Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea

How to grow berberis

Find out all you need to know about growing berberis, in this detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do Plant in January

Do Plant in February

Do Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does flower in March

Plant does flower in April

Plant does flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Fruits
Fruits

Plant does not fruit in January

Plant does not fruit in February

Plant does not fruit in March

Plant does not fruit in April

Plant does not fruit in May

Plant does not fruit in June

Plant does not fruit in July

Plant does fruit in August

Plant does fruit in September

Plant does fruit in October

Plant does not fruit in November

Plant does not fruit in December

Take cuttings
Take cuttings

Do not Take cuttings in January

Do not Take cuttings in February

Do not Take cuttings in March

Do not Take cuttings in April

Do not Take cuttings in May

Do Take cuttings in June

Do Take cuttings in July

Do not Take cuttings in August

Do not Take cuttings in September

Do not Take cuttings in October

Do not Take cuttings in November

Do not Take cuttings in December

Prune
Prune

Do not Prune in January

Do not Prune in February

Do not Prune in March

Do not Prune in April

Do not Prune in May

Do not Prune in June

Do not Prune in July

Do not Prune in August

Do not Prune in September

Do not Prune in October

Do Prune in November

Do Prune in December

  • Plant size

    90cm height

    90cm spread

Berberis, or barberries, may not have a reputation as a glamorous, standout plant, but they’re great performers in the right situation.

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They come in a range of sizes, have bright spring flowers and great autumn fruits and foliage on offer. They’re a good choice for low hedging or as border plants. There are two main parent plants for the wide choice of cultivars. Berberis darwinii, native to Chile and Argentina, is upright, evergreen and has small, spiny leaves, yellow flowers followed by blue berries. Berberis thunbergii is the Japanese barberry, with brilliant red autumn foliage. Birds like the barberry fruits, so they can be a good addition to a wildlife border.

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Take a look at our handy berberis Grow Guide, below.


Planting position

Planting a berberis in a large pot
Planting a berberis in a large pot

Grow berberis in well-drained soil in any aspect. They can be planted in borders as specimen shrubs and also make good formal or informal hedges, with the spiny leaves helping to deter intruders.


Planting berberis

Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea

If planting berberis as a specimen, dig a generous hole, adding in some fertiliser and mycorrhizal fungi, back fill and water thoroughly.


Propagating berberis

Berberis are generally propagated by semi-ripe cuttings, taken in late summer or early autumn. Berberis can spread via bird droppings and can be invasive in some locations.


Troubleshooting

Look out for small caterpillars that are the larvae of the berberis sawfly. These can quickly strip a plant of its leaves, which can be devastating for a berberis hedge. Check plants from April to October, and if you spot an infestation, organic and non-organic sprays are available, but tend to be more effective on young larvae.


Care

Pruning a berberis hedge
Pruning a berberis hedge

Evergreen or semi-evergreen varieties of berberis planted singly only need light pruning once a year to maintain their shape. If planted as formal hedges, berberis can be pruned twice a year. However, if pruned after flowering, shrubs will not produce berries, so if you want to keep the fruit, trim in winter. Deciduous berberis can pruned in winter, by cutting alternate stems down to the base, or by coppicing right down completely. This will stimulate new growth the following spring, but flowering might be delayed a year.


Berberis varieties to try

Berberis thunbergii 'Cheal's Scarlet'
Berberis thunbergii ‘Cheal’s Scarlet’
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  • Berberis darwinii ‘Compacta’ – a compact cultivar, bearing small red-bronze leaves which mature to green, and rich golden-yellow flowers, followed by edible blue berries. It’s perfect for growing in a mixed or shrub border, and makes a good low hedge
  • Berberis x lologensis ‘Apricot Queen’ – with apricot orange flowers on long racemes, this is lovely spring-flowering shrub. It’s best grown in a mixed border, with space to spread naturally. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
  • Berberis thunbergii ‘Cheal’s Scarlet’ – a deciduous cultivar with lovely red berries. Prune straggly stems in autumn
  • Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea – a good shrub for year-round interest, with pale-yellow flowers in mid-spring and dark red-purple leaves that turn a brilliant shade of red in autumn
  • Berberis thunbergii ‘Bonanza Gold’ – a golden-leafed variety, that will brighten up a dark corner, with red berries in the autumn