The Red Chokeberry is a wonderful, easy to grow garden shrub that brings interest all year round. It is also very hardy and grows well in wet soil, so it is a great choice if you have wet areas, or a pond or stream on your property. This is a wild plant that is native to American, so it is also the perfect choice for a wild or natural garden. It is small enough to fit into any garden, but large enough to stand out in a larger one, planted alone or in groups.
The Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) is a native American plant, growing naturally in damp areas all the way from Texas, up through Kentucky, Oklahoma and Ohio and into Ontario and Nova Scotia, in Canada. For natural plantings, combine it with the Loblolly Pine, Sweetbay Magnolia, and Red-Twigged or Yellow-Twigged Dogwoods, for an all-American planting of native species suitable for wet areas.
Growing Red Chokeberry Shrubs
The Red Chokeberry is a deciduous shrub that grows 6 to 8 feet tall. It is upright in growth and a mature plant is only 3 or 4 feet across, so it does not take up very much room in the garden. It has oval leaves that are 3 or 4 inches long, rich green, smooth and glossy on the upper side and grey-green on the underside. In fall the leaves turn spectacular shades of brilliant reds, purples and oranges. Most gardeners would agree that if this was all the plant did, it would still be very worth growing. There is however a lot more.
Flowers and Berries
This plant produces small white to pale-pink flowers in spring, and these develop into clusters of bright-red berries, each about ¼ inch across. They make a colorful display, and they can also be harvested to make delicious preserves or jams. This useful plant is a great choice if you want to feed your family from the products of your garden. The berries cannot be eaten raw as they are very astringent – so much so that the name ‘chokeberry’ is obvious once you try one. Fortunately this disappears when cooked and sweetened, producing tasty jams. Birds do not enjoy the berries very much, so they usually leave them until late winter, when all other foods have been eaten. This means the berries will last for months, glowing richly against the snowy backdrop of winter.
Hardiness and Climate
From spring to fall there is always something interesting to see on this shrub, which is also very hardy, growing all across the country, from hot areas to cold ones. It will grow well even in cold regions where the temperature falls to minus 30 degrees. It grows well in ordinary garden soil that is not too dry, but it also thrives in wet areas where many other plants will die. Use it around a pond, or along a stream, perhaps planted with Red Twig or Yellow Twig Dogwoods and other plants for wet areas. If you have poorly-drained spots on your property, the Red Chokeberry is a perfect choice.
Uses in Your Garden
In the garden it mixes well with other medium-sized flowering shrubs, and brings lots of interest in late summer and fall with its colorful berries and vibrant fall colors. It also makes a useful screen, planted in a row to indicate the boundary of your property, or to separate one part of your garden from another. Branches carrying berries can be cut and brought into the house, where they will last in vases for a long time.
Plant the Red Chokeberry in a sunny or partially shaded area. It will grow well in some shade, but the fall colors will be more orange, and less purple, than when it is grown in the sun. Once established it will tolerate periods of moderate dryness, but it does best in richer soils that have a regular supply of water.
Pests and Diseases
It has no significant pests or diseases, and it is easily grown with no need for any kind of complex care. It can be trimmed or pruned as needed, and early spring is the best time to trim back longer branches or remove a few very old ones.