Japanese Barberry – Care, Growing, Watering, Flowering, Propagation

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is an exotic and invasive shrub that can be an excellent addition to the landscape of your garden. Thanks to its high ornamental value, landscape designers adore this plant.

In case you are looking for an outstanding shrub that requires surprisingly low maintenance, yet performs well, this is a plant you should consider.

In this quick guide I am going to offer you a closer look at the most important care tips of the Japanese barberry plant.

Japanese Barberry Care Tips

Read the cultivation tips below to learn how to take proper care of your shrub and how to get the best out of your Berberis shrub.

Plant Size

The size of this deciduous shrub ranges from 3 to 7 feet in height, depending on their environment and other factors. Plants that have not been pruned, usually reach a broader shape and a lower height at maturity.

The leaves arranged in clusters feature various sizes, shapes, and colors. They reach ½ to 1 ¼ inches length with short petioles.

The Japanese barberry also grows bright red fruits or so-called berries that are about ¼ inches long, taking the ornamental characteristic of the shrub to the next level.

Light Requirements

Barberry shrubs are highly tolerant against both shade and sun. Being an invasive plant, this shrub frequently invades open woods, woodland borders, open fields or field edges, pastures, waste lots, house lots, roadsides, natural paths, and roads, abandoned houses or any other sunny areas.


When it comes to watering, the first and most important thing you should know is that Japanese barberry grown in average garden soil Does not require extra watering.

Overwatering can lead to root rot and many other harmful plant diseases, so extra irrigation can do more harm than good.

Regular rainfall should do the job. In case you experience a dry season and a significant absence of sufficient rainfall, water your plant at the root ball and the surrounding soil. Keep in mind, the purpose of watering is to keep the soil moist, not wet.

Temperature & humidity

Barberries have all year-round interest; they are highly adaptable to different temperatures. They perform well in full sun or partial shade as well, but they respond the best to warmer temperatures.

The Japanese barberry features dense foliage and as a result it retains higher humidity levels.

Soil type

If planted in the right conditions, the Japanese barberry will reward you with a beautiful aspect all year round.

As I have mentioned before, this shrub does not appreciate wet conditions. Overwatering will make your plant drop the leaves and it can lead even to root rot.

This plant will perform well in a wide range of soils if it is well-drained. Natural soils such as garden soils are the best for Barberry shrubs.


While fertilizing barberry shrubs is usually not necessary, in case you want to give your plant a boost, you can use granular, liquid or stake type fertilizers. Organic fertilizers, like manure can give you great results.

To help your plant grow beautifully, yet keep its invasive nature in control, it is recommended to do some pruning a couple of times a year.

Pruning Japanese barberry helps the plant to keep its health and vigor. During the summer and winter months remove dead wood, while prune your plant for shape during the fall or winter season.

Potting & Repotting

Besides invading natural areas, barberry shrubs have an excellent ability to tolerate urban conditions as well. They can be grown in containers as well.

Here is a 5-step potting instruction for container planting:

  1. Before filling the container with soil, it is recommended to line the bottom with a shade cloth. If you use gravel in the bottom of the container, put the fabric over it. This step will keep the drain holes from becoming clogged.
  2. Gently remove your plant from its previous container by cutting the container. This way you can be sure that you won’t do any damage to its roots. After your plant is removed, loosen some feeder roots around the root ball.
  3. Put a small amount of soil mixture in the pot, then place your plant in the container. Be careful, the edge of the root ball should be set approximately 1 inch below the rim of the pot.
  4. Fill the container with the soil, gently tapping until the soil is even with the edge of the root ball.
  5. As the last step, water your plant thoroughly, until water starts to come out through the holes in the bottom of the container.

Japanese Barberry Propagation

Barberry plant propagation is very similar for all Berberis varieties. You have two simple options to propagate your Japanese barberry:

  1. Cuttings: You can take barberry cuttings in the spring or summer and place them in a rooting pot. Prepare the pot by filling it with coarse sand and water it thoroughly. Take 6 inches long cuttings from the tips of the branches and remove the lower shoots on the cutting. Place the cutting in your pot and cover it with a plastic bag to keep the moisture in. Don’t forget to mist the cuttings regularly. After 3 weeks the roots should grow and after 2 additional weeks you can plant your shrub in a container.
  2. Seeds: You can also propagate your plant from the seeds, but for the best result it is recommended to propagate your shrubs from cuttings. In case you decide to use the seeds, make sure you remove berry pulps from them before planting. They will need 2 to 6 weeks to grow. You can plant them in spring or fall.

Japanese Barberry FAQs

Now let’s see some common questions regarding the Japanese barberry plant:

Why are the Japanese Barberry leaves turning green?

When it invades shaded woodlands or similar areas, the Japanese barberry usually presents a green-purple to full green color.

Research shows that this change of color is due to the persistent shade and lower temperature.

Is the Japanese Barberry toxic?

Due to its invasive habits, in some states such as in Massachusetts, Japanese barberry was banned.

Another negative aspect of this plant is that it represents an increased risk for Lyme disease as ticks enjoy the humid environment retained by barberry shrubs.


Whether you want to give a more special look to a commercial landscape or your own home, the Japanese barberry shrub will reward you with its rich color and year-round performance.

This plant requires very little maintenance, yet you can enjoy its magnificent landscaping qualities anytime of the year.

Shrubs   Updated: June 14, 2022
avatar Hi, I'm Amy, a devoted horticulturist and the creator of PlantIndex.com, where I use my expertise to help beginners foster their green thumbs. My blog is a vibrant community where I unravel the complexities of gardening and share my profound love for nature.
Questions and Answers

I live in Toronto ,Canada and I just bought a Japanese Barberry shrub and I now learn that they represent an increase risk of Lyme disease. What should I do to avoid that?

Thank you in advance for your cooperation

    I’ve never heard of this before, but I will look into it. Where did you get this information from?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *