Barberry is a medium to large deciduous shrub that grows between 3 and 8 feet high, depending on the variety. If forms an upright mound that spreads from 4 to 7 feet, again depending on the variety. Barberry grows purple foliage with so many yellow-orange flowers in spring that they can obscure the leaves. It produces dark purple berries in autumn. Barberry is widely used as a boundary or barrier hedge because of its thorns, which keep away humans and animals.
Barberry is very adaptable and will grow well in all types of soil, from sandy to loamy to clay. It is not picky about the pH level of soil and will thrive in soils that have a pH between 3.7 to 7.0. It is very adaptable to unimproved soil in urban locations.
Barberry shrubs are not picky about the moisture level of the soil in which they grow and will thrive in soil that is either moist or dry. It tolerates dry urban conditions well and is an excellent landscaping plant for public lands that receive only natural rainfall and no supplemental watering.
Barberry will grow and thrive in locations that are in partial shade to full sun. For this reason it does well planted in a mixed hedgerow because it tolerates shade cast by taller and larger shrubs.
Fertilize barberry bushes in early spring. Use a slow-release granulated fertilizer spread around the base of the bush and keep the fertilizer from touching the plant to avoid fertilizer burn. Add a second application about eight weeks later. Do not fertilize after July in the north and September in the south so new growth brought on by fertilizing has time to harden off before winter.
Barberry is tolerant of severe pruning. For this reason it is used extensively as a well-pruned hedgerow, similar to the way privet is used. Prune in early spring, just after the flowers fade. If maintained as a groomed hedgerow, it may be pruned several times during the growing season as needed to keep its shape.