What’s the Amazing Purple Berry Bush on my Driveway? Callicarpa americana (Beautyberry)

After growing one Callicarpa americana shrub at the top of my driveway for many years, last year I encouraged it to create a few babies (I used a laying technique). Beautyberry is the plant that everyone asks about – even the non-gardeners who visit my house. So, I figured it would be even better to have a few more around the landscape.

I love Callicarpa– I first discovered it used in a wreath that I bought many years ago. The berries are so beautiful that I thought they were fake until I discovered the real plant. The wreath disintegrated after a couple of seasons, but now that I am growing the source shrub, I can easily harvest and craft with clusters of purple berries whenever I want.

Close-up of clusters of vibrant purple Callicarpa americana, or Beautyberry, on thin, intertwined branches. The background is filled with soft-focus yellow and green foliage, creating a contrasting and colorful autumn scene reminiscent of Mississippi's picturesque landscapes.
Callicarpa pedunculata in the fall as the leaves change and offset the berry clusters. image by Jorge Franganillo

My original Callicarpa americana is planted right next to my garage. The prime spot for visitors to notice it as they park their cars. Everyone asks about it – just one shrub easily draws the attention of even the most garden-blind person. Its clusters of fall berries are just so unexpected and bright – like the prettiest peppercorns dangling from long arching branches.

Close-up photo of a Mississippi beautyberry plant, showcasing clusters of vibrant purple berries. The berries are densely packed along the stem, surrounded by elongated green leaves with prominent veins. The background consists of more green foliage.

Late Summer callicarpa with green leaves and purple berries.

image by F Delventhal

Callicarpa blooms in the summer.

Image by zen Sutherland

Close-up of small, spherical clusters of pink flowers with yellow-tipped stamens on a thin, brown branch. The background is filled with green leaves, typical of the Callicarpa americana, commonly known as beautyberry, found widely in Mississippi.

Growing Beautyberry.

A Pop of Color All Year Long

In the fall, American Beautyberry is garden eye candy. It produces clusters of vibrant purple berries that are kinda jaw-dropping. These berries really can make any landscape pop, especially when everything else is starting to fade. Plus, in the spring and summer, the plant boasts lovely green foliage and delicate, tiny white to pink flowers.

Native Powerhouse

Being a native plant, Callicarpa americana is perfectly suited to the New England climate (even though it is not actually a native of New England eco-regions. (it is native to the southeast and south central states). It’s resilient and low-maintenance, which means less fuss and more time for you to enjoy your garden.

Close-up of vibrant purple Callicarpa americana berries on branches, with one distinctive red berry among them. The background is blurred, highlighting the beautyberry in detail. The branches and berries have a slight glistening effect, suggesting moisture from the Mississippi morning dew.
Callicarpa in the winter before the birds eat all the berries. Image by jacki-dee

Pollinator Paradise

Those pretty little flowers aren’t just for show—they’re a magnet for pollinators. Bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds can’t resist them. By planting Beautyberry, you’re creating a buzzing, fluttering oasis that supports vital pollinators in your area. It’s a win-win for you and the environment.

Using Beautyberry – Some Ideas and History

Native American tribes historically used their berries for various purposes. They made teas, dyes, and even insect repellents from the leaves. During the early 20th century, farmers discovered that crushed beautyberry leaves could repel mosquitoes and biting flies. I haven’t tried it and can’t report on the efficacy or if it will make you look like Violet Beauregard. Let me know if you have any in the comments… I’m curious.

Wikipedia describes Callicarpa americana:

American beautyberry or Callicarpa americana has been found to be a natural insect repellent. Four chemicals have been isolated that appear to be the active ingredients; borneol,[1] callicarpenal, intermedeol, and spathulenol. It has found to be repellant to the mosquitoes which carry yellow fever and malaria, as well as the tick which carries Lyme disease. The discovery and use of callicarpenal has been patented by the United States Department of Agriculture Agriculture Research Service.[2] It has also been used to produce wine.

