How to Prune a Berberis Bush

Updated February 21, 2017

The berberis or barberry species of plants as they are commonly known are flowering and fruiting shrubs native to Asia. They thrive in shady woodland settings and rich, moist soil. They are considered by some to be invasive as their prominent spines can make management challenging. Frequent pruning is not required unless the intent is to maintain the shrub considerably smaller than its natural height or spread.

Remove any damaged, diseased, broken or dying branches throughout the growing season to prevent disease problems and to keep the shrub tidy. Cut the damaged branch to the base where it meets the parent branch or to the crown of the plant, whichever results in a more natural look.

Prune berberis shrubs for shape and size in the early summer immediately after blooming has subsided to preserve the next year's blooming and fruiting cycle. Cut with long-handled loppers or pruning shears to establish the desired height and spread of the shrub. Remove up to 1/3 of the plant mass in any one year of pruning to reduce stress and the threat of shock. Remove all clippings, placing them in a heavy-duty trash bag or dustbin; the spines will make carrying away the cuttings in your hands or arms difficult.

Rejuvenate the centre of a berberis shrub as needed when the core gets thin, the central branches lose foliage or turn brown. Conduct a hard pruning, removing up to 1/3 of the old or underperforming branches in the centre of the plant down to the crown. This is likely needed only when the shrub is damaged or every three to five years if at all.


Always wear heavy-duty garden gloves and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket when working in or around barberry as the spines are long and extremely sharp.

Things You'll Need

  • Loppers
  • Shears
  • Garden gloves
  • Trash bags or dustbin
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