Dirt on Gardening

A recent visitor to my garden commented on new shrub I have that really stands out this time of year – Callicarpa dichotoma.

Commonly referred to as “purple beautyberry,” Callicarpa dichotoma makes its presence known in autumn with its tiny but brilliantly purple berries that seem to glow in late autumn sunsets. The Callicarpa species are known for their striking colored fruit. The shrubs die back during the winter and flower on new growth each season.

The native “American beautyberry” grows in the South in zones seven and eight, and sometimes in zone six, but there are other species that grow well in the Ozarks. In addition to the native beautyberry, many other beautyberries are also best suited for zone six and above which may mean they are not hardy in some parts of the Ozarks. However purple beautyberry is hard in zones five through eight.

A native of China and Japan, purple beautyberry has arching branches that are quite distinctive among shrubs. The branches of the shrubs seem to hold up the white flowers and purple berries against the one to three-inch light green shrub leaves.

Purple beautyberry blooms in late June through August with tiny white or purple flowers. The flowers become small, eighth-inch diameter, round purple fruit in late September. The fruit persists until November. The fruit sits above the leaves in clusters and is very noticeable.

Callicarpa dichotoma does well in any type of well-drained soil and in full sun. Plants can be cut to within six inches of the ground if they become ragged looking in the winter. The shrub should be fertilized after cutting, and nice, new growth will emerge in the spring.

This shrub reaches about four foot in height and width. It can be grown in masses or as a specimen in the garden. “Albifrunctus” is a species of purple beautyberry that reaches six to eight feet in height and width and has white fruit in the fall.

Also known to grow in the zones six to eight with the possibility of growing in zone five is Callicarpa bodinieri “Bodinier Beautyberry,” another purple fruiting beautyberry that has a loose and unkempt growing style. This plant is six to 10 foot high and wide

Japanese beautyberry, Callicarpa japonica, is very similar to purple beautyberry. This beautyberry has purple fruit, but the plant grows four to six feet high and wide with a looser habit that requires pruning to keep the plant groomed.

Any of the beautyberry shrubs, chosen for the right zone of your garden, can make a stunning addition, but the purple beautyberry is the shrub that’s known to have the best shape with the ideal hardiness for the Ozarks.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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