How to Grow Golden Barberry

This vibrant and hardy shrub is relatively low-maintenance

Golden barberry shrub with small yellow-green leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Golden Barberry Bush (Berberis thunbergii 'Aurea'), is a cultivar of the Japanese Barberry. This deciduous shrub is compact, adaptable, very hardy and shows off striking yellow foliage year-round. Red berries appear in the fall, and little yellow flowers even bloom on the bush in late spring, but they aren't particularly visible.

This might not be a good choice in gardens with young children or inquisitive pets as the stems are thorny. You should also be aware that this species is considered to be highly invasive, particularly in Northeastern America. Being responsible and doing your research before adding this to your garden is important.

Botanical Name Berberis thunbergii 'Aurea'
Common Name Golden Barberry, Golden Japanese Barberry, Aurea Barberrry
Plant Type Deciduous shrub
Mature Size Up to 4 foot
Sun Exposure Full Sun or partial shade
Soil Type Any soil type
Soil pH Can tolerate a wide range
Bloom Time Late April to early May
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones Fully hardy
Native Area China and Japan

How to Grow Golden Barberry

Barberry bushes are known for being robust and versatile shrubs, and the Golden 'Aurea' is no exception.

Providing this bush gets plenty of sunlight, it will thrive in most conditions, although it won't tolerate waterlogged soil.

Golden barberry bush with yellow-green leaves next to pavement

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Golden barberry bushes with small yellow-green leaf clusters near pavement

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Golden barberry bush branch with small circular yellow-green leaves and bud closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


Doing best in full sun, this shrub also manages well in partial shade. The leaves take on their brightest coloring, however, if they get at least six hours of direct sun a day. In a shadier position, the foliage may be a greener shade, rather than the vibrant yellow associated with this bush.


The Golden Barberry really isn't fussy when it comes to soil type. It does well in dry and moist soils. The only issue it will have is growing in soils that regularly become waterlogged. Standing water is a problem for this species, so make sure the soil is well-drained.


This shrub is reasonably drought-tolerant and only requires a middling amount of moisture to thrive. Be careful not to water unnecessarily as this can impact on the shrubs color and its vigor.

Temperature and Humidity

This shrub is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures. It can cope with hot and dry summers and harsh winters.


The hardy Golden Barberry doesn't need regular applications of fertilizer to ensure good growth. The only time you might want to use some would be in early spring, prior to the new growth starting.

For established shrubs, only fertilizing every second or third year will be sufficient.

Propagating Golden Barberry

If you want to add an additional Golden Barberry shrub to your garden, the best way to do this is to propagate from a cutting. That way, you are guaranteed to get a bush that can produce a very similar shade of foliage.

Planting from seeds can result in considerably different shading, which may not be what you are looking for.

The best time to take a cutting is in late spring, after the shrub has bloomed, or you can take a semi-hardwood variety in the summer.

Select a six-inch length from a branch that is new and healthy. Take off all the foliage on the bottom half of the cutting and pop it in a container with a sandy, light and moist mix. Dipping it in rooting hormone first can encourage roots to grow.

Cover the pot and keep the soil mix moist at all times. Roots should start to establish within a few weeks, but you'll want to wait a couple more weeks before you transfer the cutting to a container with rich, moist potting soil.


The Golden Barberry is a compact and slow-growing shrub, with a naturally rounded shape. It shouldn't require excessive pruning, but you can remove up to one third of the old branches. Any pruning you do should happen in late spring. Wait until the little flowers have finished blooming.

Being Grown in Containers

Golden Barberry can be grown in containers, but you'll have to make sure the pot you use is broad and deep enough. These shrubs can grow to around five feet wide, and they have a spreading root system.

Growing From Seeds

If you are growing from seeds from an existing Golden Barberry shrub you have in your garden, make sure to carefully remove all the berry pulp. Failure to do this can result in germination not happening, or the new shrub could be more susceptive to disease.

Bought seeds will usually require cold stratification to break their dormancy. Seeds that are ready to germinate will be full and soft.

Seedlings need to be well-watered and warm enough. Be careful with your spacing when planting as this is a bush that can take up spaces as wide as five feet.

A slow-growing shrub, be aware that germination can take two to three months.