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The compact barberry is a spreading shrub growing to an average size of 18-30 in. tall and 2-4 ft. wide. Its glossy evergreen foliage is comprised of leaves divided into 7-9 rich green leaflets that have prickly spines on the margins. Small clusters of intense yellow flowers are noticeable in early spring; attractive powder coated blue-purple fruit mature in summer.

This California native cultivar is one of the best choices for shady and moist areas in the Western Sycamore garden palette. It becomes a very attractive ground cover for small spaces and as an understory plant to larger shrubs and trees; new growth and cool winters lead to pleasing red foliage character. Its best growth occurs on loamy soils with good drainage and little moisture stress.

Water Needs

The compact barberry does best in garden landscapes without too much moisture stress. Young plants need moderate amounts of moisture throughout the year; even mature plants grow best with regular deep irrigation in the summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water, however, this species does best at the higher end of the moisture range.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Moderate Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 3

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 2x to 3x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 2x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 2" to 3" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 2" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3"

Range of supplemental summer water: 9"-16"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-15"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Ground cover, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Compact
Growth Rate: Slow
Height: 18 in. - 24 in.
Width: 3 ft. - 5 ft.
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Foliage Color: Dark green
Flower Color: Yellow
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Moist soil, Loam, Clay, Acidic soil
Exposure Adaptations: Morning sun, Moderate shade, Fog
Function: Wildlife value, Foundations, Foliage accent plant, Flowering accent plant, Borders, Banks, Attracts butterflies


Prune by cutting back as much of the new-ish growth as desired, and shape to encourage long-term nice form and branching pattern in May (1). Pruning of older stems should always either fully remove them or cut back to 12" or lower from the ground to maintain the plant's attractive form.



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