Low Scape Mound® black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa). Photo by: Proven Winners.

In recent years, chokeberry (Aronia) has gained renewed attention for its range of health benefits. Long a staple of Eastern European diets, this superfood has only recently been rediscovered in the United States, even though it’s native to woodlands, swamps, and bogs of eastern North America. Chokeberry is a versatile low-maintenance shrub that can easily be grown in home gardens.

With three-season interest, tolerance of a wide range of growing conditions and nutritious edible fruit, chokeberry makes an invaluable addition to any landscape.

On this page: Basics | Planting | Care and Maintenance | Pictures | Design Ideas

On this page:

CHOKEBERRY BASICS

Botanical name:

Aronia spp.

Common names:

Also known as black chokeberry and red chokeberry; sometimes confused with chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) because of the similar common name.

Zones:

Zones 3-9

Habit:

Bushy habit

Height/Spread:

8 inches to 12 feet tall, 1-1/2 to 10 feet wide

Exposure:

Partial shade to full sun

Bloom time:

Spring

Flowers:

Prolific clusters of scented blooms appear in spring. The five-petaled white or pink-tinged flowers, 1/2 inch across, have distinct dark pink tipped stamens and attract insect pollinators.

Fruit:

From late summer to fall, shiny edible blueberry-like fruits are produced in colors of black, purple, or red. Aronia is self-fertile, but will have bigger fruits and larger harvests when planted near other specimens.

Foliage:

Finely toothed green leaves 1 to 4 inches long are lance or oval-shaped with a glossy sheen. The foliage turns brilliant hues of red, orange or purple in fall.

Types of aronia:

There are two main species, red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) and black chokeberry (A. melanocarpa), as well purple chokeberry (A. prunifolia), which is a natural hybrid of the other two. Most cultivated varieties are black chokeberries.

Toxicity:

Aronia is not considered toxic to pets or children.

Are chokeberries deer resistant?

Younger plants are more susceptible to deer browsing. Protect with fencing or other barrier until well established. Overall resistance depends on the time of year and amount of competition for food. Browsing becomes less of a problem later in the season when other food sources are plentiful.

PLANTING CHOKEBERRY

Low Scape Mound® Aronia

When to plant:

Aronia can be planted in spring or fall when the weather is moderate.

Where to plant:

Plant in a site that receives full to partial sun. Plants will produce the most flowers and berries when they receive at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Too much shade will result in weak growth and poor production.

How to plant:

Loosen soil in an area that is three times as wide and deep as the container the plant is in. Amend the soil with compost or other organic matter. If plants are pot-bound, gently tease out the roots. Dig a hole the size of the root ball and place the plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Fill in the hole with soil, tamp down gently to remove air pockets, and water thoroughly. Water plants regularly until established. Space plants 4 to 6 feet apart. Mulch around plants to control weeds and retain moisture.

CHOKEBERRY CARE & MAINTENANCE

Pruning aronia plants:

Aronia blooms on old wood. Lightly shape plants as needed in late winter or after flowering. Remove dead or diseased branches. Suckers will develop around the base of the plant. Remove these rooting branches as they appear to prevent spreading.

To rejuvenate plants, thin out a third of older stems every few years. Older specimens may benefit from a more severe pruning back to a few feet tall every few years.

Soil:

Does best in moist, well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. Plants are tolerant of alkaline pH, road salt, and a wide range of soils, including sand and clay. Aronia will even grow in wet soils, making it a good choice for boggy areas where little else will grow.

Amendments & fertilizer:

Needs little or no supplemental fertilizer. If desired, apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer in spring and add a thin layer of compost around the base of the plants.

Watering:

Keep soil evenly moist until plants are established. Mature plants do best with moderate water, but are tolerant of drought and excessive moisture. To maximize fruit production, provide regular water and increase irrigation in extreme heat or prolonged dry spells.

Diseases and pests:

Few pest or disease problems. Pests can include aphids, scale, lace bug, fall webworm, or apple maggots. Diseases can include fruit or twig blight, leaf spot, or powdery mildew.