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If you’re into making homemade jams, the berries are edible and can be turned into a unique but astringent jelly. Honestly, I’ve never been tempted to do this – they don’t seem to me to be a berry that offers much in the way of flavor or even juice. Just grow them for their good looks – it is enough.

Close-up of a beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) stem with clusters of vibrant purple berries and green leaves. The background is softly blurred, emphasizing the colorful berries and foliage in the foreground, capturing the botanical beauty found in Mississippi.
Callicarpa Americana is native to North America – image by ncbotanicalgarden

Ideas for What to Plant with your Callicarpa americana

Companion Plants for Callicarpa americana

1. Ilex verticillata (Winterberry)

  • Why: Both plants have striking berries, but Ilex verticillata produces red berries, creating a beautiful contrast.
  • Growth Habit: Upright shrub. Winterberry will be significantly taller than callicarpa – (2-3 times taller), so this is a real back-of-the-border plant. Both plants are unique in their ability to add a lot of color, not with flowers but with striking berry clusters.
  • Conditions: Prefers wet to medium moisture, acidic soils.

2. Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster)

  • Why: The purple or pink blooms of the New England aster provide a nice contrast to the purple berries of beautyberry.
  • Growth Habit: Tall, upright. New England asters are such prolific bloomers and solid visual masses of color that I like to thread ribbons of them through drifts of other plants.
  • Conditions: Full sun to part shade, medium moisture.

3. Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

  • Why: The bold, purple flowers of Echinacea can mirror the purple hues of Beautyberry’s fruits.
  • Growth Habit: Clumping. Similar to the Balck-eyed susans (below) – these will add even more color.
  • Conditions: Full sun, well-drained soil.

4. Rudbeckia fulgida (Black-eyed Susan)

  • Why: The bright yellow flowers contrast nicely with the purple berries, adding vibrant color.
  • Growth Habit: Clumping. I like drifts of Rudbeckia nearby – I typically plant 3 or maybe 5 plants together so that the massing is similar to one beautyberry shrub.
  • Conditions: Full sun to part shade, well-drained soil.

5. Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

  • Why: This ornamental grass adds texture and movement to the garden, complementing the bold form of beautyberry.
  • Growth Habit: Clumping grass.
  • Conditions: Full sun to part shade, adaptable to various soils.

6. Solidago rugosa (Wrinkleleaf Goldenrod)

  • Why: The bright yellow flowers bloom in late summer to fall, offering a nice seasonal contrast.
  • Growth Habit: Upright. (similar height or perhaps a little taller than beautyberry)
  • Conditions: Full sun to part shade, well-drained to moist soil.

7. Vaccinium corymbosum (Highbush Blueberry)

  • Why: Besides edible berries, highbush blueberries provide beautiful fall foliage.
  • Growth Habit: Shrub – that will be taller than Callicarpa – so plant it towards the back of a bed.
  • Conditions: Acidic, well-drained soils.
A close-up of a Mississippi Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) plant with clusters of vibrant purple berries and lush green leaves. The background includes blurred greenery and autumn foliage.
American beautyberry plant – Callicarpa americana. image by fraservalleyrosefarm

Tips for Planting

  • Spacing: Ensure proper spacing to allow air circulation and growth.
  • Soil Preparation: Amend soil to match the needs of each plant for optimal health.
  • Watering: Group plants with similar water needs together.
  • Pruning: I cut my plant back hard. New stems will emerge in the spring, and the berries will be put on in their first season (the berries are produced on new growth).
  • Harvesting: The birds enjoy the berries and will eat them all before mid-winter. I often harvest stems of berries to include in fall flower arrangements (they add great color and texture) as well as seasonal decorations (These are always in my Thanksgiving centerpieces). The berries are the size of peppercorns – but are not edible. They are also not particularly juicy – unlike some berries, they have a bit of a crust on them and they feel dry. Generally, they do not pose a risk of staining things that come into contact with them.

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  1. Denna says:

    This is great info to know.

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