Barberries (Berberis spp.) Are dense, thorny plants desirable because of their hardy temperament and colorful leaf. They can withstand poor soil conditions, making them a popular with home gardeners who need to fill in tough regions of their gardens using a hardy but attractive plant. Although barberries can grow to heights of 10 feet or more, about the size of small trees, most are smaller and develop on multiple stems.
Several hundred species of barberry exist, but just a couple are very commonly utilized in landscapes. Berberis thunbergii, or the Japanese barberry, is among the most common barberry species. This plant grows to a maximum width and height of about 5 feet, according to Ohio State University, and includes purple, pink or maroon leaf, depending on the cultivar. Berberis julianae, or the Wintergreen barberry, is the biggest, growing to heights and widths of 10 feet. It includes dark blue berries that continue into autumn. The Mentor barberry (Berberis x mentorensis) is just a fast species which can grow as many as 2 feet per year. It attains maximum heights and widths of about 6 and 5 feet respectively and doesn’t produce any berries.
Generally speaking, barberries grow best in cooler or temperate climates, although this varies by species. They do not perform well in tropical or subtropical conditions, particularly if there’s high humidity, but will tolerate occasional bouts of intense heat. Most species thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 8, although the Japanese barberry and its cultivars will grow in places as chilly as USDA zone 4.
Barberries are excellent plants for beginners. They can withstand poor soils or severe pruning, and prosper in sun or shade, according to the University of California. They’re also resistant to disease and drought tolerant. However, they don’t like waterlogged soil, therefore never plant them where standing water develops or they may develop root rot.
Since they comprise big spines, barberries are an superb choice as a natural hedge to keep out unwelcome intruders, for instance, two-legged selection. Some species develop very quickly and will form a thick hedge in a couple of years. If you’d rather cultivate your barberry for a tree, pick B. Thunbergii “Helmond Pillar,” which grows to 5 feet tall and just 2 feet broad, featuring masses of small dark-red leaves.