Berberis attraction

I am debating whether to remove an establish prickly Berberis in our garden.  The colour is lovely, a small red leaf , the thorns are not lovely and I can't see any insects being attracted to it either. The birds don't like it.  Anyone growing this shrub who can give me a reason for keeping it - please enlighten me.  Thanks.


  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen SpainPosts: 2,712
    If you like it. Simple as that really! So long as you provide other sources of cover and food the odd thing ‘for you’ is perfectly aceptable. If you are not that bothered about it, yes there are probably better shrubs.

    I have two types, a low-growing mound type with lovely dusky purple leaves that never needs pruning and is great at the front of a border. Plus the columnar ‘rocket’ types that are good, colourful vertical accents. I don’t find either particularly prickly - not compared to roses or pyracantha. It is drought-tolerant too, far tougher than other purple/red-leaved shrubs I have got. The only issue is catching the Berberis sawfly larvae before they get chomping!

    There was no garden here before, so I have provided multiple new sources of cover and food for birds and insects and the diversity of life has probably increases tenfold over two years. 
  • StevedaylillyStevedaylilly Posts: 963
    edited July 2019
    I have 3 in my garden. 2 Berberis Harlequin and the other is a large variety that I’ve  forgotten the name 
    I mainly like them as their colour complements orange flowers.They don’t mind some shade (I have one under a Damson tree and gets dappled shade and still has a lovely colour and compliments Heuchera Lime Marmalade and Heuchera Marmalade). They hardly need any maintenance apart from some light pruning to keep in shape. 
    So, imo. I would cancel it’s execution date 😀

  • Bee witchedBee witched Scottish BordersPosts: 480
    Hello @Guernsey Donkey2,

    Another vote for a reprieve from me.

    All berberis are very attractive to honeybees and will be buzzing with bees when in flower as they are great sources of both nectar and pollen.
    In autumn the berries are a firm favourite of blackbirds.

    So ... can it stay?

    Bee x
    Bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey   
  • I know my memory is getting worse, but I honestly can't remember seeing any flowers on my Berberis.  If I could honestly say my shrub has flowers which attracts the bees @ Bee witched then I would let the plant have a second chance, however I can't visualize any flowers and those prickles are nasty. I agree the colour is attractive @Stevedaylilly, and now you are making me feel I should keep it!

  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen SpainPosts: 2,712
    I’ve never noticed mine buzzing tbh but the flowers are tiny get lost visually amongst the foliage, so you might have just missed them GD.
  • WillDBWillDB Posts: 1,965
    Sounds like the colour and leaf shape is nice - why are you thinking of getting rid? If it's taking up too much space or looks straggly you can be as brutal as you like with pruning (just wear thick gloves!)
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 27,069
    If they're given the space to open out and do their thing, they can be stunning, but they're often squeezed into small spaces and pruned into pudding shapes.
    I inherited a little red one here, and the birds eat the little bits of greenfly on it, and the bees use the  flowers. We had a couple of big specimens on the bank of the pond at a previous house, and they were always full of sparrows  :)

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • @Fairygirl what a beautiful setting you have for your Berberis and possibly more birds than we have here.  I can honestly say I have never noticed a bird in our shrub although they do use the bottle brush tree as a perch on their way to our smaller pond.  So I am being brutal by removing it, but the new plant I have acquired will be attractive too, and I know it will bring in the bees as a friend has one too.
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