Invasive Japanese barberry should not be planted

Backyard Q&A

April 06, 2003|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

A landscape designer has recommended that we plant Japanese barberry as a hedge plant in our front yard; however, my neighbor says it is an invasive plant.

Is this true?

Yes, Japanese barberry is considered an invasive plant and is on many state invasive-plant lists. It was introduced to the United States more than 100 years ago and has now invaded natural areas throughout the Eastern United States. While it does not seem to be as prolific as the multiflora rose, it is nonetheless a major problem and should not be planted. It has already invaded all or most of our parks.

While your designer may be recommending a barberry cultivar that is not known to be invasive, I would recommend that you ask for an alternative plant. There are several plants that will grow to about the same size, and under the same conditions as the Japanese barberry. By planting one of these, you can reduce the further spread of invasive plants.

I was looking through catalogs for petunias to plant this summer and saw a plant called 'Million Bells.' Is this a petunia and does it grow well here?

'Million Bells' is a hybrid plant that is commonly called a petunia and is often sold as a petunia. Whether it is technically a petunia is not clear. The typical garden petunias are hybrids of three South American petunia species. The correct scientific name for this group of plants is Petunia x hybrida. There are hundreds of different petunias in this category. On the other hand, the 'Million Bells' is generally put in the genus Calibrachoa, and my research shows at least one of its parents is native to the United States. So, technically it is probably not a petunia, but it may certainly look like one to most people.

'Million Bells' does best in well-drained soil. Overwatering may lead to disease. It is a heavy bloomer and feeder. Be sure to provide rich soil and adequate fertilizer throughout the growing season.


1. This is a good time to remove invasive shrubs from your landscape. The soil is soft and moist, which makes for easy digging. It is also a good time to plant new shrubs.

2. Clump-forming perennials are emerging from the ground. Most can be easily divided as soon as the new foliage is seen.

3. Be sure to harden off your indoor-grown seedlings before planting them outside. Plants should be gradually exposed to outdoor conditions over five to seven days.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site www.hgic.

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