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Berberis Has Lost Leaves/Berries In September

Willow99Willow99 Posts: 43
edited September 2021 in Plants
Hi, my usually very healthy Berberis shrub has suddenly in the last week or so lost all its leaves, it went from a lush looking shrub with dark crimson leaves to just a woody thorny thing. Which from memory is unusual for this time of year. I cannot see any cause for this ie pests. Any advice on whether it has died etc would be much appreciated, it is at least 36 years old and has been  pruned every spring, it is about 4 foot high at Present.


  • Sorry to see that. I have one which is also around 30 years old. It is indeed unusual for Berberis to loose leaves at this time of year. I have found this:

  • Thanks, I checked it out and will have a look at the shrub and report back. Coincidentally I was talking to a neighbour today about it and he said he was relieved as his Berberis has done exactly the same.
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,052
    Do you prune it at all? It does look a little congested in the middle with some old woody stems. Cutting older growth right down does rejuvenate them and encourages new healthy growth.

    In saying that, I do cut out older growth of my Berberis shrubs and whilst the rocket types are healthy and fully foliaged, a Berberis Atropurpurea looks like yours, despite very few sawflies this year and plenty of water, so that’s a bit of mystery!
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • Thanks Nellie, I do prune usually in the spring but did not do it this year. As you say it seems congested in the middle. I will prune it and open it up, hopefully it will recover from whatever ails it.
  • MarlorenaMarlorena Posts: 7,881
    edited September 2021
    Just to say, I have 2 Berberis that's gone exactly the same way, it happens every year now, and I put it down to the sawfly larvae as per coccinella's post...  I see those little caterpillars everywhere here, but I just leave them..  The plants recover next Spring without doing anything.  One of mine defoliates earlier than the other, and I give it a good watering so it refoliates itself before autumn... too late I think for the other one though.. 
    ...might as well add pics.
    ..these are dwarf Berberis...

    ..this is the earlier one that has refoliated..

    East Anglia, England
  • Hi All, After checking my Berberis and pruning right back to the ground and clearing leaves etc out of the centre I came across small green caterpillars that looked dead, they are about 2-3mm long and we’re in clumps in areas where leaves dead leaves had collected. On clearing the soil around the bottom there were fly like insects which were 3-5mm long and are greyish in colour so may have been sawflies. As the caterpillars look dead could they just be dormant? 

    Hopefully the shrub will recover and the cycle can start all over again.
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