If you want to plant a hedge around your property that is not only decorative but also protective, ecologically valuable and can even be harvested, you should definitely remember the slightly forgotten barberry. Here you can find out everything you need to know about the planting of this beautiful hedge.

Characteristics of the barberry

The barberries or Berberis form a separate genus of plants in the barberry family, a powerful genus that, with around 500 different species, is one of the most species-rich woody genera in the world. Most of these species have developed in the temperate regions of East Asia up to the Himalayas, quite a few species have conquered the South American Andes, but the species of barberry native to Europe can be counted on one hand.

“Our” barberry is the common barberry, Berberis vulgaris, also known as sour thorn, vinegar berry or real barberry. It is the best-known and most widespread representative of the genus, which can be found not only in Europe but also in Asia – whereby the name barberry in both possible derivations indicates that our barberry was not immediately our barberry: some go away assumes that the word barberry goes back to the same word root as the Arabic name of the Berber people, the others relate it to the Latin Barbari or Greek Barberei, the foreigners, so it will probably also have been Berbers or foreigners who the brought the first barberries to our regions. It is fitting that while barberries are now grown all over the west,

Otherwise, however, it has proven to be extraordinarily resilient in many places. It has been able to spread to the east as far as the Caucasus and in the Alps the barberry has conquered heights of up to 2,500 meters. Speaks for real undemanding, and this is what characterizes the barberry, but a barberry hedge “can” do even more:

A barberry hedge has several advantages

A hedge of barberry bushes (Berberis vulgaris) combines several advantages in one: it blooms magnificently, bears pretty berries and provides good privacy. It is also visually very impressive with its colors that change several times over the course of the year and makes a considerable contribution to the fact that your garden fits well into its ecological environment. And that’s not all – here are the many advantages point by point:

  • With a barberry hedge you limit your property very effectively, it is a hedge plant that is almost impenetrable for burglars – if the door is just as difficult to overcome, it is a real protection!
  • The dense, thorny branches also prevent animals from getting onto your property from neighboring properties.
  • Even rodents with sharp teeth will capitulate to sour thorns because the thorns successfully resist animal bites.
  • A barberry hedge develops very dense branches that ensure good privacy.

A sour thorn not only repels unwanted human and animal intruders and looks, it also makes your garden a good deal more natural:

  • The dense wood of the barberry, which protects against animal predators, is an ideal nesting wood for many birds.
  • The flowers of a barberry hedge are an important source of food for many insects, and the wood also serves as a bee pasture.
  • The barberry hedge also serves as food for birds and many small mammals, they eat the berries of the sour thorn.
  • The fruits of the barberry are not only popular in the animal world, they also like to supplement human nutrition.
  • The pickled berries are edible, although quite acidic, but they can be boiled or dried very well to make compotes and jams.
  • The sour berries contain many vitamins, especially vitamin C, in Ayurveda medicine they are considered one of the best ways to detoxify the body.
  • Barberry hedges are also just right for city plots, they are extremely resistant to urban climates and are even suitable for industrial areas.

Choose a variety of barberries wisely

It has already been explained above that there is of course not just one, but many different varieties of such an assertive plant. Even if only a few barberries are native here, quite a lot of barberries grow willingly here, here is an overview of the selection:

The native Berberis vulgaris , the common barberry, is the sour thorn with the highest ecological value in our gardens. It is also so well adapted to our climatic conditions that the robust plant usually enjoys vigorous growth without much effort.

The Berberis vulgaris grows up to two meters tall, the branches have thorns and bark that ranges in color from gray to yellow and brown, the barberry hedge blooms between April and June with numerous yellow flower clusters. These flowers give off quite a distinctive smell to attract the pollinating insects, but don’t think every alienated person that this smell is unbearable. The edible, one centimeter large red berries are ripe from October, in winter this sour thorn loses its leaves, but due to the dense branches it still offers an efficient privacy screen (with a few glimpses, but especially in winter you don’t walk through the tree naked Garden).

Besides this common barberry, there are several other varieties of barberries that you can plant in or around your garden. Some Asian varieties feel at home with us, including the aforementioned Berberis thunbergii, which also exists as blood barberry (Berberis thunbergii Atropurpurea), the large-leaved barberry Berberis julianae, the smaller Himalayan barberry Berberis hookeri and the mini-shrubs of the snowy barberry, the Berberis candidula. There is also an interesting selection of hybrids available: the large blood barberry or Berberis x ottawensis z. B., a hybrid of our Berberis vulgaris and Thunberg’s barberry (Berberis thunbergii), which originated in Canada in the early 20th century. It grows larger than our barberry, grows a little differently and develops completely different colors than our barberry. Berberis x media was created from Berberis thunbergii and from Berberis ×hybrido-gagnepainii, particularly beautiful in the varieties “Red Jewel” and “Parkjuwel” and impressive cultivated forms with many tones between brown, red and dark green.

