How To Plant, Prune, Fertilizer, Water, Grow And Care For Beautyberry Bushes

Beautyberry bushes, scientifically known as Callicarpa, are very interesting and attractive shrubs desired for the abundant clusters of brightly colored, pearl-like berries that form on the bush during fall and persist through winter. They are super hardy, adaptable, and exceptionally easy to grow. 

There are several varieties of beautyberry that grow to various sizes with different berry colors.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know for how to plant, fertilize, prune and water beatyberry shrubs...

Cultural Preferences

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Soil Preferences

Beautyberry are not to finicky regarding soil type. That said, they prefer a moist but well drained soil of average fertility. As with many other ornamental plants, a constantly wet soil can be problematic.

How To Test Soil Drainage  

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your beautyberry, it's worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions and the need to add some top soil or peat moss to help retain moisture in the planting area. A slower rate indicates poor draining, constantly boggy or wet soil and is a caution you might to improve drainage.

Soil pH

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil, which is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline.

Beautyberry grow best in an acid to neutral soil ranging from 5.0 to 7.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, or whether or not it's suitable for growing beautyberry, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH testing kit or probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.

Light Preferences

Choose a sunny to partially shaded site to plant your beautyberry. In warmer climates (Zones 7-8), some shade or filtered sun during the hottest part of summer afternoons is appreciated. 

Planting Beautyberry In The Ground

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Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and not too much deeper than the rootball of your plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.

Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the native soil in the planting area it might be beneficial to amend the soil. When planting in dense clay or other compacted soils, to improve drainage while also helping to retain moisture, thoroughly mix in some bagged top soil and/or a good planting mix at a 25 to 50 percent ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider mixing in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in moist but well-drained soil there is no need for adding a soil amendment.

Step 3

Be careful when removing your beautyberry bush from the nursery pot it was growing in. Gently try to lift the plant from the pot. If the rootball is stuck in the pot, to avoid damaging the plant, cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, use your fingers or a claw tool to gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. 

Step 4

If you are planting in well-drained soil set your beautyberry in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or slightly above ground level. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height. 

Note: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) improve drainage, plant with the top edge of the rootball several inches above ground in a raised mound, or select a different plant species more tolerant of constantly wet soils.  

Step 5

After setting the rootball of your beautyberry in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. If you are planting higher than ground level taper your soil mixture gradually from the top edge of the root ball to the ground level. To avoid suffocating your plant, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball.

Step 6 (Optional)

When planting beautyberry in a location that is far from a water source, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a 2- to 4-inch high water retaining berm (catch basin/doughnut) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. Only build this berm if the soil is very well-drained. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a full growing season.

Step 7 

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development, you can also water you newly planted beautyberry with a solution of Root Stimulator, which reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.

Step 8

To conserve moisture and suppress weed growth, spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or a 3-4-inch layer of pine straw around the planting area. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your plants will appreciate. Avoid using freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot. 

Caring For Beautyberry Bushes

How To Fertilize Beautyberry Bushes
Beautyberry are light feeders however will benefit from fertilizer. To maintain deep green foliage color and support growth and overall health of the plant, feed your beautyberry in spring with a slow-release shrub & tree food. Alternatively, you can feed with a natural organic plant food. To avoid stimulating new growth that could be damaged by an early frost, cease fertilization two months prior to the first frost date in your area.

In Containers

Feed beautyberry bushes growing in containers as directed on product label with a timed-release or water soluble fertilizer listed for use in containers. 

Soil pH - Beautyberry grow best in an acid to neutral soil ranging from 5.0 to 7.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

How To Water Beautyberry Bushes

Beautyberry will tolerate short dry periods however prefer a consistently moist but well drained soil. 

After Planting

Immediately after planting your beautyberry deep soak the soil in the planting area, including the rootball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. An application of Root Stimulator will provide an extra boost to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.

During The First Growing Season

In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted beautyberry every day. More often than not, this causes wet soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. 

In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water your beauty plants only as needed to keep the rootball and surrounding soil damp to moist. Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. 


When established, beautyberry are tolerant of short dry periods. That said, they will appreciate an occasional deep soaking during prolonged drought. If you see new leaves wilting or stem tips bending over during a drought this could be a sign your plants could use a good deep soaking.

How To Prune A Beautyberry Bush

When to Prune

The best time to prune a beautyberry is in late winter or very early spring.

How To Prune Beautyberry

Beautyberry bushes do not require pruning, however respond very well to it. I usually don't prune beautyberry until they are several years old. 

There are two methods of pruning beautyberry. 

1. The simplest is to use bypass hand pruners to cut the entire shrub back to 6 inches above the ground every few years. It will grow back with a neat, rounded shape. This method keeps the shrub small and compact. 

2.  Each year, remove one-quarter to one-third of the oldest branches close to the ground. Using this method you will completely renew the plant every three to four years.

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