Berberis Thunbergii, better known as Japanese Barberry or Red Barberry, is a hardy shrub treasured for its spectacular autumn colour. The dense, deer-resistant foliage and the compact growth habit make barberry varieties a popular choice for hedging.
While barberry is often used to create eye-catching hedges, its attractive natural habit makes this deciduous shrub suitable both for mixed shrub borders and for growing as individual specimens. Due to their vibrant autumn foliage, Berberis can also be used as a contrasting shrub, and it will look splendid when paired with an elegant evergreen variety, such as Ilex Crenata. In addition to its gorgeous foliage, Berberis Thunbergii boasts masses of tiny yellow flowers in the spring, followed by bright red oval berries; both of which only add to the cultivar’s ornamental appeal.
How to Care for a Barberry Shrub
Keeping Berberis Thunbergii in optimal form will not require much work. The deer-resistant hedging shrub responds remarkably well to shearing and trimming, which is a plus when it is used in neat, elegant borders, but it will look marvellous even when left to its own devices. The majority of cultivars in the red barberry family are medium-sized and have a bushy habit.
The low-maintenance barberry varieties will thrive in full sun or partial shade and any well-drained soil. Although Berberis is versatile when it comes to ideal growing conditions, planting it in a sunnier part of the garden will encourage vivid foliage colour. These shrubs are generally not picky when it comes to growing locations, and they will do well both in exposed and sheltered spots in the garden.
Best Japanese Barberry Varieties for UK Climate
Berberis Thunbergii is fully hardy in the United Kingdom, and is known for its fantastic performance across the island, as this robust shrub will flourish inland and in coastal gardens alike. Here are some of the best Japanese barberry varieties that you can grow for year-round interest- categorized by the colour of their eye-catching foliage!
Purple-leaved Japanese Barberry Varieties
The magnificent deep violet foliage of this barberry shrub emerges mottled with creamy white and rose pink. As the seasons progress, this variety only gets more stunning, as it matures to maturing to a lush crimson-purple in summer, and dark burgundy in the autumn. Barberry Rose glow is also the recipient of the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit and Perfect for Pollinators badge.
Dome-shaped and low-growing, this cultivar is ideal for low boundary hedges or container planting. Throughout its seasons of interest, this variety offers colourful foliage: it starts out reddish-purple in the spring, but is at its most attractive in the autumn, once it turns to vivid scarlet hues. Barberry Concorde will grow to be about 0.5 to 1 metre high in 10 to 20 years. This variety is the winner of the RHS Award of Garden Merit and Perfect for Pollinators badge.
This vigorous variety is a result of crossing common barberry with Japanese Barberry, which is why it is larger than most of its close relatives. Purpurea Superba can reach a height of 2.5 metres, and it is an excellent choice for gardeners looking to add a tall purple-leaved hedge to their estate.
Red-leaved Japanese Barberry Varieties
This cultivar boasts an impressive fastigiate growth habit- the columnar shape of the shrub is sure to attract attention, let alone its conspicuous foliage. While the pinkish purple and warm copper hues of the spring and summer leaves are undoubtedly highly-decorative, this variety is absolutely breathtaking in the autumn, when its foliage turns to a fire engine red. Perfect for Pollinators badge. This variety also comes in a coral orange version. Ceck out Berberis Thunbergii Orange Rocket for more information.
The magnificent Chinese Barberry and Warted Barberry hybrid offers year-round interest, with its fabulous multicoloured foliage. The evergreen, lance-shaped leaves present a contrasting mixture of a deep glossy green and a bright blood red, a combination bound to put this shrub in the spotlight.
Do not let the name of this cultivar fool you. Its spring leaves might be a bright hue of coral-orange, but in autumn, the foliage is an intense ruby red. For its exceptional qualities, Orange Dream received the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
This mound-shaped shrub is popular for its rounded purple leaves, marbled with cream and pink. A compact grower, this shrub can brighten balconies or patios as a container-grown plant. Harlequin is the recipient of RHS Award of Garden Merit and Perfect for Pollinators badge.
The purple-reddish leaves borne on scarlet stems turn to a vibrant crimson hue in the autumn, making this lovely shrub stand out in the landscape. The all-red details are an ideal contrast to greener foliage in a mixed border. Perfect for Pollinators badge.
The name Admiration is ideally suits this astounding shrub. This dwarf variety features bright coral red leaves edged with a line of golden yellow. As the seasons progress, the colour of the foliage will intensify, turning to a fiery red hue in the autumn. Perfect for Pollinators badge.
Golden-leaved Japanese Barberry Varieties
In the spring, this compact shrub displays golden yellow leaves marbled with cream, complemented by small red blossoms. Over the summer months, the foliage turns to vibrant lime green, contrasting the ripe scarlet fruit. Besides its spectacular foliage, this barberry cultivar sought-after for its narrow upright growth habit, which is somewhat atypical for the bushy Berberis.
Best known as Wintergreen Barberry, this lovely variety has been a UK favourite for over a century. Unlike most of its close relatives, this shrub is evergreen, but the colour of its foliage will also change dramatically throughout the seasons: the leaves unfurl in shades of bronze, mature to a rich green over the summer, and settle to a blazing red in the autumn and winter.
Before its leaves turn to a molten gold hue that earned this variety its name, they emerge as a most striking pumpkin orange in the spring. Moreover, the ever-changing colour of leaves only enhances the decorative value of this shrub, as a combination of mature and young growth creates a spectacular multicoloured display that leaves no one indifferent.