Black chokeberry provides landscape interest through the seasons. In spring, this native shrub's pink-tinged buds open to masses of white flowers set off by glossy green foliage. Plump black fruits ripen in late summer and persist into the winter. Some birds will eat the fruit in late winter or early spring when it softens.
Black chokeberry shrubs (especially some of the cultivars) develop outstanding fiery red and orange fall foliage. A suckering plant, black chokeberry develops spreading clumps of slender, upright stems, making it an excellent choice for mass planting.
Common name: Black chokeberry
Botanical name: Aronia melanocarpa
Plant type: Woody shrub
Zones: 4 to 9
Height: 5 to 8 feet
Width: 8 to 12 feet
Family: Rosaceae, rose family
Sun: Full sun or partial shade.
Soil: Average loam or sandy soils. Slightly acidic pH is best.
Moisture: Prefers evenly moist, well-drained sites, but tolerates drier conditions.
Mulch: 1 to 3 inches of organic mulch such as wood chips, ground bark, shredded leaves, or pine straw.
Pruning: Cut back to reduce height. Thin plants by removing selected stems at ground level. Limit spread by removing suckers.
Fertilizer: Use a balanced fertilizer once per year if needed.
• Transplant suckers in early spring.
• Sow cleaned seeds in outdoor seedbeds in fall. Seedlings will emerge in spring.
Pests and diseases
• Several fungal diseases cause leaf spots.
• Black chokeberry has a leggy growth habit, becoming fairly open on the lower part of the stems. Because of this, the shrub is not a good choice for hedges, though it does work well for wider mass plantings.
• The fruits are astringent when eaten fresh (hence the name chokeberry!), but they can be cooked, pressed, and sweetened for juices, jams, and jellies.
• Because black chokeberry grows well in moist soil, it's a good choice for planting near ponds or streams.
• ‘Autumn Magic': Excellent red fall color; plants are more compact than the species.
• Iroquois Beauty: Dwarf form that grows 2 to 3 feet tall.
• ‘Viking': Red fall color; large fruits are suitable for juice and jelly.
All in the family
• Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) also has excellent fall foliage color. It has red berries. Purple chokeberry (Aronia x prunifolia) is a naturally occurring hybrid between red and black chokeberries.
• The rose family is a very large group and contains many important ornamental and edible plants. Some other flowering shrubs in this family include flowering quince (Chaenomeles), Amelanchier, cotoneasters, Photinia, Potentilla, and spireas.
Where to Buy
• Cabin Creek Nursery, Bonners Ferry, ID, 208-946-5214, www.cabincreeknursery.com
• Cold Stream Farm, Freesoil, MI, 231-464-5809, www.coldstreamfarm.net
• White Oak Nursery, Geneva, NY, 315-789-3509, www.whiteoaknursery.biz
(Text by Nancy Rose, photo by Amy Sumner)