If you’re looking for a plant that’s easy to grow and provides nearly year-round interest, try growing beautyberry. Beautyberry is a medium-sized, deciduous shrub that grows in a pretty cascading umbrella shape.
Beautyberry’s green foliage is speckled with lavender-pink flowers in spring, then the shrub lives up to its name with a spectacular show of intense purple or white berries in fall that last after the leaves have fallen.
Beginning gardeners can’t help but succeed with beautyberry since it’s drought-tolerant, doesn’t need fertilizer, doesn’t require special pruning, and is virtually unharmed by diseases and pests. All in all, beautyberry is about the most low-maintenance a plant you can find.
The many varieties of beautyberry are generally divided into two groups:
American Beautyberry: (Callicarpa americana) is native to the southeastern United States where it can occasionally be spotted growing wild. American beautyberry grows quickly to 5’ tall or more and is winter hardy to zone 7. American beautyberry has been cultivated into varieties with purple or white berries.
Asian Beautyberry: Japanese beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica) and Chinese beautyberry (C. dichotoma and C. bodinieri) are cold tolerant to zone 5 but a little less heat tolerant than American beautyberry. They are generally smaller (4’ tall) than American varieties and have smaller berries, but the berries are less concealed by the leaves. Purple or white fruited varieties are available. Asian beautyberries easily spread by dropping seeds and can sometimes become invasive.
Beautyberry Growing Conditions
Light: Beautyberry plants prefer full to partial sun. While they produce more berries in full sun, beautyberry is naturally suited to the edges of woodland areas. The more sun plants receive, the more water they will need.
Soil: Beautyberry does best in fertile, well-draining soil but will do fine in all but the poorest of soils.
Water: An inch per week is ideal, but beautyberry can tolerate some drought.
Beautyberry Growing Tips
Planting: Beautyberry can be planted in spring or fall. Plant only as deep as the root ball. Most of the time, you can plant beautyberry in native soil, though extremely poor soil should be amended with compost.
Fertilizing: Hold off on fertilizing beautyberry, as too much fertilizer will result in fewer berries.
Irrigation: Water beautyberry during periods of drought.
Pruning: You don’t really need to prune beautyberry, though fast growing varieties can be cut back pretty severely to keep them in shape. In colder zones, some gardeners treat beautyberry like a perennial and cut it nearly to the ground in winter. Since blooms occur on new wood, prune beautyberry while dormant in late winter or early spring.
Propagating: Beautyberry can be propagated by seeds or from cuttings. Look around the bottom of your beautyberry for seedlings to transplant.
Insects and Disease: Beautyberries are pretty much problem free!