By: Teo Spengler
If you think of barberry plants as primarily useful for defensive hedges, think again. Crimson Pygmy barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy’) is utterly gorgeous with deep crimson leaves that turn even more brilliant shades in autumn. Dwarf barberry shrubs like this will light up your backyard and contrast beautifully with lighter, brighter plants. For more Crimson Pygmy barberry information, read on.
Crimson Pygmy Barberry Information
Anyone growing a dwarf Crimson Pygmy barberry will be thrilled by the deep, rich color of the foliage. Dwarf barberry shrubs are only knee high, but the small, deep-burgundy leaves make quite a statement.
Dwarf barberry shrubs also produce flowers, small and bright yellow. They smell sweet and the color contrasts nicely with the leaves. But according to Crimson Pygmy barberry information, they cannot compete with the gorgeous crimson foliage for ornamental value.
The flowers develop into red, round berries over summer and fall that please wild birds. Those growing a dwarf Crimson Pygmy barberry will find that the berries hang onto the branches long after the leaves fall. And before the shrub loses its leaves in winter, the color turns even brighter red.
How to Grow Crimson Pygmy Barberry
If you are growing a dwarf barberry shrub for its brilliant foliage, you’ll want to be sure to plant it in a full sun location. Although the plants can remain healthy in partial shade, the color develops best in sun.
The type of soil you offer the plant influences the type of dwarf barberry care they require. How to grow Crimson Pygmy barberry that don’t require much care? Plant them in moist, well-draining soil. Do keep in mind, however, these shrubs will grow in any soil that isn’t soggy.
Keep the ultimate size in mind when you consider grow Crimson Pygmy barberry plants and where to site them. The shrubs grow to 18 to 24 inches (45-60 cm.) tall and 30 to 36 inches (75-90 cm.) wide.
Is Crimson Pygmy barberry invasive? Barberry is considered invasive in some areas. However, the ‘Crimson Pygmy’ cultivar is less invasive. It produces fewer fruits and seeds than the wild type. That being said though, the shrubs cannot be considered “non-invasive.”
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Dwarf Barberry varieties, berberis for low-lying hedges and wonderful shrub beds
Several types of barberry naturally grow small. These dwarf varieties won’t grow into towering, thorny giants that are difficult to prune.
Basic facts about Dwarf Berberis
Height – ½ to 1½ feet (15 to 45 cm)
Main types – Japanese barberry, hybrids
Barberry usually grows taller than a person. Some varieties, however, only reach ankle or knee height. These make for excellent low hedges or even indoor Berberis!
Here are the different types of dwarf barberry shrubs.
How to Landscape with Barberry Plants
Commonly misspelled “burberry,” barberry shrubs (Berberis) are attractive, thorny bushes often used in landscaping and as foundation plantings. Barberry plants can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. They do best in full sun and well-drained soil but tolerate almost any growing conditions, making them simple to grow and an excellent choice for new gardeners and difficult growing locations. Many barberry varieties exist, offering a wide range of heights and widths as well as red, orange and yellow flowers. Barberries are available in evergreen and deciduous varieties, providing a choice of red, green or purple foliage.
Create a natural hedge or privacy fence by planting barberry plants in a row. Barberry is a dense, thorny plant and creates an almost impenetrable barrier. Tall, evergreen varieties, such as the Magellan barberry (Berberis buxifolia) and Darwin barberry (Berberis darwinii), work well for this usage and remain attractive throughout the year.
Place barberry plants in areas where critters are a concern. Although birds are attracted to the plants' berries, deer, rabbits and most other animals leave them alone, making barberry shrubs a good choice for areas where your garden looks like a buffet.
Plant barberry in the back of your flowerbeds to create a colorful backdrop for smaller flowers and annuals. The red-leaf Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Atropurpurea”) provides a summer canvas of red and purple leaves while the “William Penn” barberry (Berberis gladwynensis) offers broad, glossy, green leaves and yellow flowers.
Choose dwarf or compact barberry varieties for planting along patios and walkways or for creating natural flowerbed edging. Almost all barberry varieties can be trimmed and pruned to a smaller size, but dwarf varieties, such as the dwarf Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Kobold”) and Crimson Pygmy (Berberis thunbergii “Crimson Pygmy”), require much less attention when planted in small spaces.
How do I fertilize Crimson Barberry?
Apply an early spring fertilizer with a product such as Espoma Tree-tone or Plant-tone at the recommended rate. This will give the plant a boost of nitrogen that will be needed for healthy abundant foliage. Follow this up with an early summer application of Espoma Flower-tone, this will provide the necessary nutrients and raise the acid level in the soil which Barberries favor. Espoma products are easy to use, just sprinkle around the base of the plant and water it in. Be careful with products such as miracle-grow as these products can burn newly planted plants when not used at the recommended rates. Slow-release fertilizer can help prevent rapid sucker growth that is vulnerable to diseases and insects. Since an organic method of applying manure and/or compost around the roots, produces excellent results and also improves the condition of the soil, this would be an excellent first line of attack. Organic additions to the soil can also be combined with a shot of chemical fertilizer for maximum effect.
How to Plant the Crimson Pygmy Barberry
This barberry has beautiful deep ruby-red foliage that remains all season long and its new growth has a stunning bright red hue. Small yellow flowers in spring produce bright red fruit and later combine with fall colors of orange-scarlet to create an excellent addition to any landscape. The Crimson Pygmy Barberry is a miniature version of the Japanese barberry plant. It originates in Japan and other eastern Asian countries. It is a naturally compact plant and only grows to be about 2 feet tall and 3 feet in its spread.
The Crimson Pygmy Barberry enjoys the benefits of lots of bright sunlight. If planted in the shade, it will tend to lose its color and not grow as well. This shrub is insect resistant, deer resistant and is also pollution tolerant.
The Crimson Pygmy Barberry grows well in dry soil and can tolerate lack of water and even a small amount of salt. Well-drained sand or clay soil should do well for this plant. Keep the pH level closer to alkaline than acid. Crimson Pygmy is a versatile low profile red-leafed barberry adaptable to many garden needs. It’s an excellent mixed border plant to add foliage color and is useful as a green color alternative for a small hedge. It can also be used in garden designs near water features, or in wild, natural areas of your garden.
How to Plant the Crimson Pygmy Barberry: Dig a hole twice as wide as and slightly shallower than, the root ball. Roughen the sides and bottom of the hole with a pick or shovel so that roots can penetrate the soil.
Gently remove the shrub from the container. Lay the shrub on its side with the container end near the planting hole. Hit the bottom and sides of the container until the root ball is loosened. If roots are growing in a circular pattern around the root ball, slice through the roots on a couple of sides of the root ball.
Gently separate circling roots on the root ball. Shorten exceptionally long roots, and guide the shortened roots downward and outward. Root tips die quickly when exposed to light and air, so don't waste time.
Place the root ball in the hole. Leave the top of the root ball (where the roots end and the trunk begins) 1/2 to 1 inch above the surrounding soil, making sure not to cover it unless roots are exposed. Do not set shrubs too deep. As you add soil to fill in around the shrub, lightly tamp the soil to collapse air pockets, or add water to help settle the soil. Apply a 3’-4’ layer of mulch around the base of the bush to retain moisture and cut down on weeding. Water 2-3 times (1’-2’) a week unless it rains.