How to Grow Berberis thunbergii Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Japanese Barberry

The Berberis thunbergii plant is a native to East Asian countries, and especially to Japan. It has since become widespread in numerous other countries such as the USA and China.

Japanese barberry is a bushy shrub with spiny branches. It has a deciduous nature. It is often grown as an ornamental plant in temperate parts of the world.

Japanese barberry

Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Rose Glow' photograph by F. D. Richards.

There are many cultivars available. These typically have different colored foliage. This may be variegated, and ranges from yellow through to dark red and violet. Cultivars may also be specialized for use in hedges (growing more erect) or as stand alone dwarf plants.

Quick Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Berberis thunbergii
  • Common Name (s): Japanese barberry, Thunberg's barberry, Red barberry
  • Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): 4 to 8 / H7

Plant Details

  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Deciduous shrub. Compact, bushy.
  • Plant Height: 3 to 6 feet (90 to 180 cm)
  • Plant Spread: 4 to 7 feet (120 to 210 cm)
  • Blooms: Mid to late spring
  • Flower Details: Solitary flowers. Pale yellow or orange. Red sepals.
  • Leaf Foliages: Spiny leaves. Obovate. Green - Turns Red / orange in fall

Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Full sun (tolerates partial shade)
  • Suitable Soil Types: Average, clay, loam, sand, chalk.
  • Suitable Soil pH: most
  • Soil Soil Moisture: Well drained. Medium moisture. Tolerates dry soils.
  • Sowing, planting, and Propagation: From seeds. Autumn or spring. Preferably fresh seed in autumn.

Further Information

  • Best Garden Use: Hedge, stand alone. Autumn color. Low maintenance gardens.
  • Family: Berberidaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Barberry Family.
  • Miscellaneous: Showy glossy berries. Pests include sawflies. Subject to powdery mildews. Tolerates dry soils and drought conditions. Deer tolerant. Does not like wet soils.
  • Further Reading and References used: MBG; RHS;

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Berberis thunbergii. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Nandina domestica and Epimedium plants.