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Berberis

Barberry
Berberidaceae
Deciduous, Evergreen, Shrubs, Semi-evergreen

These dense, spiny-stemmed plants, especially the deciduous species, tolerate climate and soil extremes. Require no more than ordinary garden care. Each year, thin out oldest wood and prune as needed to shape—after bloom for evergreen and semievergreen types, late in the dormant season for deciduous kinds. They make attractive hedges. Informal style is best for species grown for spring flowers (yellow, unless otherwise noted) and ensuing berries, which are borne on previous year’s growth; species grown for foliage can be sheared. To rejuvenate overgrown or neglected plants, cut them to within a foot of the ground before new spring growth begins.

Closely related to and sometimes grouped by botanists with Mahonia.

Berberis darwinii
Berberis darwinii

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Berberis darwinii

Hardy to 10°F/–12°C. Very showy barberry from Chile. Fountainlike growth to 5–10 ft. tall, 4–7 ft. wide. Crisp, dark green, hollylike, 1-in. leaves. Orange-yellow flowers are borne so thickly along branches that foliage is hard to see; these are followed by profuse dark blue berries, popular with birds. Spreads by underground runners to form a thicket.

Berberis julianae

Hardy to 0°F/–18°C, but foliage is damaged by winter cold. Chinese native. Dense, upright, to 6 ft. tall and wide, with angled branches. Spiny-toothed, dark green, leathery leaves to 3 in. long have reddish fall color. Blue-black berries. One of the spiniest barberries; effective as barrier hedge.

Berberis thunbergii
Berberis thunbergii

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Berberis thunbergii

Japanese native hardy to –20°F/–29°C. Graceful habit with slender, arching, spiny branches; if not sheared, usually reaches 4–6 ft. tall with equal spread. Densely covered with roundish, 1/2–1 1/2-in.-long leaves that are deep green above, paler beneath; leaves turn yellow, orange, and red before they drop in autumn. Beadlike bright red berries stud branches in fall and through winter. Use as hedge, barrier planting, or specimen shrub. Many attractive varieties are grown for their vivid foliage color.

Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea

This group contains plants with leaves in the red to purple-red range. All develop most intense color in sun.

Berberis x gladwynensis ‘William Penn’

Drops some leaves at 0 to 10°F/–18 to –12°C. Dense, upright, fairly fast growth to 4 ft. tall and wide. Dark green, glossy leaves. Good display of lemon-yellow flowers.

Berberis x stenophylla

Hardy to 0°F/–18°C. Dark green leaves are narrow, 1/2–1 in. long, with rolled-in edges and a spiny tip; turn orange and red in fall. Deep yellow flowers are followed by blue-black fruit. Good hedge plant. Species is 10 ft. tall, 15 ft. wide, but varieties are more commonly grown.

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