Barberry shrubs (Berberis spp.) grow in a variety of shapes, textures, colors and sizes. Some types are evergreen, and others are deciduous. Many have thorny branches or spined foliage. Barberries generally require little maintenance and tolerate a range of soil conditions, though most don't like poorly drained soil. Several barberry species thrive in partially shaded sites or sites that receive two to three hours of daily sun or an equal mix of shade and sun all day long.
The Korean barberry (B. koreana) is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 7 and grows well in partial shade and well-drained soil. This deciduous shrub grows to 6 feet with a 5-foot spread in an oval shape. Its spiny foliage turns red to purple in fall. This drought-tolerant shrub produces clusters of ovoid red to yellow berries in fall and winter.
The red barberry (B. thunbergii var. atropurpurea) has red-purple, deciduous foliage and blooms with yellowish-purple blossoms in spring. Red barberries develop better color in full sun exposures, but also thrive in partial shade. Plant this 6-foot-tall and wide shrub in well-drained soils in zones 4 to 8.
Attractive Cool-Weather Foliage
Some barberry foliage changes color in fall and winter. The deciduous Japanese barberry (B. thunbergii) is hardy in zones 5 to 8. It has rounded green foliage that turns red and orange in autumn. Japanese barberries bloom in spring with yellow flowers and produce long-lasting red berries. Plant this 6-foot-tall, 7-foot-wide shrub in partial shade and well-draining soil.
Threespine barberries (B. triacanthophora) grow to 5 feet tall with a slightly narrower spread and are hardy in zones 5 to 8. Their bright-green foliage turns purple to red in winter. Threespine barberries grow well in partial shade and any well-drained soil. These evergreens bloom with yellow, white and red flowers followed by small blue berries.
Many barberries prefer well-drained soils, but some thrive even in drought conditions. The chenault barberry (B. x chenaultii) is hardy in zones 5 to 8 and grows well in partial shade. This evergreen has glossy leaves that turn coppery red in autumn. It blooms with small, yellow spring flowers followed by long-lasting, blue-black fruits. This drought-tolerant shrub reaches heights of 4 feet with a slightly wider spread.
The William Penn barberry (B. x gladwynensis "William Penn") grows slowly to 4 feet tall with a 5-foot spread. This evergreen has glossy, dark-green leaves that turn bronze in fall and blooms with yellow flowers in spring. William Penn barberries are hardy in zones 5 to 8. They grow best in partial shade and tolerate drought conditions.
The warty barberry (B. verruculosa) is hardy in zones 5 to 7. It prefers partial shade and thrives in well-drained soil. Warty barberries have leathery, evergreen leaves with spiny teeth that turn purple to burgundy in winter. This 6-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide shrub blooms with golden flowers and produces purple-black, waxy fruits.
Mentor barberries (B. x mentorensis) are hardy in zones 5 to 8 and grow best in partial shade and well-drained soil. They grow to 5 feet tall with a 5- to 7-foot spread in a dense, rounded form. This deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub blooms with yellow spring flowers and sometimes produces red fruit. It has leathery, triple-spined foliage that turns red, yellow and orange in autumn.
- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Barberries; Marjan Kluepfell, et al.; September 1999
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension; Shrubs; Erv Evans
- The United States National Arboretum: Hardiness Zones Details; Henry M. Cathey; January 1990
- University of Connecticut; Plant Database of Trees, Shrubs and Vines, Latin Names; Mark Brand