How to Prune Berberis Darwinii

Updated November 21, 2016

Berberis darwinii, a type of barberry shrub, is used to create hedges or as a specimen plant in yards. Also known as Darwin's barberry, the shrub thrives in areas with severe winters and survives temperatures of -9.44 degrees Celsius. Yearly pruning is employed to rid the shrub of unhealthy stems, fungal-diseased areas and stems that grow outside of the designated planting location. Choose a time in the spring to prune off unhealthy areas of the plant.

Examine the berberis darwinii plant for signs of fungal disease. Rust disease is a common fungal infection for barberry plants. Signs of rust include reddish-orange leaves, defoliation and bright-orange spots. Dip your pruning tool in a mixture of 70 per cent denatured alcohol and 30 per cent water.

Make a 45 degree angled cut 1/4 inch above a healthy outward growing bud. To remove the entire branch, make a 45 degree cut next to the shrub collar. The shrub collar is the swelling that attaches the branch to the trunk of the shrub.

Cut off any winter damage or dead branches. Scrape the bark off a branch with a utility knife to determine whether or not it is alive. If a greenish-white colour shows underneath, it is alive. Brown or black colour under the wood is an indication that the branch is dead.

Thin out the berberis darwinii to allow sunlight and air circulation into the plant. Remove any branches that are rubbing together, growing outside the designated planting location, growing inward or crossing.

Keep the barberry shrub balanced by removing any branches that make one side fuller than the other.


Monitor your barberry shrub for rut in the spring when the disease is most prevalent. Reduce the risk of your shrub getting a fungal disease by watering at the base of the plant, rather than from the top.


Remove all diseased foliage, branches and fruit from underneath the plant, because fungal spores can continue to infect the plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Bypass shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Pruning saw
  • Denatured alcohol
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