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.
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.
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.
A few interesting American Beautyberry facts:
- The leaves of the plant, when crushed, yield oils that serve as a natural insect repellent.
- The berries are edible, although fairly bland. Some say that Beautyberry Jelly is delicious, though we ourselves have never tried any.
- A white-berried cultivar (C. Americana var. lactea) is available at some native plant nurseries.
Do you plant and love American Beautyberry? What birds does it bring to your yard? Tell us in the comments below!