Pearl Glam® beautyberry. Photo by: Proven Winners

A plant with the audacity to bear the name beautyberry better deliver on the promise—and beautyberry doesn’t disappoint. Starting out in spring as a rather unassuming shrub, it begins to earn its praises in late summer, when other plants are fading. Abundant clusters of fruit ripen into striking purple berries that stand out boldly against the warmer color tones typical of the season. Those colorful berries persist well after the leaves fall, decorating the bare branches like shiny purple jewels.

For gardeners looking for a more subdued ornamental shrub for the fall garden, there are also lovely beautyberry cultivars with white or light pink fruit. No matter your preference, few fruit-bearing shrubs can compete with beautyberries when they are at their peak of color. The sight of those glossy berries strung along the shrub’s graceful arching branches are one of the most unexpected pleasures of the season.

On this page: Basics | Types | Growing Guide | Care and Maintenance | Beautyberry Pictures | Garden Uses

THE BASICS

Botanical name:

Callicarpa, derived from a combination of the Greek words callos (beautiful) and carpos (fruit).

Plant Type:

Deciduous shrub

Hardiness:

Varies depending on the species, ranging Zones 5 to 9

Height:

3 to 8 feet

Bloom time:

Beautyberries flower in clusters at almost every leaf node in late spring to midsummer. Although attractive, the tiny pink or white flowers often go unnoticed because they are obscured by the foliage.

Fruit duration:

The berries (which are actually drupes, or one-seeded fruits) begin maturing in late August and remain on the plant up to six weeks or longer after the leaves fall.

Is the fruit edible?

Yes, the berries are nontoxic to animals as well as humans. They are also on the menu of more than 40 species of songbirds. Despite being edible, beautyberries aren’t very palatable when eaten raw because they tend to be bitter. However, they can be cooked and sweetened to make jellies or sauces.

TYPES OF BEAUTYBERRY

There are approximately 140 species, but four in particular—one native to southeastern North America and three of Asian origin—are commonly used as ornamental garden shrubs.

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). Photo by: Studio Barcelona / Shutterstock

American beautyberry: Callicarpa americana is one of the showiest beautyberries because of its especially large magenta-purple berries that wrap tightly around the branch like beaded bracelets. This is also the largest of the beautyberries, reaching 6 to 8 feet tall with an equal spread. Native to the Southeast—from Maryland to Florida and west through Texas—it grows best in climates with mild winters and hot, humid summers (Zones 6-10).

Asian beautyberry: The three Asian species, Callicarpa japonica from Japan, Callicarpa bodinieri from China, and Callicarpa dichotoma, from Japan, China, and Korea, are more cold tolerant (Zones 5-8) than their American cousin. Other distinguishing features include a more arching or weeping form and smaller berries that hang from the branches in grape-like bunches. Of the three, C. dichotoma is the smallest, reaching only 3 to 4 feet with a similar spread.
Note: C. dichotoma has been declared invasive in the South and eastern U.S. Learn more about where this plant is invasive.

All of these species have a number of white- and purple-fruited cultivars. But if you’re looking for something unique, try C. americana 'Welch's Pink' (a pink-fruited variety), C. dichotoma ‘Duet’ (white berries and variegated foliage), and Pearl Glam®, a newer hybrid with dark purple leaves.

GROWING GUIDE

Learn more about Pearl Glam® beautyberry.

Soil:

Beautyberries prefer moist soil rich in organic matter. They aren’t particular about soil type, but good drainage is a must.

Light requirements:

Grow in full sun or light shade; but for optimum berry production, a sunny location is best.

When to plant:

Spring or fall.

Spacing:

When planting beautyberry, give it plenty of room to sprawl. The weight of the berries often cause the shrub’s flexible branches to bend, which can shade or crowd nearby plantings. As a general rule of thumb, space plants about 5 to 7 feet apart.

Propagation:

Beautyberry readily self-sows in the garden but can also be propagated from softwood cuttings. Although beautyberry is self-pollinating, some species (such as C. americana) have a better chance for cross-pollination when planted in groupings, which may result in higher fruit yields.

Is beautyberry invasive:

As mentioned, beautyberry will readily self-sow. Check with local experts to see if this poses a threat where you live, or learn more about where beautyberry may be considered invasive.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE

Water requirements:

Although established beautyberries can tolerate some drought, under extreme conditions they may drop their leaves and berries to compensate for the lack of moisture. For the best performance, be sure to maintain consistent soil moisture, giving your shrubs about an inch of water per week during prolonged dry spells.

Fertilizing:

Don’t bother. Applying too much fertilizer, especially types that are high in nitrogen, will promote foliage growth but at the expense of fewer flowers and berries.

