How to Grow Aronia Berries - Chokeberry

aronia-chokeberry-listAronia berries are a group of deciduous shrubs, also known as chokeberries, native to eastern North America. Chokeberries are often mistakenly called chokecherries.

Aronia is commonly found in wet woods and swamps. Berries are consumed fresh, sometimes frozen, and often processed as jam, wine, tea, etc. Fruits are sour.

Aronia is often named after fruit colors, including red, black, and purple chokecherries.

Red chokeberry (Aronia Arbutifolia)

Red chokeberry (Aronia Arbutifolia) is native to eastern Canada and to the eastern and central United States.

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The red chokeberry plant is a thick shrub - stems grow from the roots. When grown in a backyard garden, regular pruning is required to keep the plant under control.

Red chokeberry grows up to 2–4m (7-13 feet) tall and 1-2 m (3-7 feet) wide, flowers are pale pink, often fully white, with the red, 5-10 mm wide fruits, persisting into winter.

Black chokeberry (Aronia Melanocarpa)

The black chokeberry (Aronia Melanocarpa) is very similar to the red chokeberry.

aronia melanocarpa berries

It is also native to eastern Canada and to the eastern and central United States.

Black chokeberries tend to be smaller than red chokeberries - they are rarely taller than 1.2-1.8 m (4-6 feet), but as they spread by root sprouts, individual plants can be 3m (10 feet) or more wide.

The 1.5 cm wide flowers are white. The black chokeberries are black, 6–9 mm wide, and not persisting into winter.

Purple chokeberry (Aronia Prunifolia)

Purple chokeberry (Aronia Prunifolia) - like red and black chokeberries, purple chokeberries are native to eastern Canada and to the eastern and central United States.

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Some scientists consider purple chokeberry to be a hybrid. However, it grows in areas where neither parent is present - enough to be considered as a full species. Other than that, it is very similar to red and black chokeberry. The fruit is dark purple, almost black, and 7–10 mm in width. The fruit is not persisting into winter.

Note: there is also a Sorbaronia Mitschurinii species, sometimes also called Aronia Mitschurinii. Aronia Mitschurinii has been considered to be a group of cultivars of Aronia melanocarpa. This self-fertile species is more robust than wild populations of Aronia melanocarpa with broader leaves and somewhat larger fruits.

Chokeberries are very decorative plants that can be grown in a wide variety of locations and soil types.

They are very resilient plants, very resistant to drought, insects, and diseases, and can be grown even in the shade or half-shade of other trees. If grown for the fruits, consider positions with full sunlight.

Chokeberries are also very hardy plants and can be grown in 3 to 8 zones.

The most popular decorative cultivars are "Brilliant" and "Autumn magic," while the most popular fruit cultivars are "Viking" and "Nero."

Proper Soil for Growing Aronia

Chokeberries are not very picky plants and can grow on soil with a pH between 5 and 8; however, they grow best with a pH between 6 and 6.5 - slightly acidic.

Aronia tolerates waterlogged soil with slow drainage, and when established, it is resistant to drought, too. However, to increase fruit production and to keep fruit and plants healthy and strong, soil with good drainage is preferred, with an active dripping watering system during summer for keeping the soil moist.

Soil preparation is very similar to the soil preparation of other berries - in the late autumn, add aged manure and some organic compost to the soil and dig in everything carefully.

In late winter, again, add some aged manure, organic compost, worm casting, and balanced NPK fertilizer (for example, 10-10-10), preferably with a gradual release of nutrients, and carefully till the soil.

Aronia is a "wild" plant, so it doesn't require much - reason more to prepare the soil and make it rich in organic matter and nutrients.

Of course, too much of something is not good, so keep fertilizers in moderation. If you use organic mulch around the shrubs and your soil is, generally speaking, rich in nutrients and organic matter, adding aged manure and some compost/humus annually is more than enough for Aronia shrubs.

Note that fertilizers like aged manure and humus/compost increase the acidity of the soil, increase the amount of organic matter, and generally improve the quality of the soil - if you have sandy or heavy soil, before planting Aronia bushes, be sure to mix the soil with plenty of aged manure, humus/compost, peat moss and similar.

In the case of heavy clay soil, some sand and plenty of organic fertilizers can help improve the quality of soil, especially the drainage, but Aronia/chokeberry tolerates even such soils.

 Obtaining Aronia Plants

There are several methods for obtaining the chokeberry/Aronia plants, including:

Garden Centers and Nurseries

Aronia can be bought as two-year plants in garden centers and nurseries. Such plants will produce some fruit very next year, with a much larger harvest in later seasons.

