How to Prune Berberis

Written by emma watkins
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How to Prune Berberis
Berberis berries grow on year-old wood. (berberis berries image by Alison Bowden from

Berberis, sometimes called barberry, is a dense shrub with thorny stems. Often you see several plants, which produce yellow flowers in spring, growing next to each other as an ornamental hedge. Berberis requires little pruning, but when you trim your shrub, take care not to remove previous years' growth, because the plant’s berries sprout on them. However, if you’re growing your shrub for the foliage only, or you want to shape it, shear the plant as needed.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Shears

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  1. 1

    Pinch the flower buds in your plant’s first growing season. By keeping it from blooming, you will direct your shrub’s resources toward developing strong roots and healthy stems and branches.

  2. 2

    Prune dead, diseased and broken branches in the summer. Darwin’s barberry, however, should be trimmed only after it finishes making fruit.

  3. 3

    Shear about 20 per cent of the branches back to main stems every winter. This step maintains a compact, neat form. This is also the time to shape the shrub the way you want.

  4. 4

    Prune old overgrown Berberis shrubs to 1 foot from the ground in the winter to rejuvenate them.

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