Red Rocket Japanese Barberry Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Red Rocket'

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
Japanese barberry 'Red Rocket'


The 'Red Rocket' is a striking plant beloved for its vibrant foliage and visual impact in the landscape. This plant showcases leaves that are a deep, reddish-purple that brings a splash of color throughout the seasons. In the spring, fresh new foliage emerges in a bright, almost luminescent red hue, maturing to a deeper purple as the seasons progress. Come autumn, the leaves may sport hints of red and orange, providing a picturesque display. The plant has a compact, dense habit with small, oval-shaped leaves that line its thorn-bearing branches. During the flowering season, tiny, yellow flowers appear, offering a subtle contrast against the dark foliage. These flowers may later develop into small, bright red berries that attract birds and other wildlife, adding yet more interest to this vibrant plant. Overall, the 'Red Rocket' is appreciated for its year-round beauty and the dramatic flair it lends to any planting.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Synonyms

      Red Rocket Barberry, Japanese Barberry.

    • Common names

      Berberis thunbergii var. atropurpurea 'Red Rocket'.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Japanese barberry is not generally considered highly toxic to humans, but it may cause mild stomach upset if ingested in large quantities. There are no significant reports of severe poisoning or fatalities in humans due to consumption of parts of this plant. However, as with any non-food plant, it's wise to avoid ingesting it as a precaution.

    • To pets

      Japanese barberry is also considered to have low toxicity to pets. However, like in humans, ingestion of the plant parts, particularly in significant amounts, may lead to gastrointestinal upset in animals such as dogs and cats. Symptoms could include vomiting, diarrhea, or a general malaise. Always monitor your pet's behavior and consult a veterinarian if you suspect they have ingested any part of this plant and are showing symptoms of distress.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      4 feet [1.2 meters]

    • Spread

      4 feet [1.2 meters]

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Aesthetic Appeal: Adds vibrant red foliage to landscapes, particularly striking in the fall when leaves turn a fiery red.
    • Low Maintenance: Once established, requires minimal care beyond occasional pruning to maintain desired shape.
    • Drought Tolerant: Can survive in dry conditions, making it suitable for xeriscaping and water-efficient gardens.
    • Erosion Control: Helps stabilize soil on slopes and prevent erosion with its dense root system.
    • Wildlife Habitat: Provides shelter and food for birds and small animals with its dense foliage and berries.
    • Privacy Screen: Grows thickly, which makes it an excellent natural barrier for privacy or to block unsightly views.
    • Year-Round Interest: Offers visual interest throughout the year with changing leaf colors and persistent winter berries.
    • Hardy: Resistant to many pests and diseases, reducing the need for chemical treatments.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Privacy Screening: 'Red Rocket' can be used to create a dense, colorful hedge that provides privacy in residential gardens.
    • Erosion Control: Its robust root system helps to stabilize soil on slopes and prevent erosion.
    • Winter Interest: With its persistent red foliage and berries, it adds color and interest to otherwise bare winter landscapes.
    • Photography: The striking colors of 'Red Rocket' make it a favorite among photographers, especially during autumn.
    • Barrier Planting: The thorns of 'Red Rocket' can be used as a deterrent to unwanted foot traffic or to keep animals out of certain areas.
    • Crafts: The branches can be used for floral arrangements or as a natural crafting material for wreaths and other decorative items.
    • Natural Food Dye: The Berberis thunbergii berries can be used to produce natural dyes for fabrics or crafts.
    • Theme Gardens: 'Red Rocket' is a popular plant for creating specific landscape themes, such as a Japanese garden or a foliage-focused design.
    • Culinary Garnishes: Although not widely known for its culinary use, the foliage may sometimes be used as a garnish for its aesthetic appeal.
    • Insect Habitat: The dense foliage can provide shelter and breeding grounds for beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Japanese Barberry is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Japanese Barberry is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Vibrancy: The 'Red Rocket' Barberry, with its striking red foliage, symbolizes vibrancy and energy, reflecting its intense color and the lively visual interest it brings to landscapes.
    • Protection: Barberries are known for their thorns, which historically have been associated with protection and defense, symbolizing the plant's ability to guard and secure boundaries.
    • Resilience: As a hardy shrub that can withstand various environmental conditions, the 'Red Rocket' Barberry symbolizes resilience and the capacity to endure challenges.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring-Early Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    The Red Rocket Barberry should be watered regularly, especially during prolonged periods of drought or extreme heat. Give the plant 1 to 2 inches of water per week, ensuring that the soil is moist but not waterlogged. It's best to water deeply and less frequently rather than giving the plant shallow watering more often. During the growing season, increase watering if the weather is particularly hot and dry, and reduce watering in the cooler months as the plant's water requirements diminish.

  • sunLight

    The Red Rocket Barberry thrives in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. It performs best when it receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, which encourages the most vibrant foliage color. Plant it in a location where it can enjoy the morning sun and some light afternoon shade for optimal growth and color development.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Red Rocket Barberry is a hardy plant that can withstand a wide range of temperatures, from a maximum of around 95 degrees Fahrenheit during the hot summer months to a minimum of -30 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. The ideal temperature range for optimal growth is between 60 degrees and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • scissorsPruning

    Prune the Red Rocket Barberry to maintain its shape and remove any dead or damaged branches. The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring before new growth starts. Pruning can be done annually, but the plant also tolerates less frequent pruning if desired. Shape pruning should aim to encourage airflow through the plant and maintain the desired size.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Japanese Barberry 'Red Rocket' thrives in well-draining soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5. A mix of loamy soil with compost and peat moss can help achieve these conditions, providing good fertility and moisture retention while ensuring adequate drainage. Mulch can be added to help maintain soil moisture and temperature.

  • plantRepotting

    The Japanese Barberry 'Red Rocket' doesn't require frequent repotting as it grows well in outdoor settings. If grown in a container, it should be repotted every 3-4 years to refresh the soil and provide room for growth.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Japanese Barberry 'Red Rocket' is tolerant of a wide range of humidity levels and does not require specific conditions, making it versatile for different outdoor environments. It generally prefers average to dry air conditions over excessively humid ones.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Not ideal for indoor growth; requires full sun.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in well-draining soil, full sun, and prune as needed.

    • Hardiness zone

      4-8 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Japanese barberry 'Red Rocket' begins its life cycle as a seed, which germinates in favorable conditions of moisture and temperature, usually in the spring. The seedling stage follows, during which the plant establishes its root system and first true leaves. As it enters the vegetative stage, the plant develops a robust branching structure, thorns, and characteristic reddish-purple foliage. Upon reaching maturity, which can take several years, it produces flowers—small, yellow, and clustered—that are pollinated by insects. Following pollination, the flowers develop into small, bright red berries, which contain the seeds for the next generation and are dispersed by birds and other animals. The plant can also spread vegetatively through root suckers, leading to the formation of dense thickets if not managed.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-Early Summer

    • The Japanese barberry 'Red Rocket' can be propagated by semi-hardwood cuttings. This popular method typically takes place during the summer months. Choose a healthy, non-flowering shoot and cut a piece around 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long, making sure it has several leaves. Strip the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting, and dip the cut end into rooting hormone powder to enhance root development. Plant the cutting in a well-draining rooting medium such as a mix of peat and perlite, ensuring that the stripped leaf nodes are buried. The cutting should be kept in a warm, humid environment with indirect light. After a few weeks, roots should develop, at which point you can gradually acclimate the new plant to less humid conditions before transplanting it into the garden.