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The Creeping barberry is a tough and attractive spreading shrub growing to an average size of 1.5-2 ft.tall and 2-3 ft. wide, then very slowly spreading. Its evergreen foliage is comprised of leaves divided into 5-7 dull green leaflets that have prickly spines on the margins. These leaflets turn bright purple and red during the winter for pleasing seasonal color. Clusters of intense yellow flowers are showy in early spring; attractive powder coated blue-purple fruit mature in summer.

Creeping barberry is mostly native to Northern California as well as the Sierra Nevada where it grows as an understory shrub in the Yellow Pine and Red Fir forest plant communities. Its natural range extends to other northwestern states and Canada. While it does not naturally occur in warm inland zones of Southern California, it has proven to be a hardy and reliable shrub across the Inland Empire when grown in well-drained loamy soils, in light shade with low to moderate amounts of supplemental water during summer. This durable and handsome shrub grows well within the sheltered canopy of native oaks, sycamores and western redbud in residential gardens.

Water Needs

The Creeping barberry does best in garden landscapes without too much moisture stress. Young plants need moderate amounts of moisture throughout the year; mature plants grow well with periodic 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 marked 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: Spreading, Compact
Growth Rate: Slow
Height: 1.5 ft. - 3 ft.
Width: 2 ft. - 3 ft. then slowly spreading
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Foliage Color: Pale green
Flower Color: Yellow
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Loam, Clay
Exposure Adaptations: Morning sun, Moderate shade, Filtered or indirect sunlight, Drought
Function: Wildlife value, Foliage accent plant, Banks, Attracts butterflies, Small spaces


Berberis repens is a slow growing but lovely groundcover that rarely needs any pruning. If pruning to clean up, you can do so in spring after they are finished flowering (3).



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