The plants of the genus Berberis are very ornamental shrubs, which can be had practically in any corner of the garden, patio or terrace with the certainty of knowing that it will be difficult for them to get sick. In fact, they are not only quite resistant to pests and diseases, but they also endure frost.

All in all, they are very interesting for both beginners and those who have more experience.

Origin and characteristics of Berberis

Our protagonists are a genus of evergreen or deciduous shrubs depending on the species, originating in temperate and subtropical regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America. There are about 500 species, and all of them are characterized by having a dimorphic formation; that is to say, they have long stems that are what form the structure of the plants, and short stems that are the ones that provide volume. The leaves of the former do not carry out photosynthesis, and have evolved into spines of 3 to 30mm; but those that sprout from the short stems in the axils of each spine are functional leaves and measure 1 to 10 cm in length, and are simple.

They bloom in spring. The flowers can be solitary or appear grouped in clusters, yellow or orange, and with a size of 3 to 6mm in length. The fruit is a berry 5 to 15mm long, which turns red or dark blue when ripe, and is edible; in fact it is rich in vitamin C. The seeds are also small, and hard, dark in color.

Main species

The best known are:

Berberis aristata

Image – Wikimedia/ Dinesh Valke

Known as Indian barberry or tree turmeric, it is an evergreen shrub native to the Himalayas in India and Nepal. It reaches a height of 2 to 3 meters, with green leaves.

Berberis darwinii

Image – Wikimedia/ Michael Wolf

Known as Darwin’s barberry, it is an evergreen shrub native to southern Chile and Argentina. It grows up to 3-4 meters in height, and its leaves are greenish.

Berberis hispanica

Image – Wikimedia/ Ziegler175

It is a deciduous shrub native to the southwestern Mediterranean that grows up to 3 meters in height. The leaves are green.

Berberis thunbergii

Known as Japanese barberry, Thunberg barberry, or red barberry, it is a deciduous shrub native to East Asia and Japan. It reaches two meters in height, and its leaves are green.

Related article:Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

Berberis thunbergii var. atropurpurea

Image – Flickr/ FD Richards

It is a variety of B. thunbergii. The only difference is that it has very intense red leaves, which attracts a lot of attention.

Berberis vulgaris

Image – Wikimedia/ Хомелка

Known as barberry, it is a deciduous shrub native to central and southern Europe, western Asia and North Africa that grows to 3 meters in height. The leaves are greenish.

Related article:Berberis vulgaris, a perfect shrub for protection hedges

What are the Berberis care?

If you want to have a copy of Berberis, we recommend providing the following care:


They are plants that must be outdoors, either in full sun or in semi-shade. Do not place in total shade, otherwise both their growth and development will not be adequate (they will grow weak, with stems that are too long and thin).


  • Pot: use universal substrate (sold here ) mixed with 30% arlite (sold here ) or similar.
  • Garden: they grow in neutral and limestone soils, well drained and fertile.


Frequent, but avoiding waterlogging. If you live in an area where it rains a lot and very often, it is possible that with one or two weekly waterings your Berberis will have enough, but if on the contrary in your area the drought is a problem that can last for months, during that time you will have to water two, three or even four times a week if the temperature is also high.

Avoid wetting the leaves when you water so they don’t burn or rot.


It is highly recommended to fertilize during spring and summer with organic fertilizers, such as guano, compost or mulch. In this way, you will have a well-cared and healthy Berberis.


It is not really necessary, but you can remove dry, diseased or broken stems in late fall with scissors previously disinfected with a few drops of dishwasher.


Image – Wikimedia/ Salicyna


It is multiplied by seeds, which have to be stratified in the fridge for three months in winter and then sown in spring in seedbeds that have holes for water drainage filled with specific substrate.

It is important that they are as far apart as possible and that they are buried a little so that they are not exposed to the sun.


You can take stems that are about 8 inches long with leaves from spring to fall, and plant them in a pot with vermiculite.


They are quite resistant, but in hot, dry environments they are sensitive to aphids and the larvae of the hymenopteran Ardis berberidis.

The treatment is recommended to do with diatomaceous earth (on sale here ), being the dose of 35 grams per liter of water, or with potassium soap (on sale here ).

Related article:What is potassium soap for?


They can have fungi such as anthracnose or rust, with symptoms such as the appearance of brownish spots (in the first case) or orange bumps (in the second) on the leaves. They are treated with fungicides.

Related article:All about rust, one of the fungi that most affect plants

They are also vulnerable to infection by the bacterium Pseudomonas berberidis, which causes their leaves to have watery spots of greenish color at first and then dark red. Treatment consists of cutting out the affected parts.

And although it is rare, the mosaic virus can affect them. Unfortunately there is no treatment, just getting rid of the diseased plant.


Berberis generally resist freezes down to -7ºC. If you have doubts about the rusticity of a specific species, write to us.

What uses are given to Berberis?

Image – Wikimedia/ H. Zell


They are very decorative plants, which are kept in gardens as low hedges, for example, in pots or planters. Due to the small size of its leaves, there are those who dare and work them as bonsai.


The fruits of many species, especially Berberis vulgaris, are used to make jams, although they can be consumed fresh.

What do you think of these plants? Did you know them? I hope you really enjoyed learning about them .

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