Callicarpa bodinieri


The callicarpa is a nice and pleasant shrub in every period of the year: it embellishes our garden with its leaves and its flowers, from spring to autumn, but it reserves a surprise giving us beautiful purple berries, similar to candies, which persist for most of the winter, since they are not particularly fond of birds. Its cultivation is extremely simple and the plant is generally very tolerant: it adapts very well, therefore to low maintenance gardens
Under the name of Callicarpa many small shrubs or evergreens originate from Asia and North America.
The bark of the Callicarpa bodinieri is smooth, brown, the branches grow upwards and the plant is usually kept below two meters; the leaves of this type of shrub are oval, opposite, bright green above, a lighter shade, tending to cream, below.
In late spring the Callicarpa bodinieri produces numerous white, pink or red flowers, depending on the species; in autumn, the axils of the branches grow tufts made up of numerous roundish fruits of a striking lilac-violet color, which remain on the plant for a few months, making it very decorative.
American Callicarpa has pink flowers and fruits with a diameter of about 2-3 cm.
Callicarpa bodinieri has smaller fruits, pink flowers.
Callicarpa japonica has small fruits, pink flowers and leaves that in autumn are colored with variegated pink-purple.
For a more abundant flowering and to maintain the compact vegetation it is advisable to prune the plant at the end of winter.
The Callicarpa they usually tend not to pollinate themselves abundantly, so in order to have many more fruits in winter it is advisable to place some nearby specimens.


These shrubs love sunny or partial shade positions; they can also be planted in shady areas, but, by placing them in the complete shade, the flowering that will be less intense, in the most serious cases, is almost absent.
The adult specimens do not fear the cold and resist well even at temperatures of -15 degrees, while the young seedlings not yet fully developed, must be protected for the first winter after planting so as to allow them to acquire greater strength and vigor. Avoid exposing the Callicarpa to strong winds that can affect their health.
This shrub grows well in warm and sunny locations, but it also tolerates a slight shade. In choosing the location we especially keep in mind our winter climate: if we live in the North we prefer areas sheltered from the cold and currents (perhaps near a wall facing South) and that are reached by light for most of the day and especially before morning. In this way we will be sure not to run dry due to frost.
In any case, if possible, we insert the callicarpa near our house, making sure to be able to admire it from the windows: in winter it will give a touch of vivacity to our garden and it will be pleasant to admire it in every moment of the day.

Characteristics of the Callicarpa

As we have said, the cultivation of callicarpa is not difficult, since it adapts to different soils and is sufficiently rustic to be cultivated in almost all of Italy.
There callicarpa bodinieri It is native to the Far East and belongs to the Verbenaceae family. Its genus is very rich considering that it includes about 140 species among shrubs and saplings, high from 3 up to more than 10 meters. The branches have a tomentose appearance and are sometimes covered by small glands. In summer it produces an abundant flowering from the leaf axil. The corollas, in very thick groups, are small in white, red or purple, but they are rarely the main attraction. The leaves, on the other hand, are particularly attractive, especially when autumn arrives: they are in fact colored in warm tones, in pink, purple and yellow. The real attraction, however, is represented by the fruits, ripe from October, of a beautiful glossy violet, very abundant, gathered around the leaf axil.


This type of shrub does not require large waterings, with short periods of drought being easily tolerated; water occasionally in the hottest and driest periods of the year. Evergreen species should be watered sporadically even in winter.
Callicarpa is very tolerant of drought, but grows more vigorously if the roots are in a slightly cool environment. In summer, especially in the early years, we irrigate abundantly once a week and repeat when the soil is dry for the first 5 cm. To protect the roots and reduce interventions, we can prepare a thick mulch based on plant debris.


Common name

Family and Latin name Verbenaceae, gen. Callicarpa, about 140 species
Origins China, Korea, Japan, South of the United States
Type of plant Shrub or tree
Leaf color Green in spring, then pink, cream or purple
Foliage frail
Adult length / width From 150 to more than 300 cm, in every sense
Cultivation easy
irrigations Frequent in the summer
Environmental humidity average
Growth Average fast
Minimum temperature -10 ° C, but better if protected and in a warm and well exposed position
Ground Not demanding, better fresh, but well-drained. Land of leaves + field land + a bit of sand
soil pH From subacid to subalcaline
Composting Stallatic + green plants fertilizer
Exposure Sun, slight shade
Pests and diseases Few enemies
Propagation cutting
Use Isolated specimen, groups, mixed borders, pure hedges or with other essences

Origins Callicarpa

This shrub takes its name from its discoverer, ilemile-Marie Bodinier, a French missionary sent to the East in the mid-nineteenth century, although the first in Europe to obtain specimens from seed were the botanists of Kew Gardens, in London . The name of the genus, Callicarpa, derives from the Greek and means "beautiful fruits".
Although the species widespread at the ornamental level originate mostly from China, it must be pointed out that other exponents of the genus can also be found in Korea, Japan and the southern United States and have been used to create interesting hybrids.


