Common name: Barberry
Some of the most useful and versatile shrubs, berberis are hardy, reliable and easy to grow. The dense habit and abundant flowers of evergreen species make them invaluable as wildlife-friendly hedging and screening, while the brightly coloured foliage of deciduous species lends them to eye-catching mixed borders.
Deciduous and evergreen shrubs ranging in size from dwarf species 30cm (1ft) tall to large border species 5m (16ft) tall. Stems contain bright yellow wood and are covered in sharp, three-pointed spines. Most have toothed, linear to egg-shaped leaves, deep green and glossy in evergreen species. Clusters of cup-shaped yellow or orange flowers are borne in late spring and are loved by bees and other pollinators. These are followed in autumn by colourful spherical to sausage-shaped berries.
Berberis will grow in any free-draining soil in full sun or light shade. Those grown for their ornamental berries and autumn leaf colour, like cultivars of the popular B. thunbergii, are best in full sun.
Plants will not tolerate a very wet or waterlogged soil and may struggle in excessively dry conditions. Flowering will be poor in deep shade.
Did you know?
One of the most commonly cultivated barberries, Berberis darwinii AGM, was named after the naturalist Charles Darwin, who discovered it in 1835 during his voyage to South America.