by Jennifer Poindexter
Would you like to introduce a new berry to your landscape? Have you considered growing American beautyberries?
This plant is a three to eight foot tall shrub which produces purple or white berries. Its botanical name is callicarpa.
When translated, it means beautiful fruit. Though the plant isn’t known for being a show stopper, the fruit it produces sure is.
Once the shrub dies back and the leaves fall, the fruit will still remain for a few extra weeks. Would you like to know how to grow this plant around your home?
Come along with me as I share what you should know to grow American beautyberries:
Growing Conditions for American Beautyberry
American beautyberry (also known as American mulberry) is a hardy plant in zones seven through eleven.
The growing conditions for these shrubs are consistent with most plants. The American beautyberry shrub likes to grow in light shade.
If you live in a cooler climate, you might be able to plant these berries in full sun. However, they’ll need more water.
A growing location also should have well-draining soil. It isn’t necessary to amend the soil prior to planting unless it’s of extremely poor quality.
If this is the case, add some compost to the dirt during the planting process. If not, you can hold off on adding any type of fertilizer until the following spring.
By planting this shrub in the right planting zone, under the right lighting, and in well-draining soil, you’re giving it the greatest chance at beginning its life on the right foot under your care.
How to Plant American Beautyberry
There are a few different methods to growing American beautyberries. The first method is to allow the plant to reseed on its own.
Once the fruit becomes overly ripe, they’ll drop, and the seeds easily germinate and take root on their own.
However, if you’d like a more controlled method of growing this plant, you may grow it from seed with a little more intentionality.
You may either purchase seeds for this plant or collect overly ripe berries from a mature plant. Remove the seeds from the berries and plant them in their own small growing containers.
Fill the containers with well-draining potting soil and ensure the dirt is moist without becoming overly saturated.
One way to do this is to spray the soil with a spray bottle of water. Plant the seeds right beneath the soil and lightly cover them.
Place the containers in an area with bright light and keep the seeds warm. Ensure the soil remains evenly damp.
When the seeds have sprouted, continue to care for them until they form their true leaves. It should take approximately three months for the beautyberries to be ready to move outdoors. Transplant the new shrubs when all threat of frost has passed in the spring.
Some choose to grow American beautyberry indoors for an entire year to ensure the plant is strong enough to survive.
Should you choose this option, don’t transplant the shrub until the winter after the one year mark. This is when the plant is dormant and can be transplanted with ease.
You may also plant American beautyberry by directly sowing the seeds into the growing location. If you use this method, be sure to plant the seeds either in the fall prior to the first frost or in spring after the last frost.
Another method to growing American beautyberry is to propagate via cutting. You may remove a six inch cutting from a mature shrub.
Ensure it’s a softwood cutting which means that it isn’t brand new growth, but it’s still flexible. Once you have the cutting, remove any leaves from the bottom.
Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and place the cutting in a container filled with well-draining soil.
Wrap the container in plastic to provide a greenhouse effect. Spritz the soil with a bottle of water on a regular basis to ensure it remains evenly damp without being too saturated.
Keep the cutting in a location with bright, indirect lighting. Over the next month, the plant should form roots.
Again, you have two choices. The first is to wait until the plant forms true leaves, harden it off, and transplant outdoors in its permanent location.
The second option is to grow the shrub in a container for one year and transplant it outdoors the following winter to give it time to be well-established before making the move to its permanent growing location.
Our last way to grow American beautyberry is to purchase a plant. Once you’re at home, transplant the purchased shrub in a growing location with all the necessary requirements.
Ensure you dig a hole deep enough to support the root ball of the plant. Backfill the hole and water the shrub to help the roots become established.
These are a few different ways to go about growing American beautyberry around your home. Select the method that you’re most comfortable with and begin the process of adding this beautiful berry to your landscape.
Caring for American Beautyberry
Caring for American beautyberry is a simple process. The first thing this plant needs from you is to be fertilized each spring with an all-purpose fertilizer. This will provide a boost of nutrients to the plant as it begins a new growing cycle.
The next thing this shrub needs is to be watered adequately. Once these shrubs are well-established, they’re drought tolerant.
However, while they’re still gaining their footing, the American beautyberry shrubs should be watered deeply.
Don’t apply more water to the plant without checking the soil first. When it’s dry to your first knuckle, you should water the shrub deeply again.
Finally, you should prune American beautyberry shrubs. There are two ways to perform this task.
The first method is to trim the plant by 30% each late winter or early spring. This is how you can allow the shrub to reach its maximum height of eight feet.
In the process, the plant will be renewed once every three years.
If you’re looking for a smaller shrub, keep it compact by pruning it using our second method. You should cut the shrub back to a half foot above the soil each late winter or early spring.
The plant will regrow, but it won’t become overly tall and should maintain a better form. Now that you know how to care for this shrub, let’s learn about what it might need protection from.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Impact American Beautyberry
The American beautyberry is known for being pretty indestructible when it comes to pests and diseases.
This shrub doesn’t have many foes in its growing space. The main disease it struggles with is leaf spot.
It typically occurs when the plant isn’t growing in ideal conditions. The best way to deter leaf spot is ensure there’s adequate airflow around the plant and that the soil is well-draining.
If you see signs of leaf spot, be sure to treat it immediately with a fungicide.
The only pests which bother this plant are birds and other animals which enjoy eating the berries.
You can protect the berries by covering your shrubs in bird netting. This will make it difficult for the animals to get to the berries before you can.
Take these tips into consideration to ensure you grow a healthy and productive American beautyberry shrub.
How to Harvest American Beautyberry
Our last stop on this tour of growing American beautyberry bushes is how to harvest the berries. You should wait until the berries are firm but fully colored.
You don’t want them to be overly ripe as this can make them difficult to work with. They usually reach their harvest time in late summer or early fall.
The berries can be enjoyed raw. However, be sure you refrigerate and enjoy them in a few days after harvest to ensure they’re still safe to eat.
American beautyberry is also used to make jams or pies. If you’d like to work with them later, consider freezing the berries to prolong their shelf life.
It must be mentioned that some people report gastrointestinal issues when consuming American beautyberries.
If you’ve never had these berries before, be sure to try them slowly to see how your stomach reacts prior to diving into your harvest.
You now know what you must do to begin growing American beautyberry shrubs. If you’d like to add a different edible berry to your landscape, don’t overlook this treasure.
Even if you can’t enjoy eating these berries, you can still enjoy their beautiful display of colors. If you’re in the market for something different for your garden or landscape, American beautyberry could be a great fit.