Multipurpose Winter-Hardy Shrub With Healthy Fruit

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.

Happy gardening!

7 Responses

    1. Don Kinzler

      Aronia is neither on the list of plants deer prefer nor on the list of deer resistant plants. Whether or not deer will eat a particular plant varies so greatly, that it’s difficult to set guidelines. For example, I’ve seen lilacs and blue salvia on lists of deer resistant plants, yet we’ve had deer eat them hungrily in our yard. So although I don’t think deer prefer Aronia, one can never say with certainty. That’s what makes deer such a problem.

    1. Don Kinzler

      Hi. They can certainly be planted now, through September. They have been widely available. I’m sure there are others, but I saw them at Baker Garden and Gift, Fargo, and Sheyenne Gardens, Harwood earlier in the summer. I don’t know about availability currently.

      1. Katherine Tweed

        Thank you! We have the perfect spot ans I’m always looking for bird and butterfly friendly plants.

  1. Diane Hurner

    This sounds like a winner, but how do you keep the birds from eating the fruit before it’s even ripe? I have grape vines and also bittersweet, but I have never been quick enough to stay ahead of the marauders. Do you diligently cover them? I tried that and they just went underneath.

    1. Don Kinzler

      Birds have not bothered ours. I thought maybe we were just lucky, or the birds hadn’t discovered ours yet, but when doing research I discovered reports that Aronia is one of bird’s least favorite berries. There are reports of it being much less attack-prone than grapes, chokecherries and similar fruits.

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