Leycesteria formosa      Family: Caprifoliaceae
(ley-ses-TER-ee-uh  for-MOH-suh)

Common name: pheasant berry; Himalayan honeysuckle; Himalayan nutmeg; flowering nutmeg
Zone: USDA 7 – 10
Height: 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) Spread: 5-6 ft (1.5-1.8 m)
Aspect: full sun; partial shade
Soil: moist; fertile; well-draining
Water: moderate  

Description: Deciduous shrub with hollow, bamboo-like, gracefully arching, light green stems adorned with opposite medium-green, ovate, tapering leaves. Pendant racemes of deep red bracts above mildly-scented white flowers appear in summer. Reddish-purple berries start to appear in late summer, maturing to a deep maroon colour in fall. Ripe, soft berries are edible with a caramel-like taste.


Special Notes: Native to forested regions of the Himalayas and southwestern China. This shrub is tolerant of average or clay soils, although it will do better in moist, fertile soil. Relatively drought tolerant once established. In colder regions where temperatures dip to -9.5 °C (15 °F) it is advisable to apply a layer of mulch to protect the roots. Cut branches back to 10 – 12 inches (25 – 30 cm) above soil level in early spring. Flowers on new growth.

Pest and disease resistant. Resistant to slug and snail damage. Propagate by fresh seed sown in pots in fall and placed in a cold frame over winter; by division in spring; by softwood cuttings in summer.


In our zone 7a garden: We are in the northern part of this shrub’s growing zone so pruning technique is dictated by how severe our winter has been in any particular year. If severe, most of the branches will die back to the ground, or at least some of them will. In less severe winters, John only takes off the brown dead parts of the branches. We have never mulched our shrub but are re-considering our game plan after all the branches died right to the ground and new growth was late to appear in the spring of 2019 after we hit a record low temperature of -18.5 °C (1.3 °F) for 3 days that winter.

The berries of Leycesteria formosa are edible, but I am not sure about other Leycesteria species. I find they taste like burnt caramel which I happen to like. However, the taste may not be to everyone’s liking as our taste buds are indeed unique.


Awards: Great Plant Pick 2012


Posted on August 26, 2020