Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Japanese Barberry
Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea'

Family: Berberidaceae (bear-ber-id-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Berberis (BUR-bur-is) (Info)
Species: thunbergii (thun-BERG-ee-eye) (Info)
Cultivar: Atropurpurea

2 members have or want this plant for trade.


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Grown for foliage
Good Fall Color

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
This plant is resistant to deer

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors
By stooling or mound layering

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Click thumbnail
to view:

By Rickwebb
Thumbnail #1 of Berberis thunbergii by Rickwebb

By Rickwebb
Thumbnail #2 of Berberis thunbergii by Rickwebb

By Baa
Thumbnail #3 of Berberis thunbergii by Baa

By haighr
Thumbnail #4 of Berberis thunbergii by haighr

By haighr
Thumbnail #5 of Berberis thunbergii by haighr

By sugarweed
Thumbnail #6 of Berberis thunbergii by sugarweed

By turektaylor
Thumbnail #7 of Berberis thunbergii by turektaylor

There are a total of 8 photos.
Click here to view them all!


4 positives
4 neutrals
6 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative coriaceous On Feb 21, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Trade, transport, and planting this species is illegal in my state and two others, because it invades and destroys natural areas. I've seen state woodland turned into impenetrable thorny thickets of this shrub, where nothing else in the understory layer survives. It has naturalized across North America north of a line running from Georgia to Wyoming, and also in Washington.

Negative Rickwebb On Jan 19, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

I have seen pretty looking specimens that have not been sheared into lumps. However, it is so nasty to work around with all the thorns or even just get too close. When plants get older they become straggly, full of dead wood and it is painful to prune them back to decency. The green mother species escaped cultivation long ago and has become an invasive plant, helping to clog woods and fields and interfer with better native plants in the East and Midwest. Some escaped plants may be also from this variety. Some articles have pointed out that escaped plants in the woods help to shelter deer ticks.

Positive Spiderfrog On Apr 3, 2010, Spiderfrog from Stoney Creek Ont.
Canada wrote:

The Rose Glow is quite attractive.
Giving this plant what it wants, I moved it to full sun and it's doing well
Think I'll make it a feature plant. Love this plant!!!! Sorry.

Neutral lehua_mc On Jun 11, 2009, lehua_mc from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

Japanese Barberry is actually a fairly common garden and "landscaping" plant in Portland, why, I can now grudgingly say is probably because of its pretty new growth which catches the light just so. That said, unless you fear a medieval invasion of warring tribes, there is no need for a garden plant to have such god forsaken thorns on it. If you do have it, it responds well to a hard pruning, to shape its gangly form, and I recommend planting something around it which gives you at least a foot clearance from it (think mowing...). I have no current issues with any invasive tendencies, in fact one of my 4(!) plants is suffering because it is partly shaded.

Neutral lillymw On Jun 23, 2007, lillymw from Richmond Hill, ON (Zone 5b) wrote:

From Wikipedia: " Canada its cultivation is prohibited as the species can act as a host for Puccinia graminis (black rust), a rust disease of wheat."

Positive Fleurs On Oct 31, 2005, Fleurs from Columbia, SC wrote:

'Rose Glow' or 'Rosy Glow' has shown no signs of invasiveness for the past 8 years in my Zone 8 garden. New growth in the Spring is particularly lovely when the leaves are mottled with pink and burgundy, although by Summer the leaves are completely burgundy. Growing 4 to 6' tall, 'Rose Glow' has a graceful, arching shape, ideal for a slight slope.

Negative 3lamma On Nov 10, 2004, 3lamma wrote:

Horrible invasive... the pretty red fruit is eaten by birds, which then distribute the seeds. Take a look around New England woodlands and you'll see thorny, leggy Berberis naturalizing where it shoudn't be. Don't plant Berberis anywhere in the U-S!

Negative veg_out On May 26, 2004, veg_out from Ellsworth, ME wrote:

Japanese barberry was introduced to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston in 1875 (some say 1864). Since that time it has invaded not only disturbed areas but intact forest throughout New England and other regions, and today it is one of the worst noxious invaders we have. It's become such a concern that I'm actually doing a Master's thesis on the plant! Hybrids such as the one above have the potential for increased hybrid vigor and therefore may be more invasive than the original Japanese barberry. I say, who cares how "pretty" it looks, think of trying to take a walk in your local woods through dense thickets of thorns once the plants escape from your yards! There are several attractive native substitutes for barberry, including winterberry or inkberry holly, New Jersey tea, bayberry, red or black chokeberry, and silky dogwood. PLEASE do not plant Japanese barberry!!

