Landscape Spotlight: Beautyberry, ‘Callicarpa dichotoma’

Posted September 26, 2019 in Plant and Tree

Beautyberry’ Callicarpa dichotoma’, compared to Callicarpa Americana grown in Zones 7-11, is a cold-hardy Asian species. The leaves of this Landscape Spotlight come in pairs, and you will find sweet, tiny flowers blooming in the spring to late summer. In the early fall, the fruit shows green clusters of berries in an equal distance down the stem of the plant. As the berries ripen, they turn a deep vivid purple color that attracts birds, wildlife, and even humans! Growing beautyberries in a group will yield better flowering results, thus better fruiting! This pretty perennial is deciduous and grows from 3-8 feet in height and spread depending on the cultivar.

Beautyberry will thrive best in a location that gets full to part shade. As a later season bonus when the cool temperatures develop, the foliage transitions to yellow which further accents the purple berries. This plant is an excellent specimen plant for the garden and has some really great qualities!

Beautyberry Care

How to Prune Beautyberry

To prune Beautyberry, use thinning and selective cuts starting with internal branches that may be rubbing against another during the summer and fall season. Otherwise, consider this shrub to be a “dieback shrub” which means it gets a rejuvenate cutting each year in the late winter to early spring before leaves have set on. You will want to do this every year since the colorful berries you come to adore in the fall season grow on new growth. Rejuvenating a shrub-like this means cutting it back to 5-6 inches from ground level. Trust us, it may seem scary, but this type of pruning will not kill the plant or harm it! In winter months, you’ll want to tuck it in for the winter with some mulch to protect it.

Best Conditions

When planting a Beautyberry, add compost, and prepare well-drained soil. Give the shrub an inch of water per week with slow, deep watering when rainfall isn’t enough. Fertilize the following spring or use compost to ground dress it.

Beautyberry Benefits in the Garden

Are Beautyberries Edible?

Yes, they are! You can actually make Beautyberry jelly with the fruit, and they are pretty easy to pick. Slide your palm under a group of them and encapsulate your hand around them and pull down the stem…voila! They will loosen and land in the palm of your hand intact. It may be tempting to eat them raw once you find out that they are edible, but some have compared the taste to cough syrup. The jelly, on the other hand, is fantastic if you harvest only the bright purple berries. Leave the white ones that haven’t turned color for birds or come back later to collect. Look here for videos on how to make the jelly.

A Natural Insect Repellant

If not for the lush beauty in early fall, plant a beautyberry shrub for its natural insect repellent properties. To use as a natural insect repellant, clip several leaves off of the bush, crush them up in your hands and rub the leaves over your skin to repel insects that are biting. This method works just the same as using citronella leaves!

Decorating with Beautyberry

In the fall, all is aglow with autumn colors of oranges, reds, and yellows, but seldom do you see this vivid purple other than in a Beautyberry display. Whether the yellow to chartreuse leaves are on the stems or have already fallen off, you can undoubtedly make some colorful and standout flower arrangements!

For best results, cut the stems in the early morning and set in lukewarm water overnight before preparing your arrangement. With the berry cluster about an inch in diameter, they make a very showy statement. If the stems have been rain-soaked, let them dry out in a cool area under shelter. Cut the stems at an angle and skin the bark up about two inches to give water exposure to soak into the cambium (green layer under the bark). To help the berries last longer on the stem, also cut the stem vertically up a couple of inches. Mix them into an arrangement with those happy sunflowers, yarrow, and dried hydrangea stems for a colorful composition.

Callicarpa can also be used in a container garden and later returned to the garden bed. Use a contrasting colored container like the one shown here and mix with fall mums, bergenia, dwarf conifers, and creeping jenny.

Designer’s Choice

Callicarpa’ Pearl Glam’ is a small, compact version that has dark purple foliage for added color interest in the garden. The size is manageable at 4-5 ft. tall and 3-4 ft. wide.

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ is a smaller and broader version growing at 3-4 ft. tall and 4-5 ft. wide. This variety has a profusion of early fruiting purple berries.

Callicarpa dichotoma f. albifructa has a white berry it displays in the fall instead of purple. Combining the varieties would be double assets in the garden, and the birds will love the extra food too! This cultivar grows 3-4 ft. tall and 4-5 ft. wide growing in full to part shade.


Accent Plants

If you want some companion or accent plants next to these purple beauties, why not try the Asclepias (Milkweed). This deciduous perennial is irresistible and crucial to the survival of our native butterflies, and it’s orange flowers make a beautiful contrast. Another one to not forget in the fall is Caryopteris; it may be small in height, but it has a pleasant blue color that attracts pollinators as well!

Designer Input

If you like the idea of a variety of colorful plantings in your landscape or would like to explore your options for a complete beautiful outdoor living transformation, MasterPLAN Outdoor Living would love to create a custom outdoor space custom for your family, home and lifestyle!

Serving the Poconos, the Lehigh Valley through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey, we specialize in creating, designing and installing unique master plans to achieve each client’s outdoor goals. When you are ready to get started with your own outdoor living space, reach out to MasterPLAN; we would love to welcome you into the family!

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