Berberis thunbergii 'Royal Cloak'
Common Name: Japanese barberry
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Berberidaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Fruit: Showy
Other: Thorns
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Clay Soil, Dry Soil

Culture

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerates part shade, but performs best with full sun. This is a very adaptable shrub that is tolerant of urban conditions. Plants also tolerates heat and drought, but are generally intolerant of poorly-drained, wet soils. Plants spread slowly by creeping roots. Plants can also spread by self-seeding (birds will eat the fruits and distribute the seed). Plant branches may root where they touch the ground. This species is considered to be somewhat invasive in some areas (particularly in eastern North America).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Berberis thunbergii, commonly called Japanese barberry, is a spiny, broad-rounded, deciduous shrub with obovate green leaves. It typically matures to 5' tall and as wide. Leaves (variably sized to 1 1/4” long) typically turn attractive shades of orange, yellow and red in fall.

Genus name comes from the Latinized form of the Arabian name for the fruit.

Specific epithet honors Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828) who reportedly identified this species in Japan in 1784.

‘Royal Cloak’ is a barberry cultivar that is noted for its upright, arching growth habit and large reddish-purple leaves. It is a fast-growing, deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub that typically grows 3-5’ tall and as wide. Stems have sharp thorns. Features variably sized leaves (1/2” to 2” long) that emerge red in spring but mature to dark reddish-purple. Tiny, yellowish flowers appear from late April to early May in short racemes along the stems. Glossy, bright red berries form in the fall and often last into the winter well after leaf drop.

Problems

No serious problems. Some susceptibility to bacterial leaf spot, anthracnose, root rots, wilt, aphids, barberry webworm and scale. Spiny stems often trap unsightly wind-blown trash.

Garden Uses

Accent for small areas in the landscape. Foundations. Shrub border. Hedge or edger. Spiny barrier plant.