- Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is native to Asia. It has arching branches with small, oval leaves. Famous for its needle-like thorns, barberry generally grows 3 feet tall, though many varieties grow to 6 feet. Barberry is appreciated for its ability to grow in adverse conditions, especially poor, dry soil. Red barberry has been around for many decades, but recent decades have seen the introduction of more intensely colored, red-leafed varieties with a more compact form.
- While barberry will grow in poor soil, it does best if planted in organically rich, well-drained soil. This ensures fast growth, a full, lush form and a fresh appearance. Mixing in compost or leaf mold guarantees a good balance of moisture and nutrient retention and drainage. Full sun is best for barberry, but it does well in part-shade, too. Barberry's fertilization needs are minimal.
- The best time to plant barberry is early spring or early fall. Early spring planting allows plant roots to become established before the brutal, drying temperatures of summer. Fall planting, likewise, allows the plant to become established before the harsh temperatures and drying winds of winter. If you must plant barberry in the summer, keep the soil evenly moist to avoid heat stress.
- There are several varieties of red barberries. Crimson Pygmy is the most popular variety and grows to a tight, compact 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Grow it in full sun for the most intense color. Rose Glow has pink leaves, mottled with red and purple. As the season progresses, the leaves turn a deeper reddish-purple. Spring Glory has leaves and stems that are bronze and red.