Berberis (Barberry)


Common name: Barberry

Family: Berberidaceae

This is a huge genus of evergreen and deciduous shrubs. Among those widely available include dwarf varieties suitable for the rock garden, whereas the largest will grow to around 2m (6ft) in height. Berberis have varying shades of fragrant yellow or orange flowers. Most of the deciduous species produce a brilliant show of autumn colour. Berberis have sharp thorns, and some of the larger species can be used as hedging — an attractive deterrent to unwanted visitors.


Popular species and varieties

Berberis X stenophylla The Berberis is no stranger to our gardens. Several species were introduced early in the 19th century, among them Berberis darwinii (AGM) from China. This is an evergreen with dark green foliage. Its very colourful display of brilliant orange flowers is produced in spring, and is followed by blue-black berries in the autumn. It has a bushy habit, and a mature specimen can reach around 3m (10ft) in height One of the best species, it can also be used as a hedge.

Another with evergreen foliage is Berberis x stenophylla (AGM), a vigorous shrub producing masses of bright orange-yellow flowers in late spring.

Among the deciduous species is Berberis thunbergii (AGM), a native of Japan that grows to 2m (6ft) in height. The pale yellow flowers appear over the tight green foliage in early summer and are followed by scarlet berries. This is a good species for autumn colour when the foliage turns to bright red. Berberis t. atropurpurea is very similar; its leaves are a dark coppery-purple, and it takes on rich colouring in the autumn.

One of the best of the dwarf berberis is ‘Coralina Compacta’ (AGM). This very attractive shrub grows to just 30cm (12in) and covers itself with masses of flame-coloured buds that open to yellow flowers in the spring, Finally, one berberis recommended for having a rich autumn colour is Berberis x media ‘Red Jewel’ (AGM).



Soil type Most well-drained, humus-rich soils are suitable.

Planting This can be done in the autumn or spring. Choose an open sunny spot for the deciduous species and varieties. The evergreen berberis will grow here as well, but will also tolerate lightly shaded areas.

Maintenance General pruning is not necessary. If needed, evergreen varieties should be cut back after flowering. Deciduous berberis should be pruned, if required, in mid-winter

Propagation The easiest method is to take 7-10cm (3-4in) long cuttings with a heel, in late summer. Place them in an equal peat/coarse sand mixture and overwinter them in a garden frame. In spring move them to a nursery bed, or pot them on individually. In about two years the young plants will be ready to place in their permanent positions.

Pests and diseases Generally trouble free, although berberis can fall victim to honey fungus.

19. May 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Ornamental Shrubs | Tags: , | Comments Off on Berberis (Barberry)


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