How to Grow Black Chokeberry

Black Chokeberry

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Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is a deciduous shrub that is native to the eastern part of North America. It grows in an upright and fairly rounded shape. Its glossy, dark green leaves are around 1 to 3 inches long and either lanceolate or elliptical in shape. The foliage turns red to reddish purple in the fall, providing striking color to the landscape before dropping off the plant for winter. Clusters of small five-petaled flowers appear in the spring, and purplish black to black fruits that are around the size of blueberries appear in the late summer to fall. Black chokeberry has a slow to moderate growth rate and can be planted in the fall or spring.

Botanical Name Aronia melanocarpa
Common Names Black chokeberry, aronia berry, aronia, chokeberry
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 3–6 ft. tall and wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Well-drained 
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zone 3–8 (USDA)
Native Area North America
Toxicity Nontoxic

Black Chokeberry Care

This shrub is highly adaptable and hardy. It can grow well in both moist and dry locations. Plus, ideally the soil pH should be acidic, but it can also grow in alkaline soil. And while it prefers soil that drains well, it is also tolerant of boggy soil. You can take advantage of the adaptability of black chokeberry when deciding how to use it in the landscape. For example, its tolerance of boggy soil makes it an excellent choice for wet areas where many other plants refuse to grow.

Because black chokeberry is so tolerant to many different growing conditions, it also tends to readily spread in the landscape. If you don't want multiple shrubs forming a thicket, you will have to monitor for and remove suckers around the base of the plant from which new plants with grow. Other than that, maintenance is very low for this shrub, as it will mostly take care of itself. It also generally doesn't have any major problems with pests or diseases. Plan to water during dry spells and prune annually to maintain its shape.

Light

You can plant a black chokeberry shrub in either full sun or partial shade. But you will get the best flowering and fruiting in locations with full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. In too much shade, the shrub will likely only minimally flower and fruit, and it will produce weak growth that ultimately could kill the plant.

Soil

A virtue of this shrub is how adaptable it is to a wide range of soils. It can tolerate both sandy and clay soil, though it prefers to grow in something in between those two. It also can handle some salt in the soil, making it a good option for a site near roadways that use road salt.

Water

Black chokeberry has moderate water needs. It can tolerate both the occasional drought and occasional flooding. But during prolonged dry spells and during particularly hot weather, it is ideal to give your shrub some water.

Temperature and Humidity

Black chokeberry has good tolerance for both the cold and hot temperatures of its growing zones. It flowers fairly late in the spring to avoid frost. But if there happens to be a late frost, this can damage the blooms and affect later fruiting for that growing season. So if your area does expect frost when your shrub is in bloom, consider covering the shrub with a sheet to protect it. Moreover, humidity typically isn’t an issue for the shrub as long as there is good air circulation around the foliage to prevent fungal diseases.

Fertilizer

Black chokeberry likely won't need supplemental fertilization unless you have nutrient-deficient soil. You can mix compost into the soil when you plant your shrub to give its growth a boost. Then, each spring apply a light layer of compost for continued healthy growth.

Black Chokeberry Varieties

There are several varieties of black chokeberry that vary slightly in appearance, including: 

  • ‘Autumn Magic’: This shrub has a more compact growth habit than the main species plant but with large clusters of fruit.
  • ‘Iroquois Beauty’: This variety also has a compact growth habit and features particularly vivid fall color.
  • ‘Viking’: This variety is known for its large black fruit and also sports vivid fall color.
  • ‘McKenzie’: This is a tall variety that can grow up to 12 feet.

Pruning

Besides removing suckers around the base of the shrub as needed to prevent unwanted new shrubs from growing, pruning will not be an extensive chore for the black chokeberry shrub. After the plant is done flowering in the spring, lightly prune the stems to shape the shrub to your liking. Also, remove any dead, damaged, or diseased portions of the shrub as you spot them.