Callicarpa bodinieri – Callicarpa bodinieri – Garden plants – Callicarpa bodinieri – Shrubs

The callicarpa is a beautiful shrub that is pleasant at any time of year: it enhances our garden with its leaves and flowers, from spring to autumn, but reserves us a surprise by giving us beautiful purple berries, similar to candies, which persist for much of the winter, since they are not particularly appetizing to 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 come together numerous deciduous or evergreen shrubs from Asia and North America.

The bark of the Callicarpa bodinieri is smooth, brown, the branches grow upwards and the plant usually keeps 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 several small white, pink or red flowers, depending on the species; in autumn, at the armpits of the branches, small tufts grow up, formed by several roundish fruits of a showy lilac-purple colour, which remain on the plant for some months, rendering it very decorative.

Callicarpa americana 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 turn pink-purple variegated.

For a more abundant flowering and to keep the vegetation compact, it is advisable to prune the plant at the end of winter.

The callicarp usually tend not to self-pollinate abundantly, so to have many more fruits in the winter we recommend planting some nearby specimens.



callicarpaThese shrubs love sunny or half-shaded positions; they can also be planted in shaded areas, but, by placing them in the complete shade, they will penalize very much the flowering, which will turn out to be less intense, in the most serious cases, almost absent.

The adult specimens do not fear the cold and resist well also to temperatures of -15 degrees, whilst the young plants, not yet completely developed, are to be protected for the first winter after the planting, in order to allow them to acquire more strength and vigour. Avoid exposing the callicarp to strong winds that may affect their health.

This shrub grows well in warm and sunny locations, but also tolerates a slight shade. When choosing the location, we must bear 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 much of the day and especially in the early morning. In this way we will be sure not to run into dehydration due to frost.

In any case, if possible, we insert the callicarpa near our house, making sure you can admire it from the windows: in winter it will give a touch of liveliness to our garden and it will be pleasant to admire it at any time of day.

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Features of the Callicarp

As we have said, the cultivation of callicarpa is not difficult, since it adapts to different soils and is rustic enough to be grown in almost all of Italy.

The callicarpa bodinieri is originally from the Far East and belongs to the Verbenaceae family. Its genus is very rich as it includes about 140 species of shrubs and saplings, from 3 to more than 10 meters high. The branches have a tomentose appearance and are sometimes covered by small glands. In summer it produces an abundant flowering from the foliar armpit. The corollas, in very thick groups, are small in the colours white, red or purple, but rarely constitute the main attraction.

The leaves, on the contrary, are particularly attractive, especially when autumn arrives: in fact, they are tinged with warm tones, in pink, purple and yellow. The real attraction, however, is represented by the fruits, ripe from October, of a nice shiny violet, very abundant, gathered around the foliar axil.


callicarpa This type of shrub doesn’t need big watering, as it can bear short periods of drought without any problems; let’s irrigate occasionally during the hottest and driest periods of the year. The evergreen species are to be watered sporadically also in winter.

The callicarp 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 water abundantly once a week and repeat when the soil is dry for the first 5 cm. To protect the roots and reduce the interventions we can prepare a thick mulch based on vegetable flakes.


Common name


Family and Latin name

 Verbenaceae, gen.

Callicarp, about 140 species


 China, Korea, Japan, South of the United States

Type of plant

 Shrub or tree

Leaf colour

 Green in spring, then pink, cream or purple



Adult length/width

 From 150 to more than 300 cm, in all senses




 Frequent in summer

Ambient humidity



 Medium fast

Minimum temperature

 -10°C, but better if protected and in a warm and well exposed location


 Not demanding, better fresh, but well drained.

Land of leaves + land of field + some sand

Soil pH

 Sub-acid to subalkaline


 Manure + fertilizer green plants


 Sun, slight shade

Pests and diseases

 Few enemies




 Insulated specimen, groups, mixed borders, hedges in purity or with other essences

Origins Callicarp

This shrub takes its name from its discoverer, Émile-Marie Bodinier, a French missionary sent to the East in the middle of the XIX century, even if the first in Europe to obtain, from seed, specimens were the botanists of the gardens of Kew, in London. The name of the genus, Callicarpa, comes, on the contrary, from the Greek and means “nice fruits”.

Even if the species diffused at ornamental level originate mostly from China, it is necessary to specify that other exponents of the genus can be found also in Korea, Japan and in the South of the United States and have been used for creating interesting hybrids.


callicarpa fiori This kind of plant prefers soils, loose, deep, slightly acidic, very well drained, so as to avoid the formation of water stagnations which would be dangerous for the health of the plant.


