How to Prune a Barberry Bush


Barberry is a species of thorny shrubs used in hedges or mass plantings. A Barberry shrub may have green, gold or red foliage. The small, insignificant flowers appear in the spring, followed by small berries in the fall. Most Barberries have an upright rounded or upright spreading form. They can grow from 3 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide, depending on the variety. Barberries are deciduous and should be pruned in the winter while they are dormant.

Step 1

Use hand pruners to cut limbs less than 1/2 inch in diameter, and use lopping shears to cut larger limbs. Wear leather gloves to protect your hands from the sharp spines. You also can wear leather gauntlets to protect your forearms.

Step 2

Remove diseased limbs -- ones with cankers, oozing splits, peeling bark or dying leaves -- and dead or damaged limbs from the interior and exterior of the plant with hand pruners or lopping shears. Make the cut at a bud or joint at a 30-degree angle.

Step 3

Use lopping shears to remove old or weak growth at ground level in the interior and exterior of the plant.

Step 4

If the shrub is part of a mass planting, use hand pruners to remove any wayward limbs that spoil the shape of the plant. Cut them at a 30-degree angle at a bud or joint.

Step 5

If the shrub is part of a hedge, use pruning shears to trim the shrub into the desired shape and size.

Tips and Warnings

  • All parts of the Barberry shrub are toxic. The poison acts a depressant on the muscles of the heart. Do not remove more than one-third of the plant each season.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruners
  • Lopping shears
  • Leather gloves
  • Leather gauntlets
  • Pruning shears


  • University of Maine Extension
  • North Dakota State University: Poisonous Plants

Who Can Help

  • Barberry
  • Paradise Garden
Keywords: Barberry, Barberry bush, prune Barberry, prune Barberry shrub

About this Author

Melody Lee worked as a newspaper reporter, copywriter and editor for 5 years. In addition, she has edited magazine articles and books. Lee holds a degree in landscape design and is a Florida master gardener. She has more than 25 years of gardening experience, which includes working at nurseries and greenhouses.