American barberry plants are deciduous shrubs that have pointy leaves and thorn-like spines on their stems. They are small to medium in size and have shallow root systems, making them easier to dig up than other bushes. If you are planning on transplanting the American barberry, dig it up during late fall or early spring during its dormant season and transplant as soon as possible.
Call your local utilities and gas companies to be sure that there are no underground wires where you plan to dig. Some states, like North Dakota, require this step if you are digging more than 12 inches. You may also want to contact a plumber or your local permit office to see where your plumbing pipes are.
Wait until the soil is moist to dig up your American Barberry plants. Two to three days after a good rain or deep watering will suffice.
Cut back the shrub as far back to the base as you can. If you are transplanting your plants, cut back the lower branches or carefully push back the branches and tie them close to the stem.
Start digging about 6 to 12 inches from base of the plant. Feel for the main roots, which shouldn't be too deep. Move out if necessary to get the majority of them, especially if you are transplanting.
Dig down about 3 inches around the perimeter of the base. Then dig down further, but toward the plant's base at an angle--called undercutting. You will need to cut through smaller roots to do this. Keep in mind that the main goal is to dig out the root ball--you can dig out the other roots later. However, if you're transplanting your shrub's plant, then try to get some of the smaller extending roots, if possible.
Push down on the shovel handle once you have dug around the whole bush and have dug completely under the root ball. You may need to also pull on the plant to get the bush out.