This time of year the Callicarpa is in it’s element with bright luminescent purple berries on the winter leafless tracery of delicate branches.

 Callicarpa berries

It is a small group with only a few species within the genus and it comes from the Verbenaceae family and found in mainly tropical and sub tropical regions. The autumn colour is notable but the star of this tree has to be the violet to lilac purple small rounded fruits.


Species include:-

  • Callicarpa bodinieri
  • Callicarpa bodinieri var. Giraldii
  • Callicarpa dichotoma
  • Callicarpa japonica
  • Callicarpa rubella

They are a shrub generally or small tree but can be prone to slug and snail attack when kept as bonsai. Some are hardy but Callicarpa rubella needs frost free conditions. They are good as bonsai for Mame and Shohin plus up to Chuhin size but  rare to find them as larger bonsai.


They sometimes flower on new as well as on second-year wood and they tend to be bushy in growth habit so need regular thinning to prevent congestion and cutting older stems back to the base. The bark when mature is mottled and flaky and they tend to have a twisting branching and trunk habit which can lead to interesting forms being created.


Prune Callicarpa in early spring after frosts but while tree is still dormant. Also be aware that too much fruit can cause branches to break so reduce the number of fruit if necessary and ensure to feed well during the summer months.



  • The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs
  • Hoka-En Bonsai Studio
  • The RHS Pruning and Training manual