One of the most eye-poppingly beautiful shrubs I have ever had the pleasure of running across is undoubtedly the beautyberry, or Callicarpa Dichotoma. This flowering shrub grows in U. S. planting zones 5-8, excluding only areas of extreme heat or cold (1).
The beautyberry grows to about 4 feet tall and spreads impressively like a fountain, as the weight of the berries pulls down the somewhat tender branches. The one I have in my front yard is (in my opinion) the most beautiful plant in the neighborhood. Also called a mulberry (as in “here we go round the mulberry bush”), this plant produces small, compactly clustered berries that are a stunning, slightly pearlescent shade of purple that provides excellent contrast to the green leaves of the shrub.
In the fall, the contrast is accentuated, as the leaves turn yellow(2). This creates a gorgeous effect that has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately for those who live in zone 5, this does not always happen, as the leaves can go from green straight to brown, but in most areas the beautiful yellow leaves will be seen in the fall.
While the beuatyberry likes a lot of water, it seems to do just fine without in the cooler areas (like Michigan, where I live) with minimal water. Beuatyberrys enjoy mixed shade and sun the best, and birds will sometimes eat the bittersweet berries in the winter if there is no other food source around(3). Deer will nibble on them as well if the plant is in an area where they would feel safe to stop and feed.
This shrub makes a great border, as it has reasonable height and spreads nicely. It also serves well as a stand-alone plant due to its color appearance. I have mine planted right at the end of my porch, where it is the last plant a visitor will see before he/she comes in the house. Several guests have complimented the plant on its berries.
Not necessarily the easiest plant to find at your local nursery, the beautyberry is a spectacular shrub that requires little care but provides enduring enjoyment. Consider one if you want something to add some color to your landscaping.