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Once they are well established, barberries are able to tolerate fairly dry conditions, especially if they are in soil that has been improved by adding some organic material to help retain moisture. Supplemental watering is necessary only when they are first planted, in times of severe drought, or in the fall just before the ground freezes if there has been insufficient rain. In the hottest summer months, drought conditions may cause leaf drop and even some dieback. At these times run a sprinkler for 20 to 30 minutes once a week, or turn on your soaker hose system every week or 10 days if the soil under the mulch is dried out. For information on products see the file on Choosing Watering Equipment
Because they are light feeders, barberries do just fine with a yearly application of an all-purpose, slow-acting granular fertilizer. In either the fall or early spring sprinkle a handful or so on the soil under each shrub out to the ends of its branches (the drip line) for the rain to soak in. Well-established, older barberries that are routinely mulched do not need regular fertilizing. For more information see the file for Fertilizers
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For more information see the files on Fertilizing Trees and Choosing Fertilizers
A layer of 2 to 4 inches of some attractive organic material on the soil over the shallow roots of Japanese barberry helps control weeds and retain soil moisture. Use chopped (not whole) leaves, wood chips, dried grass clippings or shredded bark. As it breaks down over time this material improves the soil by increasing its organic content. Plan to replace the mulch as it disappears over time, especially as winter approaches. For more information see the file on Using Mulch
Barberries do not require pruning except to remove dead, broken or diseased branches and to lightly shape the shrub. This can be done anytime. Because they respond well to shearing they make good hedges. Prune or shear lightly or pinch back new growth in the spring after bloom to encourage branching, and to shape hedges.
Rejuvenate neglected, aged woody shrubs by cutting the thickest woody stems back to within 3 or 4 feet of the ground to stimulate the development of new shoots. Do this when shrubs are dormant, in late winter. As the plants mature, they develop several stems that are virtually bare of leaves except at the very top. If you cut these stems right to the ground, new growth will be bushier. For more information see the files on Pruning Shrubs and Choosing Pruning Tools
Winter Protection for Barberry
In northern areas or exposed sites protect barberries from drying winter winds. Use white, polyspun garden fleece, snow fencing, burlap, evergreen boughs or some other material to shield the shrub from the wind. Never use plastic which cuts off essential air circulation. See the files on Winter Protection For Plants and Plant Protection Supplies