected by diseases and insects. They are occasionally subject to:
Insects that sometimes infest barberries are:
Cultivars of Japanese Barberry: There are many cultivars available. Some of the more common ones are:
Cultivars of Wintergreen Barberry:
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.