Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Prune a Berberis Bush

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017

Berberis bushes, or barberry, are often grown as ornamental hedges in the home landscape. Most berberis are evergreen, though some deciduous varieties exist. They have deep green to plum-colored foliage and produce small yellow flowers that produce ornamental berries in fall. Berberis bushes require pruning to maintain their shape, otherwise they quickly become overgrown. Pruning is required the first two years after planting, and is then done as needed thereafter to maintain their shape. Prune in spring before the plant begins growing, then again throughout the summer if necessary.

Fill a bucket with one part bleach and nine parts water. Dip the shears into this disinfecting solution after every cut so you don't spread disease to healthy parts of the berberis as you prune.

Cut off dead or damaged branches where they emerge from the main trunk or a healthy branch. Cut them off flush with the trunk using sharp pruning shears.

Trim off healthy branch tips that are longer than the rest of the bush to maintain its shape. Cut them back to a leaf or branching node, which is a small bump or existing leaf on the branch.

Prune as new growth causes the berberis to loose its shape throughout the spring and summer if you are maintaining a formal rounded or squared-off shape hedge. Trim overgrown branches that ruin the shape of the bush.

Prune informal shrubs only once more at mid-summer. Cut off branches that have become overgrown or damaged, or to control the size of the berberis. There is no need for extensive shaping with an informal hedge.


Things You Will Need

  • Bucket
  • Bleach
  • Pruning shears


  • Berberis can easily survive hard pruning. Cut back the bush as much as needed if it becomes overgrown, just leave a few leaves on each remaining branch.
  • Berberis are quick growing, so a formal hedge will require constant summer pruning to maintain a rigid shape.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.