Nandina and barberry

Asked October 6, 2017, 9:24 AM EDT

Hello! I am an AACO master gardener. Recently, a relative had a landscape company plant "southern nandina" and "Crimson Pygmy barberry" in gardens in her front yard. From readings, I have learned that Nandina and barberry are both invasive, and barberry attracts deer ticks while Nandina berries are poisonous to birds (and dogs). is it possible that the plants used in my relative's landscape are cultivars and the noxious properties have been bred out of her plants? Thank you! Elle McGee

Adding Q# 430137:

Follow up to Nandina and barberry question

According to my relative, the landscaper gave this response to the question regarding the icon earns of the plants. (1) Yes, it is absolutely true that some barberry is invasive. But the crimson pygmy only grows to a base of 2-3 feet, and does not have the same type of roots that shoot up and cause the invasion issues. Also, due to the location of installation (not anywhere near wooded area) it is not going to become invasive. (2) the Southern Nandina that is planted has NO berries, so it will not kill any birds.

Anne Arundel County Maryland shrubs invasive nandina and barberry

2 Responses

Let's talk about the most concerning plant first:
Crimson pygmy barberry: It is a Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and it definitely is invasive, though we continue to see it newly planted seemingly everywhere. Perhaps because there are not that many low, neat shrubs that are burgundy colored. Take a look at this link:
He is right that it doesn't spread far from roots, but instead it gets all over because the birds eat the fruits and then 'deposit' elsewhere.
It is noted in the Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas, and we do not recommend planting it.

The Nandina Domestica is less concerning. It is not in the Plant Invaders revised edition, and there are newer varieties that stay low, have great color and don't produce many if any berries.
We don't see one called "Southern", but it does look as if Southern Living has branded a line of low growing nandinas for sale.
You are probably o.k. with this one. If in doubt, check the tags and look it up, or just have your relative clip off any berries they produce.


Thank you SO much for your thorough, helpful and prompt response. My relative is eager to do the right thing and now has further information to act upon.