Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Harlequin'

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 1 Professionals
Common Name: Japanese barberry
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Berberidaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Pale yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Colorful, Good Fall
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest, 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).

Propagate from cuttings.

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.

‘Harlequin’ typically grows in a mound to 4’ tall. Its reddish purple foliage emerges in spring with attractive pink and cream variegation. Tiny, pale yellow flowers (to 1/2” long) bloom from late April to early May in short racemes along spiny, reddish purple stems. Glossy, ellipsoid, red berries mature in fall and persist into winter. The berries are attractive to birds.

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

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

Accent for small areas in the landscape. Foundations. Border fronts.