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Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

Posted by KMack17 6 NJ (My Page) on
Sat, Jun 23, 12 at 22:15

So I have my landscaping all planned for this fall and in trying to find somewhere to buy crimson pygmy barberry online I read that they are invasive and may not be something I should be planting. Is this overblown or is it a real issue? If pygmy barberry is something I should avoid, does anyone have any recommendations on alternatives? I'd like a low growing (approx. 2') plant with a rich, burgundy color throughout most of the year. My goal is to compliment some of the blue and gold evergreens I'll be planting.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

I have no problem with any of the berberis being invasive.

That said Heucheras are a great little plant- not quite two feet but almost and they are as trouble free as you can get.
The color choices are endless.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

I've never had a problem with it here either - most of the anti-barberry sentiment seems to come from the Eastern states. Mine has never flowered or fruited and has stayed nicely shaped though seemingly slow growing and small. But mention barberry and lots of folks head for the smelling salts and get their lecturing ready.

But mail order??? These plants start at $6.95 at local Walmart parking lot garden centers. If NJ considers them invasive you may not find them (even at Walmart) and even mail order companies might not be able to ship.

I don't know what would be a good alternative - the red color of the CP barberry is unbeatable 12 months of the year.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 24, 12 at 15:38

'Atropurpurea Nana' (syn. 'Crimson Pygmy') flowers and fruits (lightly) here. But at least a few other dwarf cultivars are offered that are claimed by introducers to be essentially fruitless.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

Berberis thunbergii IS on the invasive species list for NJ, so not a plant you should be considering. Unfortunately, there aren't any other choices that will provide that rich burgundy color over an extended period (and the barberry is also most certainly deciduous) other than some of the purple-leafed heucheras. They are evergreen in my very mild climate but not sure they will retain their foliage year round everywhere.

For the same coloring over the same period (spring leaf-out to fall leaf-drop) on a relatively compact shrub, you could consider weigela 'Midnight Wine' or 'Wine and Roses' or Physocarpus 'Little Devil'. None of these are considered invasive anywhere, to the best of my knowledge.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

You're right, it's deciduous. I've just never seen mine leafless - has always been fully leafed out when the first measureable snow falls and again when the last of the snow retreats.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

Thanks for the info. I think I'll be able to find an alternative with all of the options you gave. As good as the pygmy barberry would look in my landscape, I don't want to have a negative impact on the environment.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

Don't give up - if fruitless varieties are for sale in your area they could be great choices. We have a couple of interspecies crosses (I believe they are) such as 'Red Jewel', on which I have never seen a single fruit and they are glossy evergreens with beautiful color. Do some research locally and see what you find. There may be choices that we haven't noted here. Good luck!


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 24, 12 at 22:28

'Red Jewel' belongs to Berberis X media. The winter leaf retention is a bit half-hearted or uneven. And the coloring is not nearly as assertive as the more richly colored purple Japanese barberries. But its leaves are glossy.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

It retains its leaves almost all winter here, and the color is superb, especially against one of the blue-needled conifers. It is actually one of my favorite Berberis.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

Leaf retention for so-called evergreen (broadleaved) shrubs drops rather dramatically when you travel down from zone 9 - what formandfoliage may experience in his/her zone 9b will be significantly different from what the OP may experience in their zone 6. And at best, 'Red Jewel' is described as only 'semi-evergreen'.

But since the Japanese barberries are not even 'semi-evergreen', this hybrid may not be a bad choice for at least some rather temporary (late summer/early fall) burgundy color. Not all hybrids are sterile however - this selection may pose a risk as well with its thunbergii parentage.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

Excellent points, gardengal! My comments were more for bboy's info, since he knows my zone and it sounds like my experience has been much better than his comments would indicate. We have propagated this one for Master Gardener sales since several of us have had very good luck with it in our gardens locally. The rub with the 'evergreen' varieties of Berberis is that one doesn't get the fall color that the deciduous varieties produce. That's why I plant both kinds!


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 27, 12 at 0:24

3 ft. diameter specimen I am growing on Camano Island partly bald even now. And very thorny. It has grown rapidly, if the bare bits were pathenogenic in origin that would be surprising. And all other examples I have seen did not have full coverage either.

You cannot get the range of colors of the better purple Japanese barberries from this one, it has no strong pink tones etc. You see the same variation in other groups of purple-leaved plants, some forms are much livelier.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

Mine are very red, glossy and lush, and as I noted, stay that way for most of the year. Also, I would not describe it as a rapid grower. Wondering if they were mis-labeled? Although I think that I got them from different sources and at different times, but they were retail so who knows if from same grower. What other purple-leaved plants do you like that you would prefer? I use Loropetalums occasionally but hate the flower color. I also love Lophomyrtus ('Black Stallion' particularly) but no one seems to grow it (and not hardy in zones much lower than mine). Got Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' last fall, which had superb color through the winter, though it greens with new growth. Remains to be seen what the growth habit and vigor are, but so far, so good.


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

Broadleaved evergreen plants with that deep burgundy/maroon foliage are few and far between. And generally not very hardy much below zone 8....if that :-) Loropetalum seldom survives our winters (too cool in summer to properly ripen new growth), coprosma hates our wet and the now and again winter Arctic blasts. So far so good with Daphne houtteana and Pittosporum 'County Park Dwarf'.

But none of these are the slightest good for colder zones - maybe even marginal here :-) Outside of heucheras, there really isn't anything else that can be expected to hold burgundy foliage through all seasons. If plant breeders could come up with something that fits that criteria - a cold hardy, broadleaved evergreen shrub with burgundy or dark purple foliage - they could make a fortune!!


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RE: Alternative to crimson pygmy barberry

I agree! My garden friends and I constantly bemoan the fact that there are no good smallish purple/maroon evergreens. We have Dodonea down here for big spots (but it gets BIG). I will have to check out the Daphne and the Pitt, thx for those suggestions. I have practically ruled out Phormiums due to reversions and size issues (they all get bigger than claimed) and am trying some purple/very dk red Cordylines to see how they do, but they are a bit tropical looking for my taste. That's why I love that Berberis - it honestly does the best job of any of them so far.


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