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Mr. Smarty Plants - Care and propagation of American Beautyberry

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Friday - July 20, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Transplants
Title: Care and propagation of American Beautyberry
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

We have an American Beautyberry growing on our lot. Before we fenced the backyard it was browsed by deer, and survived by wedging itself between the fence and a juniper tree. How can we: 1. encourage it to spread 2. propogate it 3. ensure its survival? We were told it is poisonous. Is that true? Thanks for the help.

ANSWER:

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) prefers partial shade and rich, moist, slightly acidic soil. However, it is fairly forgiving of marginal growing conditions and will do nicely in a mostly sunny location if given sufficient water.

It sounds like your shrub is very limited in space where it's growing now and you might consider digging and moving it to a more suitable location. If so, you should wait until late fall or early winter in your area (Central Texas) to do so. You can root-prune now, though, to prepare the plant for the big move. Slipping a spade as deep as you can go into the soil part way around the plant at the same distance from the plant that you plan to dig and create a rootball this fall will encourage the plant to form new roots within the rootball this summer. Because we are now in mid-summer, you will not want to dig more than about half way around the plant now or else the plant will suffer the same as if it were transplanted. You may need to prune back some of the top growth to reduce stress on the plant. When you transplant your beautyberry later in the year, cut the top back to about 12" in height. If you rootprune, be sure and provide supplemental water to it as needed during the heat of summer.

When selecting a new location for your shrub, be sure and pick a place where it has plenty of room to spread; American beautyberry likes to sprawl and can spread to 6-9' in diameter. It usually tops out at about 6' in height.

Callicarpa americana can be propagated by seed or by softwood cuttings. Seeds should be removed from berry pulp in the fall, dried, and stored in a cool dry place until late winter. They may then be sown in a potting soil/sand mix and lightly covered. Keep moist. Germination percentage is typically low for this species. Another possibility is to dig volunteer seedlings that commonly pop up around mature plants. Cutting propagation is tricky for most homeowners, but if you have the knack for it, the cuttings may be taken and stuck now. They root readily.

Your best bet for ensuring your beautyberry's survival is to leave it right where it is. Since deer can no longer reach it, the shrub will probably be very happy in its tight little niche. Once you've successfully propagated and located some new plants in more suitable locations, you can remove the old plant if you desire.

 

From the Image Gallery


American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

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