Barberries (Berberis thunbergii) have brilliant red fall color and, as a result, were widely sold and planted throughout the Chesapeake watershed. They also escaped our gardens and are widely considered invasive.
The good news is there is a terrific native alternative … the blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Atlantic’). Blueberries have bright red fall color and more. Small white bell shaped flowers bloom in spring followed by blueberries in summer. Birds love the berries. Like barberry, blueberries grow in full sun or partial shade and are similar in size. Unlike barberry, blueberries do not have thorns and are a lot easier to plant, prune and care for.
Blueberries thrive in moist acidic conditions so planting them where azaleas and rhododendrons do well is a recipe for success. In most nurseries, you can find blueberries in the fruit section but they really make great shrubs.
At Nuts for Natives, we usually suggest adding native plants to your garden; not removing your existing plants. Barberry is an exception though — this is a shrub that has been widely spread by birds who eat its berries. Most experts recommend removing this one.
Spring or Fall is a great time to trade barberries for blueberries.
For more information:
Great photos of the stages of blueberry here.
Please note the photo at the top of this post is a stock photo.