Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Berberis:

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Form: Shrub.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow to moderate.
Mature Size: 4-8' high and as wide.
Flowers: Yellow, loosely clustered, often massed, fragrant.
Bloom: Late winter and spring.
Fruit: Red to yellow, round, pea-sized, edible, ripening mid-spring into summer.
Leaves: The species listed below have holly-like, gray-green, stiff, narrow leaflets, with very sharp spines. New leaves may be reddish. Some species have no spines and leaves that remain reddish all year.
Stems: Rigid, spreading, possibly with a few thorns.
Roots: These plants spread by rhizomes and can form thickets by suckering, making them useful as stout barriers and hedges.
Species of Note:
Berberis haematocarpa, Red Barberry.
Berberis trifoliolata, Agarita / Algerita: Distinguished by three narrow leaflets joined at their base. Nurseries may use the name Mahoney trifoliolata.
Wildlife: The flowers attract bees and are considered a good honey source. The fruit attracts birds. Small mammals may use the plant for shade. This plant is deer resistant.
Toxic / Danger: Prickly leaves, possible thorns on stems. For some Berberis species, all parts are mildly poisonous except for ripe fruit.
Origin: Arizona to Texas and Mexico.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8b-10.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Water after becoming established: Once or twice a month. More frequent irrigation speeds growth.
Soil: Well drained, dry, tolerant of soil types, including poor soil. Moderate organic material in the soil speeds growth. This plant is salt tolerant.
Mulch: Organic mulch reduces root heat stress and improves water retention.
Prune: Remove unwanted suckers as they appear. Trim to shape in early winter if necessary.
Litter: Spent flowers.
Propagation: Seed, cuttings.
Uses: Barrier, hedge, bird garden, ornamental. The fruit can be used to make jelly and wine when protected from birds. The inner bark of stems and roots can be used to make a yellow dye.

These plants are members of the Barberry family (Berberidaceae).
The pictures are of a yellow-fruited Berberis haematocarpa. Most varieties have red fruit.

Do you have additional information or a different experience for these plants that you would like to share? Email All contributions are welcome and appreciated.

Berberis haematocarpa flowers

Berberis haematocarpa fruit

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Latest update: January, 2022