Beautyberry Shrubs

Pollinator-friendly flowers in summer; bright, songbird-sustaining berries in fall

The Callicarpa genus contains about 140 species of perennial shrubs and small trees, commonly called beautyberries. Although beautyberries bloom in late spring and early summer, setting dense flowerheads of small white, pink, purple, or red flowers, they are typically grown for the clusters of brightly colored berries that adorn their long, slender, gracefully arching branches in fall, and possibly throughout winter. Typically purple, but sometimes pink or white, the berries appear as shiny, jewel-like “beads.” The flowers sustain bees and butterflies, and the fruits are a valuable food source for songbirds.

Beautyberries are ornamental broadleaf deciduous shrubs with a rounded habit in youth that becomes cascading to weeping as they age. The shrubs usually reach 4 to 6 feet tall and wide but, in optimal conditions, may grow to 10 feet. However, they may be pruned to maintain a desired size. Along with many hybrids, 4 species of Callicarpa are most popular for home gardens: C. americana (beautyberry, American beautyberry, American mulberry), a native woodland plant in central and southeastern United States; C. japonica (Japanese beautyberry, Japanese callicarpa); C. bodinieri (bodinier beautyberry, Profusion beautyberry); and C. dichotoma (purple beautyberry), which is more compact, growing to about 3 to 5 feet.

Beautyberry’s native habitat is open meadows, thickets, woodlands, and the margins of ponds and streams. They grow easily in sunny to partial shady locations, but best flowering and fruiting will be in full sun and when planted in groups, which encourages cross-pollination. Beautyberries are long-lived and adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions. They are also drought tolerant and highly disease and pest resistant. As an added bonus, their leaves contain compounds that repel mosquitoes, ticks, and fire ants.