Posted by Jessie Jacobson on Jan 1st 2024

Berberis thunbergii (Barberry) 

Striking foliage, easy to grow, and adaptable to most soil types, Berberis thunbergia commonly called Barberry, is a drought tolerant plant that can be used as a border, foundation plant. As member of the Barberry family, Berberidaceae is known for its rich colorful foliage in bright reds, burgundies, oranges, and chartreuses.

Native to Japan and eastern Asia, Barberry was first introduced to the United States in 1864 as an ornamental. It can tolerate extreme soil and climate conditions and requires very little maintenance. Barberry prefers full sun to part-shade and is drought resistant. Occasional pruning may be necessary to shape the shrub. The best time to prune Barberry is late winter or early spring before new growth emerges. Fertilizing with an application of compost added to the soil in spring will help maintain the nutrients the plant needs to thrive, but otherwise it requires little care and attention. Barberry is relatively resistant to pests and diseases but keep an eye out for aphids and powdery mildew. This plant is not a favorite of deer and rabbits due to its spiny thorns.

Tonkadale carries a few varieties of Barberry. One of our favorites is ‘Cabernet’ a compact, mounding shrub that grows to 2 to 3 ft tall and wide. It has deep burgundy foliage in the summer changing to gold and yellow in the fall. This plant is great for small spaces that need a pop of color. In spring, it does produce pale yellow flowers that turn into small, red berries providing food for birds and other wildlife. It can handle road salt and tolerates urbane pollution making it an excellent choice for city environments.

Another one of our favorite varieties is ‘Orange Rocket’. This plant starts out a deep scarlet-red in the spring fading to orange-red as the season progresses. ‘Orange Rocket’ can reach heights of up to 8 feet and it spreads about 5 feet so give this one some room when planting. It has attractive flowers in the spring and red berries in the fall providing food for wildlife. This variety can also handle salt and urbane pollution. Because it’s drought tolerant, it makes a nice addition to a moisture conserving landscape.

Happy planting! See you at Tonkadale.