Barberry bushes (Berberis spp.) grow as dense spiny stemmed shrubs in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. Standard-sized barberries reach up to 10 feet tall, however, dwarf varieties just grow to 2 feet high. The very best barberry sorts are sterile or have a low-fertility rate so that they don’t spread into unwanted areas. Most types produce yellow flowers and red berries. Barberries work nicely when grown as hedges or in mixtures with compatible plants at a border.
Ornamental grasses create vertical elements in the yard and several varieties grow well with barberry bushes. One instance is evergreen silver grass (Miscanthus transmorrisonensis), which grows best in USDA zones 7 through 10. This variety reaches up to 3-1/2 feet tall spreading up to 4 feet wide with black leaves. The silvery flower plumes reach 5 to 7 feet high. “Prairie Fire” crimson switchgrass (Panicum virgatum “Prairie Fire”), in USDA zones 5 through 9, forms upright clumps 2 to 4 feet wide with slender pink airy flowers reaching 4 to 7 feet tall. The green leaves turn yellow in fall.
Perennial flowers appear each spring following dying down to the ground in winter, supplying seasonal shade to the barberry shrubs. Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) Grow in a variety of colors at USDA zones 3 through 10 with long arching grasslike leaves. The trumpet-shaped blossoms clustered on top of individual stalks. Each flower lasts just one day prior to being replaced by another blossom throughout the summer. Red-hot poker (Kniphofia spp.) Grows best in USDA zones 5 through 9, attracting hummingbirds into the yard. The 3-foot-tall flower stalk consists of tubular-shape flowers looming above compact clumps of grasslike leaves. The brightly coloured flowers can be found in shades of crimson, orange, peach, cream and yellow.
When creating a mixed border with barberries choose similar-sized shrubs which don’t require a lot of water. One harmonious tree is the lemon bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus), which grows well in USDA zones 9 and 10, attracting hummingbirds into the 6-inch-long, brushlike reddish flowers. This 3- to 5-foot-high bush creates flowers throughout the year using coppery leaves, that give off a strawberry scent when disturbed. Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) creates jointed canelike stems covered with lacy-looking leaves growing gradually up to 8 feet tall in clumps 4 feet wide. This semi-evergreen plant grows best in USDA zones 6 through 9.
Trees planted behind the barberry bushes shade the planting area, giving the shrubs relief from the hot sun. A showy tree suitable to grow close barberries is the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), at USDA zones 6 through 9. This deciduous tree reaches 50 feet tall in its native habitat in China and Japan, but remains smaller when planted in gardens. The heart-shaped leaves are green in addition to gray under. “Glendora White” crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica “Glendora White”) rises clusters of white blossoms throughout the summer in USDA zones 7 through 9. This deciduous tree reaches up to 25 feet tall with a canopy spreading 20 feet wide.