Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1274 Callicarpa dichotoma

Common Names: purple beautyberry,Chinese beautyberry Family: Verbenaceae (verbena or vervain Family)
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Chinese beautyberry
Chinese beautyberries are intensely colored and held on the stems into winter long after the leaves are shed.
Chinese beautyberry
Chinese beautyberry's white fruited variety is called 'albifructus'.

Description

Purple beautyberry is similar to American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), but is a smaller and denser shrub with a finer texture and more graceful form. Its leaves are held in a single plane and they are closer together and smaller than those of the American species: around 2-3 in (5-8 cm) long, vs. 6-8 in (15-20 cm) long for C. americana. The berries of purple beautyberry are light purple, and like its American cousin, they tend to persist into winter sometimes long after the leaves have fallen. The small flowers, borne in clusters within leaf axils, are pale pink, largely hidden in the foliage, and not remarkably showy. Leaves may turn yellow or purplish before dropping in fall. Purple beautyberry gets up to around 4 ft (1.2 m) tall with a similar spread.

The variety albifructus has white berries. A cultivar recently introduced is 'Early Amethyst', said to flower and fruit earlier than the species.

Location

Callicarpa dichotoma is native to Korea, Japan and eastern China. Although not considered invasive or an ecological nuisance, purple beautyberry has escaped cultivation and become established sparingly in several mid-Atlantic states.


Culture

The beautyberries bloom on new growth, so you can prune them anytime without fear of cutting off future flowers. Purple beautyberry should get occasional pruning to maintain its attractive form. Light: Purple beautyberry does best in full sun or dappled shade. In deeper shade it tends to become leggy and not live up to its reputation for fine texture and compact form. Moisture: Provide normal watering for this little shrub. It prefers a well drained soil and is quite tolerant of drought. Purple beautyberry accepts acidic to slightly alkaline soils. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9 . Purple beautyberry is borderline hardy in zone 5 where it benefits from winter protection. In zones 5 and 6 it should be considered a returning perennial that dies to the ground in winter but sprouts back from the roots in spring. Even so, it still manages to flower and produce fruit. Propagation: Root fast growing softwood tip cuttings in spring, preferably under mist. Heeled cuttings can be started later in the season. Seeds may be sown in spring or fall. Pre-treatment is not necessary.

Chinese beautyberry
The slender stems of the Chinese beautyberry shrub form colorful cascades of pretty purple fruits.
Chinese beautyberry shrubs will form large sprawling mounds but can also be trimmed to maintain shape and smaller size.

Usage

Purple beautyberry is one of the most attractive ornamental fruiting shrubs you can find. Plant more than one of these to maximize cross pollination and production of the purple fruits, but even one bush will produce lots of colorful berries. Purple beautyberries are at their best as specimens or massed in informal hedges or shrub borders. They also are well suited for underplanting beneath tall trees, as long as the trees are tall enough so that the shrubs are not in dense shade. If you prune all the stems way back to a foot (30 cm) or even to ground level each winter, you will have a tidy and dense little shrub. Left unpruned, purple beautyberry develops long, gracefully arching stems that can reach the ground. Either way, purple beautyberry will produce an abundance of flowers and berries consistently each fall. Eventually, an unpruned beautyberry will cry out for at least a judicious thinning with the loppers.

In winter, the clusters of purple fruits make a striking contrast with the slender, tan colored stems, and these are often cut for dry arrangements.

Features

There are some 140 species of Callicarpa shrubs and trees in the tropics and subtropics of Asia, Africa and the Americas. Experts consider Purple beautyberry to be among the best of the half dozen or so commonly in cultivation.

Steve Christman 9/30/16


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Callicarpa species profiled on Floridata:


Callicarpa americana

( American beautyberry, beautyberry, French mulberry )

Callicarpa dichotoma

( purple beautyberry,Chinese beautyberry )

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