Focus on Natives: American Beautyberry

Jill Staake

Earlier this week, I wrote about planting a Southeastern bird garden, and mentioned that one of the best shrubs to include is the American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). I never tire of recommending Beautyberry for southeastern native gardens – it’s the shrub that keeps on giving. In the spring, this terrific native shrub has delicate pink flowers, which yield clusters of brilliant purple berries in the late summer and fall.

American Beautyberry Flower

This is a popular bush with native plant gardeners, because it’s very easy to grow and nearly any native plant nursery carries it. It tolerates full sun and full shade, and grows quickly in dry and wet soils alike. I have yet to learn of an environment in zones 6 – 10 where this native shrub doesn’t work.

In a wilder landscape, you can leave these bushes to grow naturally to a fairly leggy tall stature topping out around 15 – 20 feet. In a smaller or more manicured landscape, prune them heavily in late winter to encourage bushier growth.

American Beautyberry in Tampa FL

Beautyberry flowers and the subsequent berries grow at the junction where leaves meet stem. The blooms are not particularly fragrant or showy, and don’t seem to be be a big nectar draw like some others, but they’re very pretty up close. The berries persist throughout the winter, even when the leaves are gone, providing food for birds and a source of color in the winter landscape.

American Beautyberry

A few interesting American Beautyberry facts:

Do you plant and love American Beautyberry? What birds does it bring to your yard? Tell us in the comments below!

  1. says

    Nice bed up against the house… How did the home-owner get talked into planting a bush that drops it’s leaves as a ‘foundation plant’?
    I totally ‘preciate beauty berry in the shade garden, I like sand holly (Ilex ambigua) a lot also…
    Calicarpa also comes with white berries, I used to garden in a yard that had both growing naturally… Still kicking myself for my failure to propagate the white berry form before the house was sold…

    • Jill StaakeJill says

      Stone –

      That’s actually my house, and I planted the Beautyberry myself. :) Here in Florida, the leaves drop and begin to grow back within a few weeks, and in the meantime the berries give it nice color. I am dying to get my hands on the white-berried version, too – one of my local native nurseries has it occasionally, and I’m definitely buying it the next time I see it!

  2. says

    Oh! Ho! Ho! I can use this plant to make a natural bug repellent for some of my plants. And it’s edible. What a useful plant. ^ ^ I can add this to the future organic garden as well as maybe the butterfly garden that I’m working on.

  3. says

    Been looking for the right plant for the shady, rocky bed in front of our house. I’m thinking this might be it.

    I used to go to the native plant garden in Palm Beach (Pan’s Garden) and Beautyberry was always one of my favorites. Thanks so much for reminding me!

  4. Karen says

    I have a large Beautyberry growing in my yard in full sun. I did not plant it so I am sure a bird deposited the seed. As a child beautyberry used to be my blueberries when I was making mud pies. The color is brilliant and catches your eye immediately. It’s odd because they used to be considered a weed. I am sorry I don’t know what bird is attracted to it. Thanks

  5. Julie Cocke says

    There are several Beautyberry plants in my yard and in the woods behind my house. They are all natural to the area. In the fall, when the migrant songbirds pass thru on their way south, the berries offer a great meal. Here in Jacksonville, FL, all the eastern thrushes are drawn to the berries, as well as Black-throated-Bluse Warblers and Red-Eyed Vireos, just to mention a few. And, of course, our resident cardinals love them.

    This is really a teriffic plant. I never have to water or fertilize, and it does not seem to matter whether they are growing in sun or shade.

  6. Patty says

    We grow Beauty Berry here in Oregon in our gardens and absolutely love it! I may have to try to make that jam you eluded to. I’ll let you know what happens if I do.

  7. says

    HI! A friend (botanist) transplanted from her backyard an American Beauty Berry bush in front of my house at my request because I saw one in my neighborhood with the purple berries, and I loved it. It’s been 3 years and it has not produced flowers or berries. It’s a great disappointment to me. A neighbor suggested that I cut it back severely, last spring, which I did. But this yielded no results. Are there male and female bushes? Will my bush ever produce those beautiful purple berries????? Thanks.

    • Jill StaakeJill (Southeast) says

      Martha – There aren’t male and female bushes for beautyberry, so that’s not your problem. Where do you live, and what kind of location do you have your beautyberry planted in? If you can provide a little more information, we’ll see if we can’t help out your poor shrub!

  8. Gladys says

    I have beauty berry bushes that are approximately 6-8 years old and have yet to have berries. What do I need to do to have berries appear? They bloom in the spring though.


  1. […] American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana): The clusters of purple berries on this shrub are sometimes the last choice for birds, depending on what else is available in the neighborhood, but by mid-winter, birds are glad to find these berries waiting for their dinner. Grow in zones 6 – 10, full sun to full shade. Click here to read a more detailed post about American Beautyberry. […]

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