Plant Spotlight on Black Chokeberry
November 24, 2021
Grow black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) for the birds; it is a native to North America and has attractive green deciduous leaves with black berries. Black chokeberry is particularly suitable for urban planting as it tolerates pollution well, loves sun and part sun, and can be planted in virtually any native soil with success. It is wonderful in naturalized settings and offers year-round interest for wildlife and habitat gardens. Sour edible black berries borne in fall can be used to make jams and jellies. Black chokeberry is not to be confused with the invasive wetland shrub Aronia arbutifolia. While the shrub likes wet conditions and works well in low-lying areas, it will also acclimatize to drought well, making black chokeberry a significantly versatile shrub that can be used to solve difficult soil conditions.
When, Where, and How to Plant Black Chokeberry
Black chokeberry is highly adaptive, but prefers moist loamy or sandy soils with good drainage and full sun exposure in garden zones 3 to 8. Plant the shrub in the spring. Dig a hole in a well-drained planting area, the same depth of the root ball, but 2 times as wide. If the shrub's roots are container bound, be sure to use a sharp knife to slice through the roots on each size of the root ball to encourage growth. Plant the top of the root ball so that it is level with the ground. Backfill around the root ball until it is about half filled. Water the root ball and backfill well. Place the rest of the soil around the root ball, forming a “well” at the base of the plant which will help collect and hold water.
Mulch the soil with a 2-to-3-inch layer of compost or organic matter. Maintenance includes spading any sucker roots that grow if you want to keep the bush relatively contained. If you want a more naturalized planting, let the suckers expand the shrubs into a mass. Only fertilize with an organic fertilizer before new growth occurs in the spring if the plant shows signs of undernourishment. Prune plants at any time. Shrubs overcrowded or planted in shadier, wet conditions are vulnerable to fungal problems.
Companion Planting and Design
Black chokeberry is a great solution near rain gardens or ponds because of its love for moist soils. This shrub works well for mass plantings, but some varieties grow leggy and open, so is not the best option for hedge rows.
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