Callicarpa or Beautyberry is a fantastic though often underused shrub that is covered with colorful berries in the late summer and fall. Callicarpa dichotoma, Purple Beautyberry is one of the most popular varieties. Vibrant lavender-purple berries line the arching stems of this 3-4 foot deciduous shrub from late August through the fall and into winter. Stunning!
Every fall around this time people visiting the Viette gardens begin to ask, "What is that beautiful shrub along the driveway with the bright purple berries?" You can't miss it! The berries are brilliant! They catch your eye even from a distance and in the late fall, when the leaves drop, the show of vivid purple berries is even more spectacular! The berries persist well into winter and the leafless, fruit laden branches can be used to create attractive natural arrangements for indoors and out.
There is also a beautiful white berried variety, Callicarpa dichotoma var. albifructus, which produces pure white berries. Both the white and purple varieties are outstanding in the garden and in my mind, should be used much more than they are in our gardens. When planted en masse, the effect is stunning!
American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, is a large understory shrub that is native to the southern United States. It is taller and more open than the C. dichotoma and is commonly found at the edge of swampy areas and in moist woodlands. This species also produces attractive clusters of lavender-purple berries in the fall.
Callicarpa is easy to grow and the berry production is very reliable year after year. Plant them in full sun or light shade and fertilize them with Plant-tone organic fertilizer in early spring and again in the fall. Since they produce flowers and fruit on the current year's growth, pruning and thinning should be done in the early spring before growth begins. They can be cut back to 8"-12" from the ground just like Buddleia (Butterfly bush).
There are many other wonderful shrubs like hollies, Euonymus, Nandina, Pyracantha, and Viburnum which bear a wealth of brilliant berries that bring welcome relief from the drabber hues of winter. Besides looking beautiful in the garden, many of these berries are tasty to the birds in your backyard and also make attractive decorations for fall and at holiday time.