Botanical Name: Berberis thunbergii
Common Name: Japanese Barberry  
Plant photo of: Berberis thunbergii
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Water Saving Tip:

Apply as little fertilizer as possible.

If you use fertilizer make sure it stays on the landscape, and carefully water it in so there is NO runoff.

  • Anatomy

  • Culture

  • Design

Plant Type



Height Range

1-3', 3-6', 6-12'


Flower Color



Flower Season



Leaf Color

Green, Purple, Red, White, Variegated


Bark Color

Brown, Red


Fruit Color

Orange, Red


Fruit Season



Full, Half





Growth Rate



Soil Type

Sandy, Clay, Loam, Rocky, Unparticular


Soil Condition

Average, Rich, Poor, Well-drained, Dry


Soil pH

Neutral, Basic


Adverse Factors


Design Styles

English Cottage, Formal, Japanese, Mediterranean


Accenting Features

Unusual Foliage


Seasonal Interest

Summer, Fall


Location Uses

Background, Perennial Border, Shrub Border, Foundation, With Rocks


Special Uses

Hedge, Screen, Fire Resistant, Small Spaces


Attracts Wildlife


Information by: Stephanie Duer
Photographer: Linda Engstrom
  • Description

  • Notes

Japanese barberry is a deciduous shrub that is usually available as one of dozens of cultivars, all with some shared attributes, but each with its own character. All Japanese barberry have an upright, mounding to vase-shaped habit; small, oval to rounded leaves; bright red or orange torpedo-shaped little berries; and thorns. Leaf color varies with cultivar, as does fall color. Size also varieties, from little dwarfs under 2 feet tall to mounding shrubs 6 to 8 feet tall. Check the plant tag for details; depending on size, use in the front or backs of shrub borders. Avoid walkways and drives (remember those thorns). A great hedge plant (again, remember those thorns).
Grow in well drained soil in full sun; they will tolerate part shade, though purple-leafed forms may lose color intensity. Very adaptable to soil types and withstands dry soils; will not tolerate wet soils. Barberry is thorny, and as such, you don't really want to be needing to prune it, so place it where it will have the room it needs to grow. If you do need to control the size, prune selectively (see Guides).