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American Beautyberry: A Showstopper Native Plant

The American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is like no other plant I’ve seen. In place of bright blooms, it sports bright purple berries in beautiful clusters that line its stems.

Just when flowering plants are looking frazzled at the end of summer, Beautyberry is getting ready to shine!

American Beautyberry bush with purple berries
Clusters of bright purple berries on the American Beautyberry bush (Image source: Canva.com)

Not only is this native bush fun to look at, it is a great way to invite song birds into your yard. They love eating the berries.

7 Reasons to Add an American Beautyberry to Your Yard

1. It is a great plant for wildlife gardening

When it comes to adding plants in my yard, I’m always looking for those that benefit more than just me. I love that the berries provide food to birds and small mammals.

Here in Texas, the Mockingbird is especially fond of the purple berries. According to Audubon, the American Beautyberry is a surefire way to attract migrating warblers too!

2. The berries provide a beautiful contrast in the garden

When planning out a garden, most of us think about getting color from flowering plants. But I love that the color in this plant comes from berries and not blooms.

The prominent clusters of deep magenta berries against bright green leaves really “pop”!

Sprawling beautyberry bush with purple berries.
Sprawling Beautyberry bushes (Image source: Canva.com)

I first saw Beautyberry in one of my neighbor’s beds along the sidewalk. The berries that appeared in the fall stopped me in my tracks. I had never seen anything like it!

3. It does well in yard with shade trees

Beauty berry is naturally an understory plant. You’ll find it growing in wooded areas in nature. My dad has them growing in the forested/swampy areas around his home in rural Florida.

Beautyberry loves dappled sunlight or part shade. This is a great plant to put in a yard with shade trees where full sun plants can’t thrive.

4. The large plant is a great focal point in a bed

Beautyberry can get big. Typically 4-5 feet, but up to 9 feet in some cases. You want to give it room to grow and spread out those gorgeous draping branches.

Make it a focal plant in your garden or place it at the back of a border with plenty of room to grow.

5. American Beautyberry isn’t picky about its soil

Beautyberry prefers moist, well-drained soil. As long as you don’t let the soil completely dry out it should be content in a variety of soils.

6. It is relatively easy to find at the nursery

American Beautyberry is native to a wide swath of the Southern United States. While many native plants can be difficult to find at the nursery, this is one that they tend to carry. Yay!

Callicarpa americana
Look for the scientific name “Callicarpa americana” at the nursery.

7. It is also easy to propagate to share some with friends

I got my beauty berry plant thanks to the generosity of a fellow Native Plant Society Member. This is one plant that is just too special not to share with others.

It can be propagated from seed, root cuttings or softwood cuttings.

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How to Find American Beautyberry at the Nursery

Thankfully, American Beautyberry is one of the US native plants that is relatively easy to find at nurseries, especially those that carry a variety of natives. Just be sure you’re getting the native variety!

Look for Scientific Name: Callicarpa americana

The scientific (Greek) name for American Beautyberry is Callicarpa americana, which literally means “beautiful fruit” in Greek!

It is helpful to write down this scientific name before heading to the nursery to make sure you get the right plant.

Avoid Non-Native Beautyberry Plants

There are other non-native versions of Beautyberry plants that nurseries might carry. These Beautyberries look very similar but are native to Asia, not the US:

  • Callicarpa dichotoma – native to China, Japan, and Korea
  • Callicarpa japonica – native to Japan

In general, choosing a plant native to your area is more beneficial to insects and wildlife. They have evolved alongside these native plants and are able to eat them unlike many nonnatives.

Non-natives can also become invasive and escape cultivation more readily. Learn more about native vs. non-native plants here!

Avoid Beautyberry Cultivars

When possible, you also want to try to avoid buying cultivars of American Beautyberry. These are plants that have been modified from their original native form.

Cultivars will have an additional name such as “Pearl Glam” like this example sold through a big box store.

Cultivars aren’t necessarily bad, they just haven’t been studied enough in terms of their impact on the insects and wildlife that use them as food.

How to Grow American Beautyberry

Watering a Beautyberry Bush

Keep your Beautyberry plant watered well until established. You want the soil to be moist, but well-drained. Once established you can water every week or two during the summer, more if it is in full sun.

Pruning a Beautyberry Bush

In general, you want to let a beautybush spread and sprawl without much pruning. However, you can prune it back to about a foot above the ground at the end of winter. This will help it grow more compactly, especially for a mature plant. The plant will drop its leaves most winters.

Propagating Beautyberry Plants

You can propagate beauty berry easily by cutting soft wood cuttings in the spring. Add a bit of rooting hormone to the end of the cutting before potting. You can also grow the plant from seed. I like to get American Beautyberry seeds from Native American Seed.

Make sure to get my list of gardening tools used by the pros to help you when planting your beautyberry!

Pin this to spread the word about Beautyberry!

Common American Beautyberry Questions

Is Beautyberry poisonous?

Beautyberry is not poisonous or toxic to pets. Many birds and small mammals will eat the fruit and deer will eat the foilage.

Is Beautyberry edible?

While the fruit is not typically consumed these days. However according to Wildflower.org, Native Americans used the roots and leaves to make a tea for medicinal purposes. ForagingTexas.com has a recipe for making jelly from the berries.

What zones is Beautyberry hardy in?

American Beautyberry has a wide native growing region from Maryland west to Texas. It is hardy in growing zones 7-11.

Does Beautyberry stay green in the winter?

The American Beautyberry will drop its leaves in the winter except in the warmest of its growing regions. The berries will stay on the plant to provide color unless they are eaten first by birds!

American Beautyberry: Plant Care Printable

American Beauty Berry plant
Scientific Name:

Callicarpa americana

Native to:

Southeastern US (from Maryland south to Florida and west to Texas)

Mature Height and Width:

4-6 ft. tall / 4-6 ft. wide

Sun Conditions:

Part sun to part shade.

Water Needs:

Occasional water, with more in sunnier areas. Likes moist, well-drained soil. Don't let soil completely dry out.

Wildlife Benefits:

Birds and small mammals eat the purple berries. Mockingbirds love the berries in Texas. Berries appear in fall. Not deer resistant, as they will eat the leaves if hungry.

Instructions

Watering

Prefers moist but well drained soil. Water periodically once established to avoid soil completely drying out. Water more frequently in full sun.

Pruning

Does not like to be pruned to shape. Let its beautiful branches sprawl! You can prune it to 12" above the soil in late winter to encourage more compact growth or revive a mature plant.

Propagating

Plant can be propagated easily by taking soft root cuttings in the spring. Apply a rooting hormone to the tip of the cutting and repot.

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