The Berberis is a large group of shrubs of about 450 species and numerous cultivars. They are grown partly for their foliage and partly for their flowers.
Most form dense bushes, often with arching stems. The foliage is either evergreen or deciduous. Most have green foliage but there are plenty of coloured variants, including some good purples. The foliage in many cases is glossy, reflecting the light if placed in shady positions.
As well as having good spring and summer foliage, many also have good autumn colour. A common characteristic is the prickly foliage, a bit in the manner of miniature holly leaves. Vicious prickles also appear on the stems of many plants. This makes them very useful as hedging plants or for planting under windows to deter intruders.
As well as good autumn colour many have attractive berries which are much sought after by birds.
Most are little trouble to grow and will stand the frost. They are versatile shrubs as they can be grown in a range of soils and can be positioned in either sun or partial shade. The main disadvantage is that the prickly varieties are not pleasant to weed near.