Berberis is one of the world’s most successful plants. It is vigorous, easy, and virtually indestructible – and there are many varieties to choose from.
There’s one for every kind of garden, from large, elegant arching shrubs like ‘Pirate King’, to neat little mounds like ‘Tiny Gold’. Narrow, upright ‘Red Pillar’ can provide useful year-round structure in the smaller garden. Deciduous berberis do best in an open, sunny position, though the evergreens and golden forms appreciate some shade.
Vigorous types like Berberis darwinii make excellent boundary hedges and windbreaks, while dense, small-leaved varieties respond well to clipping. And don’t forget the value of berberis in the wildlife garden: the berries provide food for birds and small mammals, while the flowers are a vital early food source for our endangered bumble bees.
For berries: All thunbergii varieties, ‘Red Tears’ and B. georgei
For showy stems: B. temolaica, B. dictyophylla
For flowers: ‘Stapehill’ or ‘Mystery Fire’
For form: ‘Red Pillar’ makes a narrow, upright shrub, gradually falling open with age
For colourful foliage: Nearly all thunbergii varieties offer superb autumn colour, but ‘Golden Ring’ is handsome all year round
- Don’t plant too close to paths – and try to ensure all-round access
- Keep the crown away from the ground to facilitate weeding and mulching – and be sure to protect both hands and eyes
- Plants can be severely pruned or hedge trimmed if need be. Most will recover even when cut to the ground
- Avoid waterlogging – otherwise berberis will grow just about anywhere