Callicarpa americana is more commonly referred to as the American beautyberry, American mulberry, French mulberry, sour bush, or simply the beautyberry shrub. The beautyberry shrub belongs to the Lamiaceae family of flowering plants, and is distantly related to sage, mint, deadnettle, and basil. Its genus, Callicarpa, contains over 140 different species of shrubs and trees, characterized by an abundance of small white, pink, or purple flowers.
The American beautyberry can be planted in gardens — especially in their native regions in the southern United States — as accent plants, or may be planted in larger clusters. While the beautyberry does flower, the flowers of the Callicarpa americana are far from their most remarkable feature. Most gardeners choose to embrace this lovely shrub because of the distinctive whorls of bright to deep purple or blue berries. The berries can appear as early as August, and remain on the shrub throughout the fall and winter. Not only will this offer an attractive view, but the American beautyberry is also famous for luring birds to any garden!
Although young beautyberries require special care, established plants are also surprisingly easy to take care of.
About Beautyberry Shrubs
- The charming beautyberry is a woody deciduous shrub. This low-maintenance perennial is best known for the beautiful purple berries it produces.
- As the epithet Callicarpa americana already suggests, these shrubs are native to North America — the wild beautyberry is usually found in the southeastern areas of the United States, as well as in Cuba and Bermuda. While the American beautyberry does not perform well in Europe, the closely-related species Bodinier’s beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri), which is native to China, is a good choice for home gardeners in the United Kingdom and other European countries.
- The Callicarpa americana shrub has, as part of the Lamiaceae botanical family, potential as an insect-repellent. The crushed leaves of these shrubs have long been said to keep mosquitoes away, and farmers used to use this remedy to protect their horses and mules from these pests.
- The astringent berries of the beautyberry shrub ripen in the fall, between September and October. Although consuming them raw in large quantities is not a good idea — you can expect some gastrointestinal discomfort if you do it anyway — beautyberries are sometimes used to make jelly. They can also be used to make wine. The shrub’s roots are, meanwhile, a suitable ingredient for a nice herbal tea.
- People planning to plant American beautyberries will be happy to know that this plant is highly resistant to pests or diseases.
- Although the American beautyberry’s leaves may help to repel insects from your garden, the plant’s charming berries work as wildlife magnets throughout the fall and winter! That’s because beautyberries are rather nutritious and hold lots of moisture, too. People who would like to encourage plenty of birds to visit their gardens will enjoy having a few beautyberry shrubs around. Squirrels, raccoons, foxes, and other small animals also like to munch on the berries, and even cows will give them a try if offered the opportunity!
- In the wild, American beautyberry shrubs proliferate in a wide variety of conditions — they can be found in meadows as well as woollands and thickets.
- American gardeners will love this plant because, as long as you are located within one of its native hardiness zones, they are exceptionally easy to care for — and you won’t face any of the challenges associated with growing foreign plants, as Callicarpa americana is a true American native.
Beautyberry Bush Features: An Overview
- Callicarpa americana is a woody deciduous perennial with ovate or elliptical mildly serrated leaves that begin to grow during the early spring period, in an alternating arrangement, on long, arching, branches. The fact that these leaves are quite fragrant offers additional appeal.
- The American beautyberry bush, also called Callicarpa americana, will usually grow to be around three to six feet tall (one to two meters) and have a spread of three to six feet (one to two meters) wide when they reach maturity.
- The smooth bark of the older branches is deep brown, while younger branches have a brown-red color.
- The beautyberry bush produces pretty flowers on the young branches during late spring to early summer. These flowers are far from the shrub’s main ornamental pull, but they’re still pretty and can have pink, purple, violet, or white colors. The way in which the flowers grow gives the appearance that they’re growing in rings around the branches.
- These shrubs are moderate to fast growers, gaining between one and two feet (up to half a meter) a year until they are fully mature.
- The beautiful purple berries, which can have an iridescent appearance under the right light conditions, grow much closer to the stem of the plant than most berries do. They appear in smaller, loose, clusters that, like the flowers, encircle the plant’s stems.
- One curiosity that keen gardeners will definitely want to be aware of is the fact that these shrubs strongly appear to produce many more berries if they’re planted close to other beautyberries!
- Another thing you might like to know about the beautyberry shrub is that Callicarpa americana has very low flammability. You can use this to your advantage if you would enjoy a fire-resistant plant in your garden.
- If you appreciate the look of the beautyberry and would like to liven your garden up even more, you might like to consider adding the cultivar Callicarpa americana lactea, which produces white instead of purple berries, to your landscape. This cultivar will look stunning when planted alongside traditional Callicarpa americana bushes.
Growing Beautyberry Bushes
Beautyberry shrubs can make for a wonderful addition to almost any garden — and Callicarpa americana is a good choice whether you’re looking to create a butterfly or pollinator garden, are setting up an edible garden, or are placing your focus on designing a garden landscape that will look especially striking during the winter. These shrubs are suitable for mass planting, too, and will thrive when other American beautyberries are growing nearby.
These plants natively grow in wooded areas as well as in meadows, and they’ll do fine in full sun or partial shade. People who would like to maximize their beautyberry shrubs’ berry production should strongly consider planting them in an area where they will receive six hours of consistent sunlight a day. Doing so will increase your beautyberry shrubs’ need for water, but you’ll be rewarded with an abundance of beautiful berries in the fall.