Pruning:

Although beautyberry shrubs don’t have to be pruned to produce fruit year after year, you’ll get a more robust berry display by cutting them back in late winter or early spring while they are still dormant. Because beautyberry blooms on new wood, a hard pruning to just several inches above the ground won’t affect flower production and will keep plants looking dense and full.

Problems:

Once established, beautyberry requires very little maintenance, except for occasional pruning. They resist most foliar diseases and pests. In colder growing zones, your plants may experience some dieback in winter, but they will often resprout from the ground in spring and produce fruit that same year.

BEAUTYBERRY PICTURES

Swipe to view slides

Photo: Proven Winners

Pearl Glam®Buy now from Proven Winners
Callicarpa hybrid

Zones:

5 to 8

Height:

4 to 5 feet

Spread:

3 to 4 feet

Don't just plant beautyberry for its colorful fall fruit. This gorgeous hybrid displays purple-tinged foliage from spring until frost, providing interest all season. In late summer, the dark leaves are enhanced by white flowers that yield dense clusters of violet-purple berries. Unlike conventional beautyberries that tend to sprawl, this one has an upright habit that requires less elbowroom.

Photo by Sandy Pruden / Millette Photomedia

'Early Amethyst'
Callicarpa dichotoma

Zones:

5 to 8

Height:

3 to 4 feet

Spread:

4 to 5 feet

As the name suggests, this variety blooms and sets fruit several weeks earlier than other beautyberries, which permits gardeners with shorter growing seasons to enjoy the brilliant amethyst-colored berries long before winter arrives. Although small (only about 1/8-inch in diameter), the deep purple berries are abundant and darker than those of other cultivars. They put on their best show in October, when the green foliage turns gold and sets off their rich jewel-toned color.

Photo by: Peter Turner Photography / Shutterstock

‘Profusion’
Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldi

Zones:

6 to 8

Height:

4 to 6 feet

Spread:

4 to 6 feet

Laden with clusters of violet-purple berries from August to November, this Dutch-bred selection is particularly notable for its heavy fruit production and color-changing foliage, which emerges bronze purple in spring, turns dark green in summer, and deepens to a golden purple hue in autumn (pictured). ‘Profusion’ was the top performer in an 8-year trial of beautyberries conducted by Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens, lauded for its lasting and spectacular fruit display.

Photo by: Marietta Paternoster Garr / Millette Photomedia

'Duet'
Callicarpa dichotoma f. albifructa

Zones:

5 to 8

Height:

4 to 6 feet

Spread:

5 to 6 feet

Notable for being the first callicarpa cultivar with variegated foliage, this white-berried variety has green leaves with creamy white margins that remain attractive throughout the growing season and set off the clusters of glossy white fruit when they reach their peak. Also try C. japonica ‘Snow Storm’, a newer purple-fruited variety with variegated foliage that emerges white in spring and becomes more speckled with green as it matures. The white and green color scheme is enhanced by violet-colored leaf stems and center veins.

Photo by: Tim Ludwig / Millette Photomedia

Callicarpa dichotoma 'Issai'

Zones:

5 to 8

Height:

3 to 4 feet

Spread:

3 to 4 feet

This showy cultivar sets itself apart from its kin by remaining more compact, fruiting more heavily, and producing fruit on young plants that are only a year old. An abundance of vibrant violet-blue berries covers the shrub from September to October, causing the branches to arch to the ground under the weight of the bountiful fruit. From early to midsummer, tiny pink trumpet-shaped flowers peak out from the emerald-green foliage.

Photo by: Bob Mayer / The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

Callicarpa japonica 'Leucocarpa'

Zones:

5 to 8

Height:

4 to 6 feet

Spread:

4 to 6 feet

Considered to be one of the most prolific white-fruiting beautyberries, ‘Leucocarpa’ produces little clusters of pearl-white berries at the base of every leaf node, causing the branches to bow gracefully into a lovely umbrella shape. Pale pink flowers in summer contrast beautifully with the plant’s dark green foliage, which turns shades of pale yellow and bronze in autumn.

Callicarpa americana 'Welch's Pink'

Zones:

6 to 10

Height:

3 to 5 feet

Spread:

3 to 5 feet

Thought to be the offspring of a purple and white-fruited callicarpa, this blush-pink version possesses a subtle charm that works particularly well in cottage garden settings. It’s also more compact than the typical American beautyberry, making it a good choice to tuck into smaller gardens. Even though it’s a hybrid, 'Welch's Pink' produces seedlings that remain true to type and will also yield pink fruit.

GARDEN USES

Beautyberries make good choices for:

  • Wildlife gardens
  • Screening
  • Natural hedges
  • Focal points for fall interest
  • Cottage gardens
  • Japanese gardens

RELATED:
Shrubs 101
10 Ways to Start Building a Garden for Wildlife
Berries for Year-Round Color
12 Plants for a Colorful Summer Garden

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