Chokeberry shrubs

Downingtown, PA

I love chokeberry shrubs because they are clean and neat and have handsome foliage, buds, fall color, and flowers. I have several Red Chokeberry in the backyard with pretty red fruit that is very bitter to eat. I have one Tall Black Chokeberry about 10 ft high that has edible black fruit, though slightly tart. I visited my Chicago homeland in mid-August and found some regular Black Chokeberry about 4 ft high and bushy in a strip planting, probably 'Autumn Magic'. I was very excited to find some Purple Chokeberry, Aronia prunifolia, at Morton Arboretum that is hard to find. The first three photos show the Purple and the last two the regular Black Chokeberries. These are native to the mid-Atlantic. Some cultivars as 'Viking' are grown for the fruit for juice and jams, and companies are looking for chokeberry growers. The birds like the Black and Purple fruit too.

Thumbnail by Rickwebb Thumbnail by Rickwebb Thumbnail by Rickwebb Thumbnail by Rickwebb Thumbnail by Rickwebb
Silver Spring, MD(Zone 7a)

I have a Red Chokeberry which I got as a tiny plug last year. It has grown slowly. I look forward to the day when it is a nice big shrub with lots of berries.

Charlottesville, VA(Zone 7a)

Hello. I'm curious to know what companion plants you've selected for your shrubs. My goal is to create a mixed bed of native plants. I have four service berry trees and plan to add chokeberry between them. There's a 12' x 8' section between each tree. My understanding is that even the smaller varieties Rickwebb mentioned reach 5-7 feet wide and can sucker. I like my plantings more crowded than sparse, but it seems like 2 shrubs per section may be too many. And, as I said above, I'd like to have more than two species in this bed, but not too many bc I like repetition more than variety. Thanks for any thoughts you care to share.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

How much sun does Aronia need, Rickwebb? I am also looking for plants that can handle bright shade.... even if they are not at their most ebullient in less than full sun.

Downingtown, PA

The regular Black Chokeberry shrubs grow about 3 to 4 feet high x 5 feet wide if they are cultivars like Autumn Magic or Iroquois Beauty. Otherwise, they get 5 to 6 feet high x 6 feet wide or more. Two can fit in between the Serviceberry trees and will compliment them with their very similar foliage and bark. Two can also work for the Red or Purple species too. Chokeberries do best in full sun or with at least half full sun a day. I have one customer with several Red and Black Chokeberries in more shade than sun and they do alright but grow more upright and thin. The 4th photo shows some thin specimens in my Chokeberry Shrubs 2 album. Fothergilla and Summersweet are more tolerant of shade.

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

clr0202, what about planting one Chokeberry between each Serviceberry and some smaller plants in the front of the Chokeberries? You could plant more fruiting shrubs (e.g. Mahonia aquifolium 'Compacta'), native grasses or flowering perennials.

I'm probably not the best judge of what is "too crowded"! I just planted a small Amelanchier arborea (Downy Serviceberry) 4-5 feet away from a cluster of 3 Aronias (black and red) that are only about 3 feet apart from each other, which is much closer together than what you're considering.

I think it will work because A. arborea are more like trees than shrubs, and the Aronias will fill in the bare area at its base. If it gets more crowded than I like, I will pull up Aronia suckers and give them away!

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

Happy, what about Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape)? They'll tolerate more shade. I have one Mahonia aquifolium in part-sun and just planted 2 Mahonia aquifolium 'Compacta' on either side of it to increase berry production.

Edited to say I must have had a senior moment there: Ilex verticillata would be ideal : - )

This message was edited Sep 2, 2014 10:11 PM

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Are you kidding?

Ilex verticillata Ilex verticillata Ilex verticillata Ilex verticillata...

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Everybody but me loves Mahonia. I have one in my yard I dug up many years ago from my mom's yard and it just looks awful. I have seen nice specimens in other people's yards, but mine looks ridiculous. Spiny and thin. Not at all lush.

What am I missing in the discussion of Ilex verticillata?

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Haha...VV.

Rick I purchased 12 aronia arbutifolia this spring and they were very leggy and haven't grown much this year. Six of them need replaced. I've gotten 4 replacements from the nursery so far and they keep promising me 4 more but I haven't seen them yet. I'm disappointed because I was hoping they would be more dense. I've been very cautious about cutting them back because I feel like if I did that, there would be no leaves and they'd die. All are 3-4' tall with leaves on the last 12" of plant. My thinking is that they might perform better next year as they may have had some bud damage from last winter. Any thoughts?

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

Sequoia, how many trunks do your Aronia shrubs have? I have one with only one trunk (I think that's the right term), and it is very leggy with just a bit of growth on the bottom. The other 2 have 5-6 trunks and have even growth from top to bottom.

Viburnum Valley, I'm surprised you didn't mention suitable Viburnums for Zone 7a.

