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This kind of plant has about 450 species of shrubs or small trees, evergreen or deciduous, originating in Asia, Europe and Chile.
The barberry or berberis have thin, very branched stems, which bear small oval or lanceolate leaves, light green, dark green, or purple; the evergreen species have leathery and glossy foliage.
Most species have sharp thorns along the ramifications, which make them suitable for the preparation of defensive hedges. In spring they produce small clusters of yellow, whitish or greenish flowers, usually pendulous.
Among the many varieties and hybrids there are various types of habit, from medium-sized shrubs, up to 150-200 cm high, to small shrubs, which reach a maximum of 40-50 cm; there are also prostrate and creeping varieties.
Among the most cultivated we remember Berberis thumbergii, deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub, of dark green color, the variety "atropurpurea" has dark purple leaves, while the "aurea" variety has yellow-green leaves; B. buxifolia is evergreen, with oval, leathery leaves; B. frikartii has lance-shaped leaves, dark green in color.
The Berberis prefer sunny positions; however, they can be planted even in a partially shady place, but they do not like the complete shadow.
Evergreen varieties adapt very well to different types of exposure and can develop even in shaded areas; the specimens with deciduous leaves, however, if not exposed to the sun will not be able to develop the typical characteristic coloring of the foliage, as instead happens if planted in sunny areas.
Most species do not fear the cold.
THE barberry they should be watered regularly when the soil is very dry, especially during periods of prolonged drought; if the rains are abundant the berberis do not need watering, especially in the case of specimens abiding for some years. For the youngest specimens it is useful to provide more water. This type of plant is rather rustic and can also be cultivated in pots, but it will be necessary to take into account the greater watering requirements compared to the specimens planted in the ground.
The barberries need a very well drained soil, loose and rich in organic matter.
Berberis are rather rustic plants and are able to adapt even in less than optimal conditions. Some varieties are less resistant and in the cold season it is advisable to place the mulching material, straw or leaves on the ground surrounding the plant to help protect the roots from the effects of the harshest temperatures.
In autumn, spread organic fertilizer around the plant and in the spring it is advisable to mix it with the earth of the peat to make a mulch that helps the development of the plant.
The multiplication of this type of shrub usually occurs by seed, at the end of winter, or it is possible to carry out the operation of multiplication by semi-woody cutting in August-September, at the end of the summer. The new plants will be made to develop in pots, to allow them to acquire the right strength before being buried in the ground. For the first few years it will be necessary to be more careful to ensure that new plants are strengthened and invigorated.
Barberry - Berberis: Pests and diseases
Berberis are rather rustic and resistant plants, but even this type of shrub can be affected by pests and diseases. One of the main diseases that can affect them is the powdery mildew whose appearance can be favored by the humidity present in the environment. Aphids can attack barberries, but they can be countered in time if treated with specific insecticide products that will preserve the health of the plant.
The leaves can be attacked by Puccinia graminea, a fungus that causes rust-like stains on the foliage.