Aronia is a true Native American plant that is widely grown in Europe for fruit production. A native plant in the North American ecosystem, Aronia bushes have adapted to growing zones 3 to 8. It is a perennial, deciduous, self pollinating, self-supporting shrub. Aronia berries (also referred to as “chokeberries”) are bitter in flavor until fully ripened. The pea sized berries are harvested in late August to September and bushes are known to produce about 15-20 lbs of berries at maturity.
Choosing a location: Aronia bushes do best in full sun but will also tolerate partially shaded areas. You will, however, enjoy a higher yield of berries in a full sun location.
Planting directions (in ground): The bush can be planted at almost any time providing your soil is not frozen. Fall and spring season planting is known to give the best fruit yield.
1) This bush is not finicky about soil but does best in a slightly acidic soil with an optimum pH range of 6.1 to 6.5. Testing your soil is always recommended for the best results with any new plant/tree.
2) Make your hole three times as wide as the plant and just as deep as the bush’s root ball.
3) Amending organic materials into your soil such as composted manure will improve water retention as well as the soil fertility.
4) As you back fill the hole, stop a couple of times to add water. This will help settle the soil and cut back on air pockets.
5) Water well after completely back filling the hole.
Planting directions (potted): Aronias can also be successfully grown in pots for a decorative bush on the patio that can still produce berries. The bush matures at a height of 4-6 feet so you will not need a large space for the bush but still try for a full sun exposure.
1) Select a pot 1-2 sizes larger than the current pot the bush is in with good drainage holes.
2) Using a regular potting soil, be sure to avoid any air pockets as you pot the bush.
3) Water generously once you have finished potting the bush to help the soil settle.
4) Place next to a South facing window for maximum sun exposure.
Watering: Try to keep your soil moisture consistent for the first couple of years. Aronia bushes need at least an inch of rain per week so be sure to water well twice a week to simulate the rainfall. You may need to water a bit more during extended dry periods or during summer heat. More mature plants will not require as much water and will be adaptable to hot and dry conditions. For the first couple of years, the soil needs to be kept moist so mulching is highly recommended to conserve water and prevent competing weeds from growing. Leaf spot can occur on aronia bushes but is easily avoided by watering at the base of the bush instead of a “rain down” fashion.
Pruning: 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. Good airflow is essential to the health of the bush and will also simultaneously prevent disease or damage from occurring. Always prune at a 45 degree angle and with sterilized cutters, rubbing alcohol or boiling water are common ways to sterilize.
Fertilizing: Fertilizing is not often needed or necessary but in instances where the soil is lacking in nutrients, a good feeding with a balanced formula is recommended. Wait to apply the fertilizer until the spring season.
Harvesting: The late summer to early fall seasons are when you will be looking to see if your aronia berries are ready to be picked. They tend to be a lot sweeter if left on the bush after the first initial frost of the season. If there is any hint of red to the color of the berries then they are not ready to be harvested. The picking of the ripened berries is very easy. Simply grab a cluster of the berries and drag your hands down (tying a bucket to your waist is handy to keep both hands free for mass harvesting).
There are multiple benefits to adding an aronia plant to your property. It is a very ornamental and resilient plant. It adapts to the surrounding natural ecosystem, able to withstand invasions from insects and diseases as well as the natural variations in the climate. Like a persimmon tree, aronia berries will sweeten more after a freeze. Many enjoy the antioxidant rich berries for juicing, baking, and jellies. Even if the berries are of no use to you, you can enjoy a lovely cache of birds feasting upon them during the cold of winter.