CHOKEBERRY PICTURES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Proven Winners

Low Scape Mound®Buy now from Proven Winners
Black chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa

Zones: 3-9
Habit: Mounding spreading habit
Height/Spread: 12 to 14 inches tall, 18 to 34 inches wide
Color: White flowers, green foliage, black berries, red fall foliage

The neat mounding groundcover habit is what sets this award-winning variety apart. Prolific clusters of white flowers smother the glossy leaves in spring, followed by purple-black fruit that contrast beautifully with the brilliant red fall foliage.

Photo by: Proven Winners

Low Scape Hedger® Buy now from Proven Winners
Black chokeberry, A. melanocarpa

Zones: 3-9
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 5 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
Color: White flowers, green foliage, black berries, orange and red fall foliage

The medium size and dense growth habit makes this suitable as hedging by a sidewalk, as a foundation planting or to divide garden rooms. Can be kept sheared as a formal hedge. Glossy oval leaves turn orange and red in fall. Plants are non-suckering.

Photo by: Proven Winners

Ground Hug™Buy now from Proven Winners
Black chokeberry, A. melanocarpa

Zones: 3-9
Habit: Low spreading habit
Height/Spread: 8 to 14 inches tall, 36 inches wide
Color: White flowers, green foliage, black berries, red fall foliage

With a low, dense mat-forming habit, this variety is useful for covering challenging sites where little else will grow. Shiny dark purple berries stand out against the bright red fall foliage.

Photo by: Paul S Drobot / Millette Photomedia

‘Autumn Magic’
Black chokeberry, A. melanocarpa

Zones: 3-8
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 4 to 6 feet tall and wide
Color: White flowers, green foliage, black berries, red and purple fall color.

This medium-sized variety is more compact than the straight species, with a fast, even growth habit. Abundant clusters of glossy dark berries contrast beautifully with the vibrant red and purple fall foliage.

Photo by: ben44 / Shutterstock

‘Viking’
Black chokeberry, A. melanocarpa

Zones: 3-8
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 6 feet tall and wide
Color: White flowers, green foliage, black berries, purple and red fall color

Developed in Europe as an orchard plant, ‘Viking’ was selected for its larger fruits and prolific production. Dark purple-black berries stand out against the vivid red fall foliage. Fruits persist into winter, providing a food source for songbirds and other wildlife.

Photo by: Rock Giguere / Millette Photomedia

Iroquois Beauty™ (syn. ‘Morton’)
Black chokeberry, A. melanocarpa

Zones: 3-8
Habit: Compacted round habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 4 feet tall, 3 to 5 feet wide
Color: White flowers, green foliage, black berries, orange-red fall foliage

This compact variety is suitable for smaller spaces. Orange-red fall foliage is especially vivid, contrasting beautifully with the shiny dark black berries.

Aronia alternatives: Blueberry bushes produce similar looking edible berries with a sweeter taste, and also develop brilliant fall color. Lower growing huckleberries can be substituted for dwarf varieties of aronia.

LANDSCAPE DESIGN TIPS

With all the variation and seasonal interest that aronias bring to the garden, the uses are nearly endless.

  • Include a dwarf form in an edible raised bed kitchen garden.
  • Plant a larger variety in a row to screen a property line.
  • Place along a stream or other naturally wet area where plants can spread naturally.
  • Create an edible garden area along a slope using chokeberry and blueberry shrubs, with groundcover strawberries as an underplanting.
  • Use a medium-sized variety as a foundation planting. Combine with other shrubs with multi-seasonal interest for an ongoing color display.
  • Use a groundcover variety instead of a grass lawn in a challenging area that gets plenty of sun.
  • Plant a hedge of a medium-sized variety to divide garden rooms and keep the hedge sheared for a formal look.
  • Use a medium to large variety as a stand-alone focal point in an island bed.
  • Plant alongside other native plants to create shelter and food for birds and other wildlife.

Photo by: Proven Winners

ARONIA HEALTH BENEFITS

The common name of chokeberry refers to the tartness of the edible fruits, which have a taste so bitter they can cause a choking sensation when eaten fresh. Considered a superfood, aronia berries are high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and flavonoids.

Possible health benefits include boosting the immune system, reducing cell damage due to cancer, improving liver function, protecting against coronary disease, and reducing inflammation due to diabetes. The bitter taste is tempered by processing the berries into jam, jelly, juice, syrup, and wine. The berries can also be dried or brewed into tea.

RELATED:
Berries for Year-Round Color
Best Flowering Shrubs for Season-Long Color
Native Plants

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