Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’

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C. dichotoma 'Issai'

Purple Drupes

I have three of these beautiful deciduous shrubs, called Issai Japanese Beautyberry, along the base of my deck.  The drupes appearing along the stems right now are well, beautiful berries!  This shrub can take sun to partial shade and has arching branches of medium green foliage in the summer.  The foliage starts to turn an almost  chartreuse yellow like color in the fall which combines well with the metallic purple fruit  – what a show.

Purple by shrubs

Borrowing features

Earlier in the season, I placed a huge container of Tradescantia (Purple Heart), an annual in our CT zones, which served as a color complement prior to the purple berries’ arrival on the shrubs later in the season.  Always think of how you can stage container gardens holding plants of similar colors or hues of a plant nearby. While there was no purple on the shrubs during the summer, the purple intense color of the Tradescantia foliage in a pot played a role until the cool temps arrived, and then the shrubs’ berries appeared after its flowering phase.  The yellow-green of the shrubs leaves worked as a color complement to the violet-red of the annual Tradescantia.  It makes sense because purple was to appear on the shrub later – nature gives you the clues or keys to working with color.  Look at the color wheel to see how you can achieve similar success with color combos.  Colors directly opposite are dramatic!

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ has been easy to grow for me.  Once I was told it isn’t hardy in CT but I found this to not be the case (perhaps in more northern exposures).  Mine have been growing well for about 3-4 years now.  I pruned these shrubs in early spring.  As instructed, I pruned away about 1/3rd of the older canes, and I must say, at first I panicked for the shrubs looked wierd, but this summer it flushed out nicely with fresh new canes, as promised by my pruning instructor.  An extra bonus is the abundance of the purple drupes along the fresh stems right now.  It is a real eye-catcher. 

Perhaps next year, I will use the annuals, like Osteospermum, shown in this next photo as they have the right color hues and would work well with these shrubs.  This is just another example of how you can work it!  Place a nice pot of these colors by the shrubs.  AnnualsThe beautyberry shrubs behind the containers can reach 6′ high by 5′ wide as a nice backdrop.  These shrubs can pruned hard in early spring to desired height if you desire to do so.  It is a great plant for border planting, and very effective when planting in groups.  It can make a nice foliage mass and adds a nice feature in the fall as shown and explained here.

My sister in law asked if she could take a cutting now.  I read from Dirr’s book of Woody Landscape Plants to propagate this shrub, you must take softwood cuttings.  They root easily in sand under mist.  In fact, all Callicarpa root readily from softwood cuttings.  Roots will appear in about 7 to 14 days per Dirr.  If attempting seed propagation, they require cold, most stratification (that is subjecting the seeds to a temperature change by chilling the seeds either before or after sowing, otherwise they won’t germinate).  Just remember, the shrubs are deciduous, loosing their leaves in the winter, thus you wouldn’t want to plant them where you desire evergreen all year round.  But where you have the right spot, don’t hesitate to seek this plant from your nursery source.  I am glad I did!

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