Transplanting the Young Stem With Roots

However, Aronia can be transplanted by digging out a young stem with a part of the root system - this is the easiest and, obviously, the cheapest method regardless if you are transplanting your own Aronia, one found in the wilderness or Aronia from someone's garden.

Growing Aronia From Seeds

Also, Aronia can be grown from the seeds - it takes some time and patience since the seeds are very small and they need several months of cold stratification.

Sow the seeds in flower pots in late autumn or during winter. Flower pots should be filled with good potting soil. After the seeds start to germinate, remove all the plants in the pot except the strongest one.

Depending on the size of the pot, young chokeberry can be kept for one season in the original pot, or it can be transplanted to a permanent location.

In the third season, one can expect the first fruits, with a larger harvest in season four and later.

If you like to experiment, feel free to order some seeds from online shops or garden centers.

Note: seeds from various cultivars will not produce identical plants.

Softwood Cuttings

Softwood cuttings are taken in mid to late summer - cut the branches long enough to have four internodes, remove all the leaves except the top two leaves, and dip the branch into the rooting hormone.

Take a 4-5 inches (10-13 cm) pot, fill it with good potting soil and place the cutting ~2 inches (5 cm) deep. Keep the pot outside, in the shade, and keep the soil well moist.

When new growth appears, place the pot in partial shade and water less regularly. In the fall, transplant the young chokeberry in the permanent location.

Note: air layering is very similar to rooting the cuttings and can be done as well.

Pruning Aronia Plants

When pruning, remove everything which is dead, ill, or branches that cross one another.

Remove young stems that are growing from the soil outside the desired area. Also, remove stems that are making the Aronia bush too thick. Other than that, there isn't much to prune, especially if the Aronia is grown as a decorative hedge.

Since chokeberries flower on the old wood, be careful not to prune the branches with flower buds.

aronia melanocarpa flowers 1

Aronia/Chokeberry Pests and Diseases

Aronia/chokeberry is a very resilient plant, not having specific issues with diseases and typical garden pests.

However, deers and rabbits like to browse the Aronia and can damage the plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common Frequently Asked Questions about Aronia.

Chokeberry vs. Chokecherry

Chokeberries (Aronia) and chokecherries (Prunus) are two very similar berries.

However, chokeberries (Aronia) have many small seeds, while chokecherries have one pit. Also, parts of chokecherries like leaves, twigs, and seeds are poisonous to animals and humans, while the flesh of the chokecherry fruit is edible.

Both chokeberries and chokecherries have a very sour, astringent taste causing most people uncustomed to such berries to - choke. Hence the "choke" part of the names.

But they are excellent when processed in jams, pies, and similar.

Can you eat a chokeberry?

Technically speaking, yes, humans can eat chokeberries, but they are bitter, sour, and astringent ... They taste much better processed, but there are people and even children that really like their taste.

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Is elderberry a chokeberry?

No, elderberries and chokeberries are two different plants.

Are chokecherries poisonous to humans?

Most parts of chokecherries are poisonous to humans and animals, including leaves, twigs, branches, and berry pits (stones).

Farm animals, for example, horses and cattle, can easily be killed by eating chokecherry plants, while deers and rabbits like to browse chokeberry plants.

The flesh of fully ripe chokecherry is safe for humans, even when raw.

However, chokecherries are often processed, and as such, they taste so much better.

Note: some people claim that cooked chokecherry pits are safe for humans - stay away and DO NOT try under any circumstances...

Few Final Words

Aronia or chokeberries are easy plants to grow, and being self-pollinated, they can be grown as individual plants in small gardens and balconies.

Being very resilient, they require little to no attention - some water during summer, some organic mulch to protect the soil from sun heat, pruning of dead branches, and that is almost all.

And in return, they provide gardeners with plenty of tasty (when processed) and very healthy berries.

If you have some free area in your garden, even in the partial shade, give Aronia/chokeberry a chance.

For more information, feel free to check the following:

Health Benefits Of Aronia Berries

aronia health benefits mAronia berries, also known as chokeberries, are small, dark purple fruit native to North America. This nutrient-dense berry has recently gained popularity for its numerous health benefits and impressive antioxidant content.

Cultivated in various parts of the United States and Europe, Aronia berries are now recognized as a superfood, frequently consumed in a variety of forms.

Published: April 20, 2023.

How To Grow Chokeberry (Aronia) in Pots and Containers: The Ultimate Guide

aronia melanocarpa berries w150pxChokeberry (Aronia) is a very resilient plant, growing on different terrains, tolerating different soil types, temperatures, moisture, hardiness zones, etc.

Growing chokeberry (Aronia) in containers and pots has many benefits for backyard gardeners, but also for people who want to grow chokeberry (Aronia) on balconies, terraces, etc.

Published: January 24, 2023.