Purple Japanese Barberry
Purple Japanese barberry or berberis thunbergii ‘atropurpurea’ is a great deciduous wildlife plant with high ornamental value. Reddish purple leaves are complemented by inconspicuous, insect-friendly orange to yellow flowers in April and elliptic, glossy red berries in autumn, which all add to the plant’s appeal. Birds are attracted by the tasty berries, which provide them with an excellent food supply. The foliage will turn deep red in autumn.
Purple Japanese Barberry Maintenance
As the name implies, Japanese barberry hails from Japan, where it is able to withstand temperatures down to -20C. It will grow no more than 1m tall, which is why it is hardly ever planted as a screening hedge. Berberis ‘atropurpurea’ has a vigorous and spreading growth habit, even though it does not tend to grow particularly fast. With an average annual growth of around 10-25cm and a final height of 1m it makes a great choice for border hedges or to be planted beneath a window, and it does not require regular prunings. One superficial pruning a year is more than enough for the plant to keep its shape. A more formal pruning style will result in reduced flowering and fruiting, which may be desirable in some situations. If not, be careful not to remove too much of the plant and limit yourself to removing unwanted branches. Purple Japanese barberry is at its best in a well-drained border with plenty of sunlight or in partial shade. This somewhat invasive, spreading hedging plant will grow in any soil, but favours a neutral or acidic soil.
Purple Japanese Barberry Intruder Hedges
Despite not growing particularly tall, purple Japanese barberry is an excellent choice if you are looking for an intruder or security hedge. The branches of the purple Japanese barberry are adorned with powerful, sharp thorns that will make sure that no one can make it through or over your hedge without any injuries. This is also the reason why Japanese barberry hedges, both the naturally occurring variety and the ‘Atropurpurea’ cultivar, are often seen planted under windows as an extra security measure of sorts. The presence of these thorns also makes pruning a purple Japanese barberry hedge a potentially tedious task, but with a pair of quality garden gloves, these annual trimmings should not be too painful.
Benefits of Purple Japanese Barberry Hedging
Since the thorns of the purple Japanese barberry are just as sharp in the winter as they are during the rest of the year, the qualities of this barberry variety as a year-round intruder hedge are not impaired by winter temperatures. Some people may prefer a hedge that retains its green leaves throughout the years and if that is the case for you, you may want to consider one of the evergreen barberry varieties suitable for hedging. These types of barberry hedge do lack the gorgeous autumn colour that both the Japanese barberry and the purple Japanese barberry do have. Therefore, these varieties are the ultimate proof that there are advantages to deciduous hedge plants.