Native Shrubs for Birds: American Beautyberry

American Beautyberry is a versatile, easy-to-grow native shrub that birds love. Plant it in zones 6 to 10 and enjoy the flowers and berries in spring and fall.

I never tire of recommending American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) 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.

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American Beautyberry FlowerJill Staake

How to Grow American Beautyberry

This is a popular shrub with gardeners, because it’s very easy to grow and nearly every 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 to 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 to 20 feet. In a smaller or more manicured landscape, prune them heavily in late winter to encourage bushier growth.

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American Beautyberry in Tampa FLJill Staake

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.

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American BeautyberryJill Staake

Facts About American Beautyberry

  • 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 beautyberry jelly is delicious, though I have never tried any.
  • A white-berried cultivar (C. Americana var. lactea) is available at some native plant nurseries.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.