Barberry Shrubs

Tips for Growing Barberry Shrubs

Designing a well landscaped yard involves planning color, height and textures; all features that barberry shrubs exhibit.  These shrubs are one of the few varieties that add beauty and interest all year long, making them a valuable asset for landscaping.

One of the most significant features of the barberry is the marvelous range of rich color that it provides.  No matter what season of the year is present, the barberry manages to take center stage.  Deep crimson, bright red with pink marbling and brilliant gold foliage typically adorn these bushes, that are spectacular when grouped together in a hedge form to provide a mass of color.  The natural dense growth pattern of this shrub makes it an excellent choice as a barrier or natural fence planting.

Barberry has a complicated and thick branching system, giving it the compact consistency that makes it so desirable.  Stems are studded with sharp thorns throughout the shrub, which is no barrier to a number of bird species that love to use the interior of this plant as a haven.  Leaves appear in the spring; small and oval in shape, along with tiny, pleasantly scented golden clusters of flowers.  The leaves eventually encompass the bush as the flowers die away in early summer, giving it a natural mounded form that, depending on the species, can attain heights of 1 to 5 feet.  Since barberry is a deciduous shrub, it does shed those lovely leaves in the late fall, after offering stunning color throughout the spring and summer and culminating in its most concentrated color in the fall.  As the leaves drop away, they are replaced with small, brilliant red berries that are the delightful treat for a variety of birds.  In many instances, the crimson fruit will endure into early winter; providing a beautiful foil against the glistening white snow.  Even after the berries have gone, the dense branching of the shrubs provides dramatic contrast to the winter snowscape, as well as offering a home for wintering birds. 

A big advantage to including barberry shrubs into your landscaping plans is their light maintenance requirements.  Regular pruning is discouraged, as it can be detrimental to the perfect mounding habit that occurs naturally; not to mention that it can be an extremely painful endeavor to the gardener if any of the numerous thorns should bite into the skin.  The occasional trimming that is required will help to keep the bushes at the size desired.  Barberries are also highly adaptable to many conditions; able to thrive in full size to partial shade.  Gardens in USDA zones 4 to 7 have had success in growing these versatile shrubs. 

Another benefit of these colorful bushes is that they are impervious to deer and small wildlife that freely munch on many popular landscape plants.  The thorns act as a naturally occurring deterrent for these garden grazers, keeping the barberry healthy and attractive.  They can be combined with a number of other deer and rabbit resistant plants to form a virtually care free yet highly attractive landscape.

When including these lovely shrubs to your landscape, be sure to plan on adequate spacing between the bushes to allow room for growth.  While they have medium to slow growth rates, some varieties may achieve a full spread of up to 3 feet when full grown.  To avoid tangling and crowding yet still providing a nicely spaced natural barrier, plant the shrubs approximately 4 to 5 feet apart depending on the variety.

Adding color, texture and interest is the key component to planning a visually appealing landscape; all features that describe barberry shrubs.