- FREE SHIPPING
- Number of seed is Pure Live Seed, not bulk
- Species is US Native, not introduced alien
- Seed Packet designed for 15 Square Feet of Planting
- A 3’ to 6’ tall native perennial shrub featuring showy clusters of violet or magenta fruits. A spring and early summer flowering plant growing in dry to wet soils in full sun or part shade.
- FREE SHIPPING on any additional products from our store !!!
- NAME(S): Beautyberry / American Beauty Berry / French Mulberry / Beauty Bush // SCIENTIFIC NAME: Callicarpa Americana
- HARDINESS ZONE: 6 - 10 // BLOOM TIME: Flowers May – June / Berries Sept - Oct
- PLANT HEIGHT: 6 - 8' // PLANT SPACING: 6 - 8'
- LIGHT: Sun // WATER: Average // COLOR: Pink Flowers / Purple Berries
The fact that beautyberry bushes are not picky about humidity or temperature ranges makes them all the easier to care for, and in the United States, Callicarpa americana will thrive in hardiness zones six through 10.
Do you live in a colder region that sees plenty of frost? In that case, Callicarpa americana is not a good choice for your garden. The Asian beautyberry species, Callicarpa bodinieri (Bodinier’s beautyberry), Callicarpa japonica (Japanese beautyberry), and Callicarpa dichotoma (Chinese beautyberry) all produce similarly stunning berries and will thrive in your climate. The Chinese beautyberry only grows to be around four feet (just over a meter) tall, at the most, while Bodinier’s beautyberry can reach an impressive 10 feet (three meters).
As far as soil requirements go, Callicarpa americana loves rich, friable or clay-based neutral to acidic soils and is also adapted to loamy and sandy soil. These shrubs will generally perform well in diverse soil types, however, and will only have difficulty growing in especially nutrient-poor soil.
If that describes the soil in your garden, your beautyberry bushes will need supplemental fertilizer, especially during the spring. In richer soil types, some compost around the bushes is all that’s needed. In fact, fertilizing your American beautyberry shrubs excessively will cause these plants to hold back on berry production — which you definitely don’t want! These plants also benefit from mulching to support its root health.
If you’re thinking about pruning beautyberry bushes, keep in mind that they flower on fresh new branches and that the berries are present throughout the fall and most of winter. This makes picking the right timing to prune your beautyberry shrubs a little challenging. Most people choose to prune their beautyberry bushes very late during the winter — after the berries disappear and before the plant blooms.
Older branches can take on a less attractive appearance when exposed to frost, which is a prime reason for pruning, but some gardeners also prune their beautyberry bushes to create a desired shape.
Watering Beautyberry Bushes
The beautyberry bush thrives in moist soil — but can survive in slightly dryer conditions, too, especially when planted in a location that offers partial shade. If your area receives moderate rainfall of at least an inch a week, you will not need to water it, but if you have not had rain for a while, it is a good idea to offer your your beautyberry bush some extra water when you notice the topsoil is dry.
These plants are highly resistant to pests and diseases, but can develop leaf spot or black mold of consistently exposed to overly moist conditions. It is, therefore, especially important to avoid overwatering your beautyberry shrubs, and these plants should not become waterlogged.
Propagating Beautyberry Bushes
Propagating a beautyberry bush is not that hard, and Callicarpa americana is certainly a lot easier to propagate than some other plants. Like most plants, the American beautyberry bush can be propagated through cuttings. It can also be propagated from seed, and in fact, these prolific shrubs will easily reseed themselves when growing in the right conditions!
Here are the steps you need to take to propagate a beautyberry bush through cuttings, a process that should be undertaken at any time in the late spring to early summer period:
- Select a mature and healthy beautyberry bush with many stems to spare, from which you can take cuttings.
- Pick a stem that already has two to three pairs of leaves and take cuttings using a sharp and clean knife — and be sure to cut your beautyberry stem at a 45-degree angle! Your cuttings should have a length of six inches (15 centimeters).
- Dip the tip of your beautyberry bush in rooting hormone powder.
- Take your freshly cut beautyberry bush and put it in a previously prepared small pot with a moistened general potting mix. To make space for the cutting, you can use a wooden chopstick to create a small hole.
- To keep your American beautyberry bush cutting moist, cover it in a plastic bag, trapping all the moisture inside.
Your beautyberry cuttings will take about six to 10 weeks to grow big enough to transplant to the garden.
Propagating beautyberry shrubs from seed is an even more popular option. If you already have mature beautyberry shrubs in your garden, the plants will reseed naturally. However, you can also easily buy beautyberry seeds online or from any garden center.
The steps required to propagate a beautyberry bush through seeds are:
- Prepare a moderately-sized container to plant your beautyberry seeds. Don’t worry, your bush won’t live in the container forever, as the beautyberry bush can be moved outside once it is grown enough.
- Put a moist general soil in the container, ready for your seed to be planted in! Pick some ripe berries off an existing and mature beautyberry bush — it’s very important that the berries are ripe! Take the berries and collect their seeds. Plant your beautyberry bush seeds in the container.
- Beautyberry bushes will need plenty of sunlight to grow properly — keep your cutting indoors and close to a bright window during its first year.
- Continue to water your plant weekly, making sure it is moist but not to overwater it.
Callicarpa americana, the American beautyberry shrub, is a delightful plant that will reward you with stunning purple berries that last through the fall and winter. If you are growing beautyberry bushes in their native region, these plants are low-maintenance.