Barberry, also known as berberis or pepperidge bush, is a hardy garden shrub native to temperate and sub-tropical regions of the world. Plants can reach from 1 to 15 feet in height, and are well-known for their thorny, wiry branches. Deciduous species produce attractive fall foliage, while evergreen varieties are a splendid sight in winter gardens. Barberry flowers in early spring, producing small white or yellow blossoms that hang in graceful clusters from the branches. Ornamental fruit is borne in late summer or fall.
Plant barberry plants in early spring or fall. Select a planting location with full sun to partial shade and average, well-drained soil with a neutral pH. Provide more light for red varieties. Evergreen barberry plants perform better in partial shade. Space plants 4 feet apart to allow room for growth.
Water barberry shrubs deeply once per week during all seasons, allowing the soil to dry out between applications. Soak the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches at each watering. Increase watering to twice per week during times of drought or in very warm climates.
Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the base of barberry shrubs in early fall. This will help conserve moisture and insulate the roots during winter. Use a heavy bark mulch or hay for the best results.
Fertilize barberry plants once every two to three weeks during spring and summer using a balanced all-purpose fertilizer. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for proper dosage and apply the fertilizer at half strength. Water thoroughly before and after application to prevent nitrogen burn.
Prune old and overgrown barberry shrubs once every two or three years. Use pruning shears to cut the branches back to within 12 inches of the ground in late winter. This will revitalize and rejuvenate the plant, resulting in heavier blooming the following spring.