Negative PurplePansies On Aug 12, 2003, PurplePansies from Deal, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:

The appeal of this plant will continue to allude me. THORNY, AWKWARD-LOOKING bushes that grow completely OUT OF CONTROL. The choices for colored-foliage shrubs and bushes is so immense and I have no idea why anyone would choose this one. A NOXIOUS WEED or INVASIVE in many areas, the seeds have the ability to re-seed all over the place. A full-grown plant is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO ERADICATE. This plant was on my property before I got here and I HATE IT!!!! I find it VERY UNATTRACTIVE IN THE WINTER and awkward-looking other times of year. It grows rampantly and will choke out other shrubs/plants. It's murder in the winter when I want to hang Christmas lights, the beast of a bush planted against my foundation sticks me with its MANY AND MASSIVE THORNS. Pruning is nearly impossible with the thorns. If and when any branches or thorns fall to the ground, it's murder in the summer if anyone, especially children, walk barefoot. PLEASE DON'T PLANT THIS BUSH AND THREATEN NATIVE FLORA OR YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Negative native On Apr 23, 2003, native from Anson, ME wrote:

Please note that this is a very invasive, destructive plant- one of the top ten most invasive species on the mid/north atlantic coast. There are several native and non-invasive compact shrubs you can use to substitue, one alternative to consider is blueberry.

Positive lupinelover On Jan 10, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

'Crimson Pygmy' barberry is one of the more compact varieties available. Fewer berries develop, leading to fewer volunteers to remove.

All deciduous species of berberis WERE prohibited in Canada.

Thanks to an observant DG member, I got information about 11 cultivars of barberry that are now approved for growing in Canada! I know those of you who have wanted them cannot wait to get them. Please contact a Canadian extension agent to get a list of varieties, as well as sources for these beauties.

Positive darius On Jul 28, 2002, darius from So.App.Mtns.
United States (Zone 5b) wrote:

Berberis thunbergii 'Aurea' are my bright yellow ones, and 'Atropurpea Nana' is my dark purple one. All are quite thorny, and two are growing in full sun. The one growing in part shade, 'Aurea', turns a pale chartreuse rather than the normal luminous yellow. They take well to pruning for shape. I let one 'Aurea' grow naturally wild and unkept-looking and it makes a great specimen plant for it's spectacular color. At 4 years in the ground (beginning from 1 gal. nursery pots), they are now about 30" tall. No pest problems. I did have to prune a very few branches this past year from winter damage, not a usual event.

Neutral DRKAngel On Jan 18, 2002, DRKAngel wrote:

The berberis leave turn into red color when the plant is in full sun. If dont get enough sunlight the foliage turn into green.

Neutral Trish On Aug 17, 2001, Trish from Jacksonville, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Gracefull growth habit with slender, arching, spiny branches; if not sheared, usually reaches 4-6 feet tall, with equal spread. Dense foliage with roundish 1/2- 1 1/2-in.-long leaves, deep green above, paler beneath, turning to yellow, orange, and red before they fall. Beadlike, bright red berries stud branches in fall and through winter. Hedge, barrier planting, or single shrub. May attractive selections are available.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Santa Clara, California
Sanford, Florida
Olathe, Kansas
Nottingham, Maryland
Saugus, Massachusetts
Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Saint Cloud, Minnesota
Jefferson, New York
Staten Island, New York
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Bucyrus, Ohio
Portland, Oregon
Columbia, South Carolina
Nashville, Tennessee
Kaysville, Utah
Brady, Washington
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

We recommend Firefox
Overwhelmed? There's a lot to see here. Try starting at our homepage.

[ Home | About | Advertise | Media Kit | Mission | Featured Companies | Submit an Article | Terms of Use | Tour | Rules | Privacy Policy | Contact Us ]

Back to the top

Copyright © 2000-2015 Dave's Garden, an Internet Brands company. All Rights Reserved.

Hope for America