Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Bearberry Honeysuckle, Blue Honeysuckle, Sweetberry Honeysuckle
Lonicera caerulea

Family: Caprifoliaceae (cap-ree-foh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info) (cap-ree-foh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Lonicera (luh-NIS-er-a) (Info)
Species: caerulea (see-ROO-lee-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Lonicera caerulea var. glabrescens

One vendor has this plant for sale.

7 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 2a: to -45.5 C (-50 F)
USDA Zone 2b: to -42.7 C (-45 F)
USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible


No positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral coriaceous On Feb 2, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

As a hardy fruit-producer in the north, for both home and commercial production, new cultivars of this species are showing tremendous promise.

The flavor of the best well-ripened fruit has been compared with raspberries, blueberries, currents, and plums---though of course it really has its own unique flavor which can vary considerably between cultivars. It can be delicious fresh, dried, or processed in various ways in baking, pies, cobblers, jams, purees, ice cream, sauces, juices, wine, etc.

It is also extraordinarily high in Vitamins C and A, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants, and has been used in traditional medicine for its nutrient value.

This fruit is the first of the season to ripen, beginning a couple of weeks before the earliest strawberries, and can be valuable to growers for extending the harvest season.

The wild species is highly variable, and many seedling plants produce fruits with a bitter flavor reminiscent of club soda/quinine, which cooking transmutes into something tasty. If you want good fruit for fresh eating, more productive cultivars have been bred with larger fruit and consistently excellent fresh flavor.

This species is not self-fertile and needs at least two different compatible cultivars in order to set fruit. It normally blooms a month before average last frost, and the flowers are frost-resistant down to 12F.

It grows and fruits well in Z2--Z4. In Z5-6, fruiting may not be reliable enough for commercial production, but may still be good enough for home use. There you may be best off with late-blooming cultivars (generally with Japanese ancestry), as (early-blooming) Russian material will break dormancy during winter thaws, leading to loss of the crop or loss of the shrub. The southern limits of this species have not been well tested, but for good fruiting, cool summers are necessary.

Some cultivars go dormant early (in August in Saskatoon), which wouldn't matter in commercial production but would make them less desirable for the home landscape. In Z5 and south, and especially where summer temperatures often go over 85F, most haskaps will go summer dormant and defoliate after fruiting. There they prefer light shade, and they may need summer irrigation even in eastern N. America. Note that defoliation may be an aesthetic issue in the home landscape but does not necessarily affect the health or productivity of the plant.

Fruit turns blue before it's fully ripe--the interior of fully ripened fruit is deep purple-red. Unripe fruit is bitter. As with blueberries, no peeling or seeding is necessary.

This species has no serious pests or diseases here in N. America, and it's more adaptable to a wider range of soils than blueberries. It also tolerates poor drainage and seasonal flooding---in the wild, it usually occurs in wetlands, though in the fields at Saskatoon it's reasonably drought-tolerant. It has shallow fibrous roots, and shouldn't be cultivated deeper than 2" within rows. It doesn't sucker, but it can be renewal pruned like a forsythia or a shrubby dogwood.

Fruits need to be protected from birds with netting during ripening.

This species is a mediocre ornamental---the flowers are not especially showy or fragrant.

Unlike some other honeysuckle species, this shows no indications that it might prove invasive. Native forms occur in the wild all across Canada (except in BC), but never as a dominant species.

The wild species is circumpolar in its distribution, with populations in northern Europe, Siberia, Hokkaido and the Kuril Islands, and western and northeastern North America. It has traditionally been cultivated in eastern Europe and northern Japan, where it's much in demand.

The largest breeding program in the world, begun in 2002, is run by Bob Bors at the University of Saskatchewan. He has made tremendous improvements in cultivars both for home and for commercial production, building on the work of his predecessors in Russia and Oregon. This has inspired a growers' association which is building a market around this new fruit.

The first modern blue honeysuckle breeding program began in Russia in the 1950's at the Vavilov Institute in St. Petersburg, one of the world's largest gene banks.

There's an important breeding program being run on a shoestring by Maxine Thompson, a Corvallis, OR professor emerita.

In Arkansas, Lidia Delafield at Berries Unlimited has released over 50 cultivars.

Also called haskap, bearberry honeysuckle, blue honeysuckle, or honeyberry.

In N. America, this species was first bred in Beaverlodge, Alberta in the mid-1940's, but as an ornamental. The fruits tasted horrible, and the trade name "sweetberry honeysuckle" has kept the memory of those bitter fruits alive. The people developing the delicious new cultivars beg us all to drop that name and call them "haskap" or "honeyberry" instead.

Much further information is available at

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