Black Chokeberry Plant Profile

Source of Fall Color for Your Native Garden

Black Chokeberry

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The black chokeberry is a deciduous shrub with a mounded shape. It features white flowers that come in clusters called corymbs. The flowers yield to black fruits (berries) by fall. Black chokeberry has dark green leaves that are 1 to 3 inches long and lanceolate or elliptical in shape. But it is most valued for its red fall foliage. It is also valued by gardeners in North America for its native status.

Botanical Name Aronia melanocarpa (formerly Photinia melanocarpa)
Common Names Black chokeberry, aroniaberry, aronia, or simply chokeberry
Plant Type Deciduous shrub
Mature Size Usually 3 to 6 feet tall and wide (though it can be up to 10 feet in width)
Sun Exposure Full sun or partial shade
Soil Type Well-drained 
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zone  3 to 8
Native Area Eastern North America

How to Grow Black Chokeberry

This shrub is highly adaptable. It can grow well in both moist and dry locations. Ideally, the soil should be acidic, but it can also grow in alkaline soil. While it prefers ground that drains well, it is tolerant of boggy soil.

If you want to plant the seeds, you should stratify them in a cold location for three months or more to facilitate germination. You can also take cuttings or divide the clones.

If you do not want the black chokeberry to clone itself and spread, you will need to keep the plant healthy and remove any suckers that appear.

Black chokeberry tends not to have any problems with pests or diseases.

Light

You can plant the black chokeberry in either full sun or partial shade. But you will get the best flowering and fruiting in locations with full sun.

Soil

A virtue of this shrub is how adaptable it is to a wide range of soils.

Water

The black chokeberry has average water needs.

Fertilizer

Mix compost in the soil when you plant black chokeberry. Each spring, side-dress it with a further application of compost.

Origins of the Names, Similar Plants

The genus name of Aronia derives from the Greek, aria, which is the name for another shrub whose fruits remind you of chokeberry's. The species name of melanocarpa is made up of two Greek words: melano (black) and carpa (fruit).

The common name also refers to the fruit, albeit less accurately. The fruit produced is a small, black pome that has tannins. They do not necessarily make you "choke," but they do pack pucker power. They might be too astringent for some people, but others do pick them and eat them fresh. They can also be used in cooking for jams, juices, and more. The wild birds will happily eat them off the shrub.

Sometimes it is called "chokecherry," though that is really a separate species (Prunus virginiana).

Black chokeberry is a sibling of the red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia). Both are part of the Rosaceae family, making them relatives of plants such as the apple (Malus spp.), hawthorn (Crataegus), and spirea (Spiraea).

Design, Landscape Uses, Varieties

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.

You can harness the natural tendency of black chokeberry to put out suckers to create masses of shrubs as part of a native garden. Use it on the partially sunny edge of a woodland garden.

Black chokeberry can be used as part of a garden designed to attract bees. It will also encourage wild birds to visit.

If you want a smaller variety, look for 'Morton' (which is also known as Iroquois Beauty) or 'Nero'. 'Autumn Magic' and 'Viking' have larger black fruit. ‘McKenzie’ is a taller cultivar that can be up to 12 feet tall.

Medicinal Uses

Some studies on the black chokeberry have shown that there may be health benefits from the antioxidants for conditions like metabolic syndrome, oxidative stress, and diabetes, but further studies need to be done to assess this potential.

Note: The preceding section is for educational purposes only and is not meant to be medical advice. Check with your preferred health professional before taking the black chokeberry for medicinal reasons.