Plant of the Week ~ Berberis (Barberry)

Berberis darwinii botanical illustration
Berberis darwinii botanical illustration

This week we take a look at delightful shrub that is both eye-catching and great for wildlife – Berberis (barberry)! These perennial shrubs make great points of interest in the garden on their own or you can plant them as a hedge for an attractive, yet effective barrier. Blooming in spring with fruits following in autumn, this plant can provides several seasons of interest to keep your garden looking vibrant.

Cultivation & Care

Budding Berberis thunbergii
Budding Berberis thunbergii

Tolerant of most soils, Berberis prefers an acid, loamy soil that is consistently moist.  It’s not an overly fussy plant however, and will even grow in heavy clay soils. While Berberis will cope with exposed positions, you may notice flowering and fruiting is somewhat slower. As for sun exposure, full sun or partial shade will keep this prickly shrub happy, but do bear in mind that a sunny position will be required if you desire a good show of autumn colour.
Berberis can be pruned back severely and is tolerant of trimming, which makes it an ideal plant if you require formal hedging


Whether you are just looking for an ornamental shrub/hedge or you want a plant that provides for wildlife throughout the year, Berberis has something to offer all of us. Below are just a few species worth considering in your garden.

Berberis darwinii (Darwin’s Barberry)

Berberis darwinii in bloom
Berberis darwinii in bloom

This evergreen species of Berberis has gorgeous glossy leaves. akin to miniature holly leaves. Striking orange flowers are produced in late spring followed by blue-black berries in autumn.

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry)

Berberis thunbergii fruiting
Berberis thunbergii fruiting

As the name suggests, this Berberis is native to Japan. It is a deciduous species producing green rounded leaves in spring and summer with yellow flowers blooming in spring. Red fruits follow in autumn with the foliage changing to red and orange. The fruits will often persist well into winter.

Berberis thunbergii f. atropupurea (Purple Japanese Barberry)

Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea blooming
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea blooming

This purple form of Berberis thunbergii has deep burgundy-purple foliage turning to a deep red in autumn. Yellow flowers tinged with crimson bloom in spring followed by glossy red berries in autumn.

Wildlife Gardening

A bumblebee pays a visit to some Berberis darwinii flowers
A bumblebee pays a visit to some Berberis darwinii flowers

Bumblebees adore the flowers of Berberis, getting their fill of nectar and pollen. It’s a wonderful sight to behold. However, bumblebees are not the only creature to benefit, come autumn birds will be attracted to the brightly coloured berries and throughout the year Berberis shrubs and hedges can provide somewhere safe for birds to nest.

Wildlife & Eco Gardens can help you create a vibrant wildlife garden for you and your family to enjoy all year round. Contact us for more information.




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