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Mr. Smarty Plants - Trimming American beautyberry in Austin

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Sunday - December 20, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Trimming American beautyberry in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have recently developed an interest in plants and since I work for a country club taking care of all the House & Grounds Maintenance, the landscaping is certainly a part of my work. I have a question in regards to some American Beautyberry: Do you have to trim it down to the ground or leave it alone when it drops all the leaves? I hope my question makes sense.

ANSWER:

For some reason, perhaps a combination of heat and then sudden frost, the Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) in the Austin area have been unusually spectacular this year. Certainly we would not trim it until the birds or time had removed all those gorgeous berries. As to regular care or pruning, here is an excerpt from our Native Plant Database:

"Conditions Comments: American beautyberry is a wonderful, large understory shrub with a naturally loose and graceful arching form. In the fall and early winter, the branches are laden with magenta purple (sometimes white) berry clusters that look spectacular as the leaves drop in autumn. It is useful as a screen in swampy or wooded locations or under shade trees in a garden setting. It can be cut to 12 inches above the base each winter to encourage more compact growth, flowers and fruit. It can also be left to mature naturally into a tall woody shrub. The shrub may temporarily defoliate and lose developing fruit during periods of prolonged summer drought."

In summary, this is a beautiful, wildlife-friendly, native plant. The degree to which you prune is pretty much a judgment call, concerning whether you want it low and compact or a larger shrub. But the pruning time, either way, is certainly late Fall or early Winter.  

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

 

 

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