There’s a reason why barberries are among the most popular shrubs around. In fact there are five reasons: they’re super-hardy, deer don’t love them, their small thorns make them an excellent barrier or hedge, they do just fine in sun or partial shade, and they come in all kinds of hot and cool colors that add plenty of interest to the landscape. They do lose their leaves during the winter in colder zones, so plant them with other shrubs that are evergreen (they’re really lovely with conifers).
Convinced? Here are 4 easy ways to use them, plus our picks for what to put where.
Dense, privacy hedge
Thorny by nature and dense by habit, barberries make excellent hedges in spots where you would like to restrict foot traffic, discourage wild animals from entering (or pets from exiting!), or where you just want something with loads of color that’s not dependent on flowers. Look for varieties that grow tall or have a naturally upright habit. We promise you, it’ll be a brilliant display.
In a tough, deer-deterrent border
Nothing Bothers Me
Foot traffic, marauding deer, drought, hot sun, overly aggressive pruning, barberry comes back swinging from just about anything you can throw at it. It’s especially happy with other similarly tough plants such as the spreading juniper and Russian sage in this very elegant little border.
Low (Clipped or Not) Hedge
Move Over Boxwood
We love boxwood and use it constantly, but sometimes you’d like something different, with a bit of color to jazz up flowering (or non-flowering) borders. What makes compact barberries so good for this application is their naturally dense habit and imperviousness to shearing. Imagine this red border filled to brimming with white hydrangeas?
When you mix a red, yellow, golden, orange, or variegated barberry with greens, limes, silvers, or golds, you create the kind of color story that ends up on magazine covers. This one undulates through a thick stand of summer grasses, the leaves and branches contrasting with the fine foliage. Stunning and so doable.
Is Barberry Invasive?
Much has been written about the invasive nature of Japanese barberries (Berberis thunbergii). It’s important to be aware of what’s appropriate for your particular area. A barberry that can be invasive in one climate, can be perfectly acceptable in another climate or region. Consult your local independent garden center for more information, or you can look up which plants the USDA considers invasive by state via this link.