Common name: Japanese barberry

Berberis thunbergii is a hardy spiny deciduous and or evergreen shrub.

In autumn it produces clusters of brightly coloured berries, and is masses of autumnal coloured leaves.

Some varieties are used to form a barrier to human and animal intruders.

They will grow in most types of free draining soil,in either full sun or partial shade, and are reasonably drought tolerant.

Berberis thunbergii
in Autumn
Berberis thunbergii
in Winter

They do not require a lot of feeding, a balanced fertilser watered in, early in the season should suffice.

It can grow to about 3metres (10ft) in height and spread up to 2.4metres (8ft) across.

Trim established deciduous hedges once a year (Aug-Sept) to maintain shape.

Prune / trim evergreen varieties after flowering.

Pot grown subjects will only need occasional pruning to maintain a good shape.

Berberis thunbergii
in Summer

The plant is hermaphrodite having both male and female sexes and is pollinated by insects.

It has narrow, oval leaves which are 12-50mm (½"-2") long and its color ranges from green to bluish green to dark reddish purple.

The yellow flower born under the foliage in spring are quite inconspicuous.

These are in a cluster of two to four, occuring racemes along the entire stem of the plant.

In flower
Close up of Flower

Flowering occurs from mid April to May.(subject to locality)

Berries are bright red in color, these are half inch long and persist in winter making an excellent winter effect.


Week 18:

Place the rooted cuttings taken the previous summer into a nursery bed and grow on for one or two years before transplanting to permanent positions.

Alternatively, pot up cuttings into 100mm (4”) pots of potting compost and grow on in a sheltered spot in the garden.

Week 32:

Take 75-100mm (3”-4”) long heel cuttings, insert them in equal parts (by volume) peat and sand and place them in a cold frame to root.

Week 35:

Plant out the more tender evergreen species now in a sunny position or dappled shade or else wait until the ground warms up in early spring.

If growing as a hedge plant them out approximately 500-600mm (18”-24”) apart.

After planting, cut out the tips of the branches to encourage bushiness.

Week 40:

Plant out the deciduous species in a sunny position from now until March.

Now is a suitable time to divide mature plants.

Week 42:

Sow seeds* in nursery beds or in trays of seed compost and place in a cold frame to germinate.

*Plants might not come true to variety sown.

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