This kind of plants prefers soils, loose, deep, slightly acidic, very well drained, so as to avoid the formation of stagnant water that would be dangerous for the health of the plant.


In spring the seeds extracted from the fruits of the previous year can be sown; but usually the new plants will not be identical to the mother plant, but they will probably have flowers of different colors.
In autumn you can practice semi-woody cuttings, which must be rooted in a compound consisting of sand and peat in equal parts, possibly after having dipped them in the rooting hormone.

Pests and diseases

This shrub is fortunately very resistant to diseases and is rarely attacked by parasites. We only avoid watering too much, especially in spring and autumn.
It is generally not affected by pests or diseases. If you find the presence of pests that have hit the plant it is good to intervene quickly with the use of specific insecticide products that will help to solve the problem in a short time.


The callicarpa is cultivated almost exclusively in the open ground: it can hardly stand life in containers, however large. We can use it as an isolated specimen, create groups, insert it in mixed borders. The ideal is, however, to give life to a beautiful pure hedge or alternating it with other berry essences such as rowan or cotoneaster.


The plant can be done in autumn or spring. The first option is ideal because it allows the plant to immediately develop its roots and dedicate itself more to vegetative growth when the warm weather arrives. But let's take it into consideration only if we live in the Center-South and in the coastal areas or in any case where the minimum temperatures do not fall below -5 ° C (protecting in any case the foot and possibly the aerial part). Elsewhere, especially in mountainous areas, it is good to proceed towards March, when the frosts are certainly over.
We dig a deep hole twice as wide as the earth bread (about 50 x 50 cm). The quality of the soil is not very important, although ideally it should be well drained, but fresh (a mix of garden soil and forest land, with a bit of sand). If ours is too heavy, we incorporate some sand and manure and create a thick draining layer on the bottom with volcanic lapillus.
After inserting the plant we cover with substrate, compact and irrigate abundantly.


The fertilizations are not strictly necessary, but keeping the soil alive and ventilated always favors the growth and resistance of the plants. In autumn it is advisable to spread abundant flour or pellet in the area covered by the foliage. In addition to enriching the soil it will protect the roots from frosts. At the arrival of spring we will add a handful of granular for green plants and we will incorporate everything through light hoes.


These shrubs easily withstand temperatures down to -10 ° C, but it is not uncommon for them to survive much cooler winters (especially in the case of well-established plants). Instead they fear the cold winds and the abrupt thermal drops: for this it is important to choose sheltered positions and to protect the young specimens, especially the root system.
It can happen that the aerial part is completely "burned", but more often than not the shrub is saved thanks to new basal jets.


Pruning the callicarpa should be done in two moments.
First of all we intervene immediately at the end of the installation, shortening the branches of half of their length. We also eliminate badly positioned branches and all those that appear weak or damaged.
Later it was possible at the end of winter, indicatively in March, when the frosts were certainly over. The intent will be to stimulate the plant to produce new branches, very floriferous and then carriers of berries. We eliminate all the branches older than 2 years, with a diameter greater than one centimeter. We never intervene after the flowering, on pain of losing the production of the beautiful lilac fruits.


The simplest method to propagate the callicarpa is the stem cutting.
It begins in September by taking semi-woody side branches and cutting segments about 15 cm long. Put them in a mixture of peat and sand in equal proportions. We put in the shade, but we maintain high temperatures and humidity. The rooting is quite fast (about 60 days), after which we can transfer them into individual jars with a final compost. We protect from the cold and we settle definitively in the spring.

Callicarpa bodinieri: Species and variety

Callicarpa bodinieri, var. giarldi "profusion"
Very interesting cultivar for the beautiful coloring of the leaves. When young they are bronze-purple, then they become dark green and finally, in autumn, bright yellow. The branches are tomentose, while the flowers, pale pink, open in the summer. The berries are a beautiful dark purple and remain on the plant until late winter. It grows up to 3 meters in width and height. It prefers warm climates and locations.
Callicarpa dichotoma "Cardinal"
The peculiar characteristic of this shrub are the leaves, bright green in spring, then purple pink in autumn. The flowering is light pink, followed by beautiful lilac berries. Suitable for small gardens as it does not exceed 1.5 m in height and width.
Callicarpa japonica "Leucocarpa"
It has thin light green leaves that turn into cream in autumn. The summer flowers are white and are followed by beautiful white berries. This is also contained and does not exceed one meter and a half.
Rubella callicarpa
The leaves, very large, are first green, then they become a splendid rose. The summer flowers are dark pink, followed by berries of the same color. The height goes from 1.5 m to more than 3. It fears cold and needs protection.