Looking for a shrub that’s a little out of the ordinary? Plant an Aronia. Never heard of it? You might recall Aronia made all the news several years ago, as one of the new super-fruits that was packed with health benefits. Aronia berries were found to have 3 times the antioxidants of blueberries, and a whole medical book full of other healthy effects.
The best news for our region is that Aronia is fully winter hardy in our zones 3 and 4. There’s a lot to like about Aronia:
- Foliage is a rich, dark green, glossy and remains attractive all summer.
- Fall color is tremendous – one of the best. In autumn the shrub blazes with orange, red, copper and purple shades.
- Height is about 4 to 5 feet, shaped like an upright oval – slightly taller than wide.
- White flowers contrast attractively with rich green leaves in early summer.
- Clusters of purple-black, blueberry-sized fruits ripen in late summer.
- They are easy to grow, not particular about soil type or moisture. They will tolerate hot, sunny locations, or spots partial shade. Fruit production is best in full sun.
- Fruits are very tasty. Our own young Aronia produced about a quart of berries the first growing season. Only one plant is needed, as they are self-fruitful. Fruits turn black long before they are ripe. Wait to harvest until sampled berries are soft, juicy and sweet. If harvested too early the fruits are dry-textured, non-juicy and bitter. When ripe, the fruits have a very slight bite, but not bad. I’ve enjoyed them fresh out-of-hand directly from the shrub. Perfect for juice, jelly, jam or fresh eating.
- There are several named cultivars of Aronia melanocarpa available from locally owned garden centers.
Aronia has a common name that should be dropped: chokeberry. It’s a poor name, because the berries don’t make you choke, (I’ve enjoyed them fresh) and the name’s too close to chokecherry. Compared to chokecherry, chokeberries (Aronia) are much larger, sweeter, and much more palatable, especially for fresh eating. Chokecherry is a large, tree-like shrub, and Aronia is a much smaller shrub. Let’s just call it Aronia.