When planted right and in the right spot Barberry shrubs are exceptionally easy to grow and care for. 

Barberry shrubs are used so extensively in landscape design for good reason: they come in a wide array of foliage colors, are exceptionally drought tolerant and pest-free, and they have so many uses in landscapes and gardens. 

Barberry shrubs are useful as a colorful accent or specimen, in groupings, or as a natural hedge in landscape borders and home foundation plantings. Their high drought tolerance makes it an ideal choice for the Xeriscape (low water needs) garden. 

Barberry combines well with sedums, junipers, ornamental grasses, yucca, and other drought tolerant plants that thrive in sun and well-drained soil.


Here's a breakdown of what you need to know regarding how to plant and care for barberry plants...



Cultural Preferences


Soil

Barberry aren't too picky about soil type, but a well-drained soil is essential. As with so many other types of ornamental plants, constantly soggy or wet soil can cause root rot and other harmful plant diseases. So make sure to plant them in a well-drained site!


How To Test Soil Drainage  

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.


Soil pH

Barberry grow best in an acid to slightly alkaline soil ranging between 6.0 to 7.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 


How To Test Soil pH  

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Barberry, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.




Light Needs

Barberry grow best in full sun but will tolerate a little shade. A minimum of 7 hours direct sunlight is recommended for best foliage density and color.



Planting Barberry In The Ground

Scroll down for container planting instructions and care tips


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and as deep as the height of the rootball of your plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.


Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area you might need to add a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. When planting Barberry in dense clay or poor quality soils it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter such as sand or small gravel, bagged top soil, and/or a good planting mix at a 25-50% ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy or quick-draining soil mixing in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost will help to retain moisture in the soil. When planting in average, well-drained moist soil there is no need for adding a soil amendment.


Step 3

To remove your Barberry from the container it was growing in it's best to cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball.


Step 4

If you are planting in well-drained soil set your Barberry shrub in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or just slightly above ground level to allow for settling. If your soil is moderately drained, meaning it drains less than an inch per hour after a heavy rain, the top of the root ball should be 2 inches or more above ground level, as shown in illustration below. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height. 


NOTE: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) take measures to improve drainage or select a different plant species tolerant of wet soils. 




Step 5

After setting your Barberry in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. If you are planting the root ball higher than ground level, as shown in the illustration above, taper your soil mixture gradually from the top edge of the root ball to the ground level. 

Note:  To avoid suffocating your plant, do not put any soil on top of the root ball.


Step 6 (Optional)

When planting your Barberry in a site far away from a water source and in well drained soil, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (catch basin / doughnut) that is 2 inches high or so around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation which can help reduce the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed at the end of the first warm, growing season.


Step 7

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Barberry with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development, reduces plant shock, and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


Step 8

To conserve moisture and to suppress weed growth, apply a 1" layer of cured, shredded or chipped wood mulch, pine straw, or stone mulch around the planting area. Avoid use of freshly chipped wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot.




Planting Barberry In A Container


Barberry growing in pots appreciate a moist, but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful or deadly plant diseases. Therefore, we recommend a container with drainage holes and a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof, for planting. Optionally, you can also add some pumice or perlite (maybe 20%) to the soil mixture to help with drainage.

Choose a container with a drainage hole(s) at the bottom and one that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 8 inches or more in diameter (width) than the root ball of your plant. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage colors of your Barberry, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.


Container Planting Instructions


Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, I recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming clogged with roots and soil. If you use gravel in the bottom of the pot place the fabric over it.


Step 2

To remove your Barberry from the container it was growing in it's best to cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball.


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set your plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit approximately 1" below the rim of the container.




Step 4

Backfill with your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more soil mixture if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or stone mulch to the soil surface to help conserve moisture.




Barberry Care & Maintenance Tips


Barberry shrubs are very easy to care for and exceptionally low-maintenance. Below are some helpful care tips that will have you growing them like the pros.


How To Fertilize Barberry

Barberry are light feeders however will benefit from fertilization. I feed my Barberry plants in late winter or early spring with a slow-release shrub & tree type fertilizer or a natural, organic plant food. Before applying fertilizer, always carefully read and follow instructions on the product label.



How To Water Barberry


At Planting Time

Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area to a depth equal to the height of the plants root ball. For an extra boost, to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development you can also water you newly planted Barberry with a solution of Root Stimulator, which reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants. When planted during the winter dormant season plants will require less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter!


During The First Growing Season

In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted Barberry every day. More often than not, this causes soggy soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the rootball and surrounding soil damp to lightly moist. 

Note:  Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently, and allowing the soil to dry out somewhat before watering again, is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. Shrubs planted during the winter dormant season, when plants are not actively growing and evaporation is much slower, will require much less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter!


Thereafter

When established Barberry are exceptionally drought tolerant plants. Only during prolonged periods of summer drought will plants require supplemental irrigation. If during a drought you see leaves wilting or falling from the plant this could be an indicator your plants could use a deep soaking.


Note:  When watering with an automated irrigation system it's best to set your timer to water during the early morning hours and not in the late evening or at night, which can lead to the onset of fungus and other foliage diseases. During the first few weeks after planting, check soil moisture often and adjust irrigation time if necessary to keep the soil moist, not wet. 



How To Prune Abelia

Barberry do not require pruning, however respond very well to it. I leave mine alone indefinitely except to remove a damaged, dead or stray branch that is spoiling the look or shape of the plant. That said, Barberry can be pruned or sheared to maintain a formal shape or hedge, to tidy up the plant, or to reduce size.

Damaged or stray branches that are spoiling the shape of the plant can be removed any time of year. Prune damaged branches at the point of breakage, dead branches at their origin, and stray branches at a point just beyond the main form of the plant. 

More extensive pruning to shape or form hedges can be performed after flowering in spring and again in early to mid summer. 

Note:  Except to remove a damaged branch, cease pruning two months prior to the average first-frost date in your area. When plants have gone dormant for winter pruning can resume.

 



Plant Long & Prosper!

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