Red Leaf Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’) deciduous, 4-6 feet in height, can be pruned to any height, bronzy red foliage, small yellow flowers boom early spring, bright red berries in winter, full sun, drought tolerant, deer resistant.
Berberis is a dense, spiny-stemmed plant, especially the deciduous species, which can tolerate climate and soil extremes. Require no more than ordinary garden care. Each year, thin out oldest wood and prune as needed to shape—after bloom for evergreen and semievergreen types, late in the dormant season for deciduous kinds. They make attractive hedges. Informal style is best for species grown for spring flowers (yellow, unless otherwise noted) and ensuing berries, which are borne on previous year’s growth; species grown for foliage can be sheared. To rejuvenate overgrown or neglected plants, cut them to within a foot of the ground before new spring growth begins.
Closely related to and sometimes grouped by botanists with Mahonia.
Japanese natives hardy to –20°F/–29°C. Graceful habit with slender, arching, spiny branches; if not sheared, usually reaches 4–6 ft. tall with equal spread. Densely covered with roundish, 1/2–1 1/2-in.-long leaves that are deep green above, paler beneath; leaves turn yellow, orange, and red before they drop in autumn. Beadlike bright red berries stud branches in fall and through winter. Use as hedge, barrier planting, or specimen shrub. Many attractive varieties are grown for their vivid foliage color.
‘Atropurpurea’: Plants sold as such vary in plant size and foliage color (from bronzy red to purple red). They must have sun to develop red color (which they will hold all summer).
‘Cherry Bomb’: Resembles ‘Crimson Pygmy’ but is taller (to 4 ft.), with larger leaves and more open growth.
‘Crimson Pygmy’: Selected miniature form, generally less than 1 1/2 ft. high and 2 1/2 ft. wide at 10 years old. Leaves are bright red when new, maturing to bronzy blood red. Must have sun to develop good color.
‘Helmond Pillar’: Purple-leafed form to 4–5 ft. tall, just 2 ft.wide.
‘Kobold’: Extra-dwarf, bright green variety that grows slowly into a full, rounded shape about 18 in. tall and 2–3 ft. tall.
‘Royal Cloak’: Compact, mounding to 4 ft. high and at least as wide. Large, dark purple-red leaves.
‘Sunsation’: Compact, upright to 3–4 ft. tall and wide. New growth is greenish gold, maturing to bright golden yellow.