Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Helmond Pillar'
Common Name: Japanese barberry 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Berberidaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 4.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 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, Good Fall
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest, Thorns
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Clay Soil, Dry Soil


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.

Forma atropurpurea have red to purple-red foliage.

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.

'Helmond Pillar' is an upright, columnar form which typically grows somewhat slowly to 4-5' tall and only 1-2' wide. It is a multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub which features reddish-purple, variably sized leaves (1/2" to 1 1/4" long) on reddish brown stems which have sharp thorns. Tiny, yellowish flowers appear in small clusters along the stems from late April to early May, but are often hidden by the foliage and are not overly showy. Glossy, bright red berries form in the fall and often persist well into winter. Good red fall foliage color.


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.


Japanese barberry forms an excellent barrier or hedge. It is also effective when planted in groups or as a specimen.

Columnar size provides excellent vertical accent and may be used to advantage to fill small holes around the landscape.