American Beautyberry

It just wasn’t fall in College Station without American beautyberries colorizing the post oak forests around me. That’s where I grew up, and these plants were a part of my autumns. The funny thing was, though, that everyone took them for granted. You seldom saw them in landscapes, and you never saw them in nurseries.

That’s changed now, however. The plant still isn’t mainstream, but it’s a whole lot more common, at least in the eastern half of the state.

American beautyberries in the Sperry backyard are favorites each autumn.

I’ve grown American beautyberry in my landscape for 40 years. I’ve often described it as a mix between a shrub (which it truly is) and some type of robust perennial plant that never does fill in quite enough to look like a real shrub in my garden. Its mulberry-like leaves are quite large for a fairly short shrub (to 4 to 6 feet tall and wide), and it doesn’t branch freely.

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I use American beautyberry more as a specimen plant, similar to how I might use a single clump of medium-sized ornamental grass. I would not want to use a row of beautyberries and count on them as a screen. Oh, and that’s also because they’re bare in the winter. Leaves drop in the fall, and the fruit clusters have long since been harvested by the birds.

Could two branches possibly hold any more berries?

My own observations on this wonderful plant…
Here are my own quick thoughts on growing American beautyberry in Texas home landscapes.

Morning sun, afternoon shade.

Moist, highly organic planting soil, preferably deep.

This plant wilts rapidly when dry. You must make provision for regular irrigation. Not for xeriphytic gardens.

Its flowers are almost unnoticeable. That’s crazy, as showy as the fruit clusters are.

White forms and other species with darker fruit are available, but they are not nearly as showy as the species that’s native to Southeast Texas.

Fruit clusters are colorful in September and October, but birds harvest the fruit long before winter. I have not had an issue with volunteer (bird-planted) seedlings anywhere in our gardens.

The Lady Bird Johnson National Wildflower Center in Austin reports this plant’s foliage to be a favorite food of white tail deer. Sorry to break your heart if you have deer in your vicinity.

American beautyberries are usually more available in spring than in fall. Call ahead and talk to your favorite nursery about whether they have, or will have, this lovely native Texan.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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