The ecological value of these foreign trees is by no means as high as that of the native barberries. However, at least some birds have approached the Berberis thunbergii and accept it as a nesting place. Hybrids of this B. thunbergii with the native B. vulgaris also have at least a certain ecological value in the garden. This is not the case with barberries from Asia and their hybrids, so they should be used cautiously and only on parts of a garden.

If you plant barberries near grain fields, it is advisable to ask the local plant protection office: Black rust in grain, which uses barberries as an intermediate host, threatens to spread again as the climate warms.

Plant barberry hedge

Once you have found “your” barberry, planting and caring for it is no longer a particular difficulty:

All barberries like the sun best, but they also thrive in partial shade, grow in dry but also moderately moist soil, thrive particularly well in calcareous soil, but also prefer soil that is neutral or even slightly acidic Having pH values ​​– in plain English, barberries actually grow everywhere. You should only make sure that the soil at the intended location is well loosened so that excess moisture can drain off.

The best time to plant a barberry hedge is between the end of October and the end of April (if the soil isn’t frozen, of course) if you buy barberry hedgerows as root crops or in bunches, you’re unlikely to buy these barberry plants outside of this period be able. If you have a choice, you should choose autumn within these dates – at this time of year you don’t have to worry about extreme heat or extreme drought. On the contrary, it rains more often in autumn (at least on a reliable average), so the weather does the watering of the newly planted hedge for you, which is so important for rapid root development before winter dormancy. If it didn’t work out in autumn, planting is possible in spring – but only if

If you bought potted sour thorns (container plants) from a discount store, garden center or mail order company, the retailer says you can plant them at any time of the year, but experience has shown that such plants also benefit most from planting in the fall.

Before planting, you can put some compost in the planting holes if the soil is poor in nutrients, but not if the soil is rich in nutrients, as too many nutrients can even hinder root formation. The young plants are sunk into the garden soil just as deep as they were previously sunk in the pot, leaving a distance of about half a growth width (depending on the variety) between the individual hedge bushes. The planting holes are now filled again, preferably with some compost/manure mixed under the excavated soil, the nutrients of which reach the young plants very slowly throughout the winter. Now all you have to do is press the soil around the plants well and give the young plants a first and vigorous watering, then you have already laid out your barberry hedge.

Irrigation and fertilizer for the barberry hedge

In the initial period, until the bushes have grown, the barberry hedge must be watered regularly and well. Once roots have stretched deep into the earth, which fetch the remaining water from the lowest layers in dry seasons, you only need to water the barberry hedge additionally during longer dry periods.

If you mulch or apply some compost in spring a barberry hedge will not need fertilizing at all, if not you can add some fertilizer in spring and again in summer.

Cut barberry hedge

When and how to prune a barberry hedge depends on its condition:

  • If the hedge can still use growth and density, cut it when there are no leaves.
  • They then only hurt the plant a little because the nutrients have been withdrawn into the wood and roots, but these ensure vigorous budding in the spring.
  • If the barberry hedge is just about to conquer your property with its vigour, cut it in summer.
  • With pruning in the growth phase, you weaken the plant, after the work of closing the wound is completed, it no longer has the strength for lush shoots.
  • Normal topiary takes away a little evenly from the shoot tips to encourage dense branching.
  • The hedge should be cut wider at the bottom than at the top so that the lower branches also get light, otherwise the lower area will be bare.
  • If an old barberry hedge has “got out of joint”, a strong pruning is appropriate.
  • The barberry tolerates it well, you can cut deep into the framework of old, thick branches, from where the hedge now builds up again with densely branched shoots.
  • Good gardening gloves made of thick fabric are particularly recommended when working on an old barberry hedge, otherwise the thorns can become quite uncomfortable.
  • If you lay a tarp under the hedge before you cut it, you won’t have to collect thorn branches from your lawn (or from the soles of your feet) later.
  • These were the pruning instructions for the native deciduous sour thorn; the evergreen barberry hedges are pruned after flowering.


A barberry hedge, especially from the native Berberis vulgaris, is a real ecological gain for your garden, is easy to care for and cut and has many other advantages. However, if you have a pet xoloitzcuintle (for the uninitiated: Mexican hairless dog) who likes to frolic through the garden in a soft Angora dog sweater, this hedge may not necessarily be the best choice.

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