If you are looking for a super easy super fruit to grow, you’ll want to consider growing an aronia berry bush. This little-known berry bush offers double pleasure. It is grown for its beauty as an ornamental. With deep green foliage as the backdrop for its pretty white flowers in the spring, and with the contrast of its deep purple berries nestled into its red-orange leaves in the fall, it offers year-round enjoyment. And its edible berries are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and phytonutrients.
Aronia berries, also called chokeberries, are bitter in flavor until they are ripe. Like a persimmon, the aronia berry will sweeten up after a freeze. Many gardeners enjoy the aronia as a berry for juicing, for baking, and for jellies. You will have to be the judge of whether their flavor is right for you. Even if the use of the berry isn’t of importance to you, you will enjoy a lovely bush and birds will feast on these berries during the cold of winter.
Aronia berry bushes (Aronia melanocarpa) are native to North America, and they are suitable to plant in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 3 to 8. The aronia plant was introduced to Russia and to Eastern Europe in the early 1900s where they gained popularity. There are thousands of acres of aronia growing in Europe today. Here in the U.S., aronia is growing in favor for its nutritional value.
What are Aronia Berries?
The aronia berry bush is a hardy and easy-to-grow plant. It has only few special requirements. Begin with a high quality bush from a reputable nursery or grower. There are several online growers that specialize in aronia bushes. Your plant should be about two years old for a successful transplant. You can expect berries around the third year.
Choose a sunny location for your aronia berry bush. While a partially shady location will work too, you will enjoy a higher yield of berries in fuller sun. This bush is not finicky about soil. You can plant your aronia berries in most soil conditions, from moist and boggy soil to dry and sandy soil. Although it isn’t picky, nutrients will increase its health, so add some compost to your soil as you plant this bush.
This resilient bush can withstand wet winters and dry summers. For the first couple years though, try to keep the moisture consistent. Water once or twice a week to provide an approximate inch of water a week to the plant. Once the plant is mature, it will require less water and will be more adaptable to whatever moisture Mother Nature provides.
Late in its dormant season, prune some of the older branches of your bush down to the ground to promote a new growth and a bushier form. Harvest your aronia berries late in the fall when they taste ripe. You can even wait until after a light freeze.
Speaking of freezing, fresh aronia berries can be flash frozen and stored in your freezer for up to a year. They are also a tangy burst of flavor when dried and added to a trail mix.
Pests and Problems
Aronia berry bushes are not prone to disease or to pests. They will rarely develop leaf spot or rust. Both of these are fungal type infections and are cosmetic in nature. They can be avoided if you water your aronia berry bush at the ground level rather than drenching the foliage with water. Plenty of elbow room will allow good airflow around the leaves, too, which will help prevent disease or damage.
Varieties to Try
- ‘Viking’ is a Russian cultivar that has recently been introduced back into the U.S. It is used commercially for its large, high-quality berries. It is a 6-8 foot tall bush that produces a large amount of berries.
- ‘Autumn Magic’ is an ornamental variety that grows to about 4 feet in height. It blooms out in white flowers in late spring and explodes into autumn colors of red and orange late into the fall season. Its berries are dark purple, offering a lovely contrast.
Here are some additional resources on aronia berries:
Aronia A New Crop for Iowa – Iowa State Unviersity
Black Chokeberry Aronia Melanocarpa – Fine Gardening