Coffeeberry is one of California’s most common shrubs, found growing naturally in various woodland, riparian and chaparral communities. It is very adaptable; growing tall and rangy in the shade of Bay or Oak trees, or growing in a much more compact form in full sun or on exposed bluffs along the coast. Plants grown from seed display various traits in accordance with their habitat; larger and greener leaves in shadier situations; smaller, gray-green leaves in full sun. Young stems are an attractive ruby color.
In the garden Coffeeberry can be planted in full to part sun; it accepts average garden water, as long as the drainage is good. It is also possible to plant Coffeeberry during the rainy season and let it establish without regular water; it will just grow more slowly. Plants can be kept to size with careful pruning; healthy established plants can be cut to the ground and allowed to crown sprout. Deer will browse the foliage, so it is best to protect young plants until they become established.
Small yellowish-green flowers held in tight clusters appear in late spring and attract many beneficial insects and butterflies. Pale Swallowtail, and Gray Hairstreak butterflies use Coffeeberry as a host plant for their larvae. Fruits ripen to a blue-black in late fall; many birds and small mammals relish the berries.