When you think of a fall garden, what comes first to mind? Is it the rich colors of autumn mums? Or the fiery leaves of Sumac? If your immediate fall associations turn to crimson, orange and gold, you’re not alone! But if you stop there, you could be missing out on the delightful and elegant purple of the Beauty Berry.
With a bold name like Beauty Berry, you might have high expectations for this plant. You might even be skeptical of the color. But when you see this plant in all its regal glory, you won’t be disappointed.
Beauty Berry delivers on the promise of its name, with clusters of striking purple berries that fully ripen to peak charm and allure in fall. There are even cultivars that offer pure white or pale pink berries for more a Victorian mood, but whichever you choose, few plants can compete with the sight of this one in your garden.
In our Spotlight series we highlight seasonal plants that add a truly special and unique touch to your landscape – not just during their peak season, but all year long, too. Today we’re sharing the incredible and gorgeous Beauty Berry, a plant that begins with unassuming flowers in spring and bursts into its namesake majesty through late summer and fall.
A Berry By Any Other Name…
The scientific name for the more common Beauty Berry moniker is Callicarpa, which, unsurprisingly, means “beautiful fruit.” It is also sometimes referred to as French Mulberry, though it has no actual relationship to a true mulberry.
But whatever you call it, this sparkling jewel of a plant should be part of every home’s landscape.
Beauty berry flowers in late spring, in miniature blooms of pink or white. These tiny flowers go easily unnoticed due to the shrub’s lush and lemony-green foliage, but an attentive gardener will appreciate these almost-hidden gems. But it’s when these clusters of flowers mature into shiny, purple fruit that the shrub really earns its praise.
Berries typically become the main attraction in late August, when its long, arching branches become laden with the vivid clusters of fruit. You’ll enjoy this plant’s autumn beauty for six weeks and longer after all the leaves have fallen.
But your enjoyment doesn’t stop at the gorgeous sight greeting you in your garden. This plant is also a must-have for wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers. The berries are on the menu of more than 40 species of songbirds, including robins, cardinals, finches, warblers, catbirds and more. Place one of these beauties outside or near a window and you’ve got your own built-in nature show.
It’s not just birds that enjoy dining on these berries, either. Opossum, squirrels, foxes and raccoons will also make a meal of them, bringing their antics and spirit with them.
In fact, even humans can eat the berries! In their raw form they can be quite bitter, and they’re not juicy like a blueberry, but they can be cooked and sweetened to make jellies, jams and sauces. Now that’s something you can put on a Thanksgiving menu to impress the family!
Care & Maintenance
Like most of our seasonal favorites, Beauty Berry is a low maintenance addition to your landscape. In fact, it can grow wild along the edges of woodland areas quite nicely with no help from human companions.
In your garden, it prefers moist but well-drained soil. It can even tolerate clay soil as long as it doesn’t stay wet for too long. It can tolerate some dry conditions, too, but to enjoy the full fruits of this shrub’s labor, keep it well-watered during hot, dry months.
For the best display of color and berries, plant in full sun in a richly organic soil and you’ll never have to fertilize again. Beauty berry will also thrive in partial shade though you will likely get fewer berries. Protect it during the winter months with a warming layer of mulch, and prune down in winter or early spring if you choose, and it will remain compact and retain a neatly rounded shape.
Beauty berry is highly resistant to pests and diseases, and once established it’s a breeze to care for. Just keep it watered when dry and you’ll be rewarded with may seasons of delight.
Why We Love It
Long before this plant became a garden favorite, the roots, berries and leaves of Beauty Berry were used by Native cultures to treat everything from fevers to rheumatism and colic. In the early 1900s, farmers used crushed leaves rubbed on their skin and under the harnesses of their horses to repel mosquitos. To date, these shrubs are often used as a natural mosquito repellant.
In fact, some studies have found compounds in beauty Berry also repelled ticks and fire ants. Plus, with all the birds and other wildlife you’ll bring to your garden, those nagging little buggers don’t stand a chance!
Beauty Berry is easy to seed indoors if you want to propagate it, but you don’t need a green thumb at all because it will liberally reseed itself as soon as its berries drop.
It’s gorgeous enough to stand on its own as a focal point, but it also works beautifully in borders. At anywhere from three to ten feet tall, with a five foot spread, this shrub is perfect for gardens both large and small, as carefully pruned additions or sprawling groups of plantings.
And for the DIYers, cut branches with their bold and glossy berries are an excellent addition to dried floral arrangements.
If you haven’t yet enjoyed the many delights of the Beauty Berry shrub, contact us for a consultation and let’s talk about how we can design some truly stunning and unique color into your landscape. From low maintenance plantings, to four-season joy, we can create an outdoor space that you’ll want to be part of all year long.