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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Trees and Shrubs > Japanese and Korean Barberries

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Japanese and Korean Barberries (Berberis thunbergii, B. koreana)

Beth Berlin and Kathy Zuzek

Plant description

Mature height: 1 to 8'
Mature width: 1.5 to 5'
Growth rate: Medium
Plant form: Upright, arching, rounded, spreading
Deciduous or evergreen:Deciduous
Native range: Japan (B. thunbergii), Korea (B. koreana)
Native to Minnesota: No
Invasive in Minnesota:Yes


Light: Prefers full sun, will tolerate partial shade
Soil texture: Sandy, loam, clay
Soil pH:
Prefers 5.5-7.2, tolerates higher
Soil moisture: Dry to moist soils, excessively drained to well drained
Hardiness zone: 3 (Korean), 4 (Japanese) to 8
Pests and stresses: None series. Visit What's wrong with my plant? – Barberry.
Other: thorny, Japanese beetle and drought tolerant, deer resistant

Japanese Barberry in the landscape

Korean and Japanese barberries are known for their colorful foliage, flowers, and fruit and are used in the landscape for border, screening, mass or specimen plantings. Korean barberry is taller and hardier than Japanese barberry. Korean barberry can also sucker aggressively and both species are thorny. Barberries perform best in full sun and are very soil adaptable, with the exception of extremely moist soils. Additional benefits are tolerance to Japanese beetles and deer resistance.

Barberries provide multi-season interest and the many cultivars vary widely in plant form, foliage color and variegation, and fruiting and flowering ability. Barberries leaf out in early spring on thorny, zig-zag patterned stems and the small round or oval leaves can vary from purple, red, burgundy, and orange to gold, green, chartreuse, and yellow. Clusters of yellow flowers appear in May followed by clusters of small, bright red, oval berries that can persist into winter. Fall color of foliage is often purple, red, or orange.

Although they provide beauty to gardens and landscapes, barberries have become highly invasive in parts of the U.S. including Minnesota. The fruit are attractive to birds and as they eat the fruit, seeds are dispersed into native areas. Barberries have become established in the undergrowth of forested areas where they outcompete and displace native plants. To control invasiveness, a three year phase-out of the 25 seediest cultivars was implemented in Minnesota in 2015 by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. In 2018, it will be illegal to sell, propagate, or transport those 25 cultivars. More information can be found from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources.

Some cultivars grown in Minnesota:

landscape with trees and bushes

Minnesota Dept. of Ag.

Barberry as an invasive

red fruit hanging from branch in groups

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Fruit of Emerald Carousel®


purple bush

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Purple foliage and compact mounded form of 'Concorde'

red bush

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Fall color and upright arching form of Emerald Carousel®

yellow-green bush

Bailey Nurseries

Gold foliage and upright form of Sunjoy® Gold Pillar

close up of reddish leaves

Bailey Nurseries

Red foliage of Toscana™

jagged branches emerging from snow

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Zig-zag stems and spines of 'Rose Glow' barberry

yellow flowers hanging in groups

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Spring flowers of Emerald Carousel®

Cultivar traits:
Cultivar Burgundy/red/purple foliage Gold/green/yellow foliage Spreading or upright arching form Compact, mounded or rounded form Columnar, upright form
'Admiration' X       X
Burgundy Carousel® X     X  
'Concorde' X     X  
'Crimson Pygmy' X     X  
Emerald Carousel®   X X    
First Edition® Cabernet® X     X  
First Edition® Limoncello™   X   X  
First Editions® Toscana™ X   X    
Golden Carousel®   X X    
'Golden Rocket'   X     X
'Helmond Pillar' X       X
Jade Carousel®   X   X  
'Kobold'   X   X  
'Orange Rocket' X       X
'Rose Glow' X     X  
'Rosy Rocket' X       X
Royal Burgundy®       X  
Ruby Carousel®         X
Sunjoy® Gold Pillar   X     X
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