In spring you can sow the seeds extracted from the fruits of the previous year, but usually the new plants will not be identical to the mother plant, but will probably have flowers of different colors.

In autumn, semi-woody cuttings can be made, which are to be rooted in a compound formed by sand and peat in equal parts, possibly after dipping them in the rooting hormone.

Pests and diseases

callicarpa fiori This shrub is fortunately very resistant to disease and is rarely attacked by pests. Let’s just avoid watering too much, especially in the spring and autumn.

It is generally not affected by pests or diseases. If you find the presence of pests that have affected the plant is good to intervene quickly with the use of specific insecticide products that will help to solve the problem in a short time.


callicarpa The callicarpa is grown almost exclusively in the open land: it can’t stand life in containers, however big. We can use it as an isolated specimen, create groups, insert it in the mixed borders. The ideal, however, is to create a beautiful hedge in purity or alternating it with other berry essences such as the sorb or the cottonaster.


callicarpa The planting can be done in autumn or spring. The first option is ideal because it allows the plant to immediately develop the roots and devote more time to vegetative growth when the summer arrives. However, let’s consider it only if we live in the Centre-South and in 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 mountain areas, it is advisable to proceed towards March, when the frosts are certainly over.

Let’s dig a hole twice as deep and wide as the bread of the earth (about 50 x 50 cm). The quality of the soil is not important, although ideally it should be well drained, but fresh (a mix of garden soil and woodland, with a little ‘sand). If our soil is too heavy, we use a little sand and manure and create a thick layer of volcanic lapillus on the bottom.

After inserting the plant we cover with a substratum, compact and water abundantly.


Fertilization is not strictly necessary, but keeping the soil alive and ventilated encourages the growth and resistance of the plants. In autumn it is recommended to spread abundant floured manure or pellets in the area covered by the canopy. In addition to enriching the soil, it will also protect the roots from frost. When spring arrives, we will add a handful of granules for green plants and incorporate everything by means of light hoeing.


bacche callicarpa These shrubs can easily withstand temperatures as low as -10°C, but it is not unusual for them to survive unharmed much colder winters (especially in the case of well-established plants). On the other hand, they are afraid of icy winds and sudden drops in temperature: this is why it is important to choose sheltered positions and protect young specimens, especially the root system.

In fact, it may happen that the aerial part is totally “burned”, but most of the time the shrub is saved thanks to new basal jets.


The pruning of the callicarp should be carried out in two stages.

First of all, the branches are shortened by half their length immediately at the end of the plant. We also eliminate badly positioned branches and all those that appear weak or damaged.

Afterwards, it will be possible to harvest it at the end of winter, approximately in March, when the frosts are certainly over. The intention will be to stimulate the plant to produce new branches, very floriferous and then bearers of berries. Let’s eliminate all branches older than 2 years, with a diameter of more than one centimetre. We never intervene after flowering, however, otherwise we will lose the production of beautiful lilac-colored fruits.


The simplest method of propagating the callicarp is stem cutting.

It begins in September by taking out semi-woody lateral branches and cutting segments about 15 cm long. Let’s put them in a mixture of peat and sand in equal proportions. Let’s put them in the shade, but keep the temperatures and the humidity high. The rooting is quite fast (about 60 days), after which we can transfer into individual jars with final compost. Let’s protect from the cold and settle definitively in the spring.

Callicarpa bodinieri: Species and varieties

Callicarpa bodinieri, var. giarldi “profusion”

Very interesting cultivar for the beautiful coloration of the leaves. When young they are bronze-purple, then turn dark green and finally, in autumn, bright yellow. The branches are tomentose, while the flowers, pale pink, open in summer. The berries are a beautiful dark purple and remain on the plant until the end of winter. It grows to 3 meters in width and height. It prefers warm climates and locations.

Callicarpa dichotoma “Cardinal”

The characteristic feature of this shrub are the leaves, bright green in spring, then purplish 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 to cream in autumn. The summer flowers are white and are followed by beautiful white berries. This too is contained and does not exceed one and a half metres.

Callicarp rubella

The leaves, very large, are first green, then turn into a beautiful pink. The summer flowers are dark pink, followed by berries of the same colour. The height ranges from 1.5 m to more than 3. It fears the cold and needs protection.

Mimosa - Acacia dealbata

Corbezzolo - Arbutus

Photinia x fraseri