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How to Prune a Beautyberry Bush

The best fall berries depend on an early-spring cutting

Gary Junken and Jillian Liebman, edited by Carri Delahanty


Beautyberry (Callicarpa spp. and cvs., Zones 5-9) is a large genus of shrubs that includes hundreds of species. The flowers of beautyberry are often small and go unnoticed in summer, and the foliage of most species is a medium green and not very distinctive. It’s really the fruit of this fall stunner—in hues of rich purple, white, or pink—that make beautyberry a fall plant like no other. However, this excellent deciduous shrub can get gangly and out of control if you don’t prune it yearly.

Watch as Joann Vieira, director of horticulture at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens, teaches how to rejuvenate a beautyberry bush in early spring for an excellent berry show in fall. Her method includes three steps.

1. Identify your shrub

Begin by making sure that the shrub you’ve selected is, in fact, a beautyberry. It should appear to be dead (also called a dieback shrub) in late winter or early spring. You can also scratch the bark to see if it has gone completely brown, but even if you still see green you can proceed with pruning.

2. Cut it down to the ground

With a pair of pruning loppers, cut each stem down to the base of the shrub. You should leave roughly 6 to 8 inches of stump exposed above ground level. This may seem harsh, but such treatment actually leads to a healthier and more shapely plant.

3. Walk away

As the temperatures warm, your beautyberry will begin to sprout new growth and be back to full size in no time. You will see it set its small flowers in late spring, followed by its signature eye-catching fruit in fall.

Rejuvenation pruning can be done every year with this shrub. Several other shrubs that can be treated this way include forsythia, weigela, and abelia.

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