You might have noticed that with the arrival of fall that one of our very best Texas native plants has started putting on its best show. American beautyberry, Callicarpa sp, is best known for its fantastic display of fall berries; most often in a stunning shade of purple.
Beautyberry is an excellent native for Houston gardens, as you’ll find it growing wild all over The Woodlands area. This understory shrub is deciduous (meaning it loses its leaves in winter) and produces very small lavender colored flowers in spring, followed by bright purple berries. The berries first appear in late summer and then mature to their full color come early fall. The berries are an important source of food for many birds and are also favored by deer. We have seen a few folks make beautyberry jelly, although we can’t attest to the flavor!
Fully grown, plants will reach about 8-feet tall and just as wide. You’ll want to plant your beautyberry in dappled shade, or morning sun with afternoon shade. It can often be challenge to find color that thrives in shady conditions, so the bright colored berries are a welcome addition to a shady garden.
Plants are adapted to a variety of soils and can even thrive in heavy clay. Beautyberry is an excellent choice for dry shade gardens as plants are very drought tolerant once established. While they do prefer a bit more acidic soil, you can simply fertilize with an acidifying fertilizer in spring and early fall.
There are several different color variations and cultivars available ranging from deep iridescent purple, to burgundy, to lavender and even pearl white. Some of the varieties we currently have include ‘Woodlanders’, which sports beautiful burgundy/purple berries; ‘Wine Spritzer’, a new variety with leaves that are heavily mottled with green and cream on wine-colored stems; ‘Duet Variegated’, which offers high contrast variegated foliage. We also have the native species of both American and Mexican beautyberry. If you’re looking for something specific, feel free to give the garden center a call first to confirm availability.