Barberry hedge: tips for planting & care


For me plants are some of the most exciting living beings, even though they live in slow motion. They have fascinating abilities and just so much potential! That's why I studied organic farming. However, since plants are rather thin on the ground in my city, I often spend time hiking in the nearby mountains at the weekend. In the future I would love to run a farm myself.

Favourite fruit: strawberries and gooseberries
Favourite vegetable: courgettes

As a privacy screen, barberry keeps prying eyes away, but is still a real eye-catcher. Let us show you how to plant a barberry hedge.

hedge with green and red leaves
The colourful shrub makes a very good hedge [Photo: CharMoment/]

Its sharp thorns keep unwanted visitors at bay, and its low maintenance requirements make barberry perfect as a hedge plant. Pruning can be a prickly affair – but barberry rewards gardeners with its robustness and bright flowers that magically attract insects.

Suitable species and varieties for your barberry hedge

Barberry makes an excellent flowering hedge and shines with the fact that it can adapt well to urban climates, drought or even heat. In addition, it is hardy, tolerates pruning without problems and also protects against uninvited guests with its sharp thorns.

Barberries are an extremely diverse genus, with varieties to suit every garden. While barberry comes from very different parts of the world, the common barberry (Berberis vulgaris) is native here. A hedge of native wild shrubs is not only suitable as a privacy screen, but also offers a perfectly suitable range of food, hiding places and breeding opportunities for birds, small mammals and insects. Unfortunately, this is limited in exotic hedge plants such as thuja (Thuja). Thus, you can make an important contribution to nature conservation in your garden with a native shrub. The flowers of common barberry are popular with honey bees and bumblebees; while blackbirds and hawfinches also find its fruits a tasty snack.

However, other barberry species also feel at home in our gardens and can be planted as hedges. These include, for example, bloodbarberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Antropurpurea’), which is perfect as a large hedge, or small bloodbarberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Antropurpurea Nana’) for lower hedges. Both captivate with red-coloured leaves in spring, which shine in even more vibrant colours in autumn. If you do not want to do without the leaves of your barberry even in winter, the large-leaved barberry (Berberis julianae) is suitable as a wide privacy screen, which grows up to three metres in height and thus protects you from all prying eyes. Evergreen hedges are also formed by the Telstar barberry (Berberis frikartii ‘Telstar’) and the Amstelveen barberry (Berberis frikartii ‘Amstelveen’).

berberis branches with thorns
Spiky thorns ward off uninvited guests [Photo: Go Studio/]

Planting a barberry hedge

Since barberry can make do with a wide variety of sites, you are hardly limited in your choice of hedge location. The woody plant only dislikes completely shady locations and waterlogging. In addition, evergreen species prefer partial shade, while deciduous species can easily survive in full sun. Once you have chosen the location, it makes sense to first stretch a cord to dig the planting holes so that the hedge is nice and straight later. The planting hole itself should be 1.5 times the size of the root ball. If the soil is poor in nutrients or even very heavy or light, it is also worth enriching the excavated soil with compost or fertiliser to give the young shrub the best start. Another significant aspect of new planting is adequate water supply. The shrub should therefore be heavily watered when it is planted, and it is important to water it regularly after planting until the shrub has properly established itself. When planting in autumn, constant rainfall usually takes care of this by itself, but in the event of drought, watering should be carried out regularly for a month as needed. For dry sites, you can also add a mulch layer of leaves, grass clippings or bark mulch. This will better retain moisture in the soil, as the mulch layer will reduce evaporation.

In principle, you can plant all year around, but it depends on whether you bought a container or baled plant. Container plants can be planted year-around, while spring or fall are the ideal times for baled plants. For container plants, it is also important to lightly tear the roots before planting, as this encourages branching. When planting, do not forget to wear sturdy gardening gloves, otherwise you can easily get injured by the sharp thorns.

blue barberry fruit
Wintergreen barberry fruits have a lovely blue colour [Photo: simona pavan/]

Tip: remove unwanted plants in the immediate vicinity before planting out. After all, if they grow into the thorny bush, removing them can be a prickly affair.

Barberry hedge: care tips

Since the thorny shrub is quite an undemanding plant, its care can be summarised in a few lines. If regular watering is still essential immediately after replanting, the shrub only needs to be watered later during long-lasting dry phases. For the perfect supply of nutrients, it is advisable to work in a small dose of compost in the spring or, above all, a plant-based fertiliser such as our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food. This provides your ornamental shrub with all its important nutrients in the long run – without any animal ingredients such as bone or horn meal.

All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
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  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
  • Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

How often you need to prune your hedge depends on whether you prefer a trimmed hedge or a natural hedge. Near-natural hedges provide greater ecological value and only need to be rejuvenated every two to three years. In the process, old and troublesome branches should be cut back to ground level. Pruned hedges should be trimmed once or twice a year to keep their shape. Pruning should take place between October and March. It is important to adhere to this time period in order not to disturb breeding animals, for example.

robin sitting in red hedge
Natural hedges provide a high ecological value [Photo: Olexandr Reznikov/]

Tip: Make sure that the hedge tapers a few centimetres from the base to the crown. This minimal trapezoidal shape protects them from wind and snow for example.

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