I wonder if you can help. All of our barberry bushes and many of our gold...

Asked June 16, 2014, 12:34 PM EDT

I wonder if you can help. All of our barberry bushes and many of our gold mound spirea on the east side of our Plymouth, Minnesota, home have either died or are really slow to sprout leaves this year. They've all been really healthy for the last nine years. Should we wait to see if they come back, or do they need to be replaced? We're baffled.

Hennepin County Minnesota

4 Responses

This was a terrible year for many of our woody perennials. Every one of my 12 barberries died back by at least twelve inches.

If yours are showing no signs of life by now they are dead. If there is still some growth you could consider keeping them. These plants are pretty amenable to pruning so you could cut back all of the dead wood and trim an inch or two off of the living wood - just enough to try to encourage a pleasing shape. It is likely that the plants can recover although it may take a few years for them to achieve good size and form.

Hand pruning barberries is not fun...use heavy gloves! Do not apply more fertilizer than you would normally, but lightly till around the base of the plants and work a granular, all purpose fertilizer into the soil.

I hope this is helpful. Please contact AaE again if you have further questions.

Thank you, Mary. This is very helpful. Is the same true for the gold mound spirea?

Opps! Sorry about the spirea, but the very same answer applies. This is another plant that can handle a good pruning. While you are at it you may want to consider removing some of the oldest, thickest "trunks', cutting to just above a leaf that is pointing outward. This is called rejuvination pruning:
http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/430/430-459/430-459.html
I don't think that this method works quite as well with the barberries but you may decide that you have nothing to lose with them!

Thank you so much!