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Tuesday - July 13, 2010

From: Birmingham, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Planting, Transplants, Watering
Title: Transplant shock in American beautyberry in Birmingham AL
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We created a new garden area in our yard that gets full sun in the afternoon. I had a Beautyberry Bush that had seriously outgrown the area where we originally planted it (also full sun), so I transplanted it in the new garden to give it more room - not thinking that the temperatures may be too hot to move it now. After 3-4 days it is still wilted. I water it regularly and really don't want to lose it. What do you recommend?


You have just joined the Leap Before You Look Club, which has a very large membership.

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) needs part shade, which we consider to be 2 to 6 hours of sun a day. This USDA Plant Profile shows it growing in scattered locations in Alabama, which may be a function of the soil or soil moisture. The page on this plant in our Native Plant Database has this comment:

"Native Habitat: Found in woods, moist thickets, wet slopes, low rich bottomlands, and at the edges of swamps in the Piney Woods, Post Oak Woods, Blackland woodlands, and coastal woodlands. Moist woods; coastal plains; swamp edges, bottomlands" 

From the same webpage, here are growing conditions for the American beautyberry:

"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" 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."

Note that the treatment for an overgrown bush is trimming during the winter to encourage more compact growth. What is NOT recommended, never, ever, is transplanting a woody plant, a large woody plant, anywhere in the middle of the summer. There is not much we can recommend, short of a Time Machine that will take you back before you did that, so you could not do it. The plant is in severe transplant shock, and being in full sun instead of the part shade it needs makes it that much worse. The best thing we can suggest (besides the Time Machine) is to water it gently, making sure the drainage is good so water is not standing on the roots, and don't fertilize. You should never fertilize a stressed plant, which this one obviously is, because the fertilizer will be trying to encourage the roots to grow, when the roots are just trying to stay alive.

If it manages to live until cool weather, you can scrape off a thin layer of bark with your thumbnail to see if there a thin layer of green beneath it, which means it is still alive. Then, trim it down in the Winter, as described above, and move it, if you can, to a shadier location. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana




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