This message was edited Sep 3, 2014 6:48 PM

Downingtown, PA

Oregon Grapeholly, Mahonia aquifolia, is a pretty broadleaf, but I would not use it with the plants mentioned above. One broadleaf that would fit would be Inkberry Holly (Ilex glabra). Prairie Dropseed could be used in front of them as a grass, but not necessary. Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), or Highbush Blueberry (with medium or strong acid soil), or Common Spicebush go well with Chokeberry or Serviceberry. I prefer simple with not too many kinds of plants.

For new Red Chokeberry they need a good amount of watering to start. They grow upright and often are leggy, which looks fine to me. Give them time to establish. Rabbits like to eat the buds in winter, that they can reach, so you might have to screen young plants then. I posted some photos of Chokeberry and the other plants mentioned in the PlantFiles.

Charlottesville, VA(Zone 7a)

What a nice first experience I'm having participating in a forum on Dave's Garden. I have on my wish list at the Lazy S's Farm website one each of Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliantissima,' A. melanocarpa 'Iroquois Beauty,'A. melanocarpa 'Autumn Magic' and A. melanocarpa 'Viking.' So, I can try putting two b/w a couple of trees and one b/w the others. All but one of my service berry are multi-trunked. I hope the suckers are easily removed from both tree and shrub.

I could wait for the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards Fall Sale in October, which is expected to include Aronia and some other native shrubs: http://charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org/ Last year they had a few hundred shrubs and saplings. Most were in 3 gal pots and sold for $5. The price is right. But, I imagine the Forestry Department's offerings will be less showy than the cultivars mentioned in this thread.

I would definitely like to add some flowering perennials , and I should have specified that in my original question. So, I'm still interested in thoughts on that for this bed. Near the bed in question, I have Coreopsis 'Sweet Dreams' and Penstemen 'Husker Red,' as well as some Cotoneaster 'Scarlet Leader.'

I'm glad to know to be generous with watering new Aronia. They will get plenty of sun, and my dog might rouse herself enough to scare off the occasional rabbit .

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

clr0202: Glad to have you on the thread! I'm all ears on your success with your new shrubs. I want to really "shrub-up" our far back yard which is quite barren and shady (a lot of tall trees but nothing else).

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Muddy, my aronias are all multi-stemmed from the base. I guess I'll give them some time Rick and see how they go. Even as they are, they are way better than the blue hollies I had in there. Sorry VV but it's true, much less work with these guys. The hollies were always getting scale and spider mites.

Downingtown, PA

I hope you have a great experience with the shrubs in Charlottesville. Husker red in front sounds good. The Blue Meserve Holly or even the Green Meserve Holly are not wonderful plants to me with all their sprawliness. And they do hurt some to touch.

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

clr0202, Welcome!

Rick, I agree that Ilex glabra would look better with Aronia and Amelanchier than Ilex verticillata.

Happy, I have Clethra alnifolia 'Hummingbird' growing in part sun/part shade, and Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet' (Virginia Sweetspire) growing in part shade to full shade. The Itea growing in full shade is smaller than the ones getting more sun, but it's doing okay.

I keep thinking of trying Gaylussacia baccata (Black Huckleberry), which also allegedly does well in shade. Maybe I should just go ahead and order some already!

Downingtown, PA

When I wrote about Blue Holly I was thinking of Ilex merserveae, a hybrid of two spiny, evergreen hollies, as Blue Prince and Blue Princess, or the Green Merserve Holly has two cultivars called China Boy and China Girl with spiny, evergreen foliage. I don't like them. The Ilex verticillata (Winterberry) looks fine with Serviceberry and Chokeberry, but so does Clethra or Virginia Sweetspire. I am not familiar with the Gaylussacia.

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

I am so pathetic!! I had to search back through the Plant Addicts threads because I could not remember for the life of me what I had planted near my 2 Aronia melanocarpa shrubs and my Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliantissima'. I found it...it is a 3rd A. melanocarpa....so much fuller than the others that it didn't even look like the same kind of shrub.

I knew that where I had planted it - behind the other Aronias - had made sense to me at the time. I couldn't plant it in front because of roots from a cut-down tree, so I planted it behind them in the hope it will help fill in the legginess. I plan to sow seeds for flowering perennials in front of the group until the scrawny Aronias send up suckers and fill out.

Sequoia and Rick, how close together did you plant the Aronias that you are using as hedges? I'm thinking of moving one or two of mine so they have more room to grow, but I'd rather not.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

A lot of the native shrubs for shade like it moist. I'd rather not have to do a lot of supplemental watering in my "mostly shady" area. That further confounds my choices.

Muddy -- if you ever want to place a native plant order and split shipping or can get bundled pricing, I'd be happy to split with you.... It sounds as if our conditions are not that dissimilar.

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

How much direct sun does that area get? I know I have seen lists of plants for all kinds of shady conditions somewhere; in the meantime, this site has some recommendations, mostly native. I've never heard of them, but there's no harm in at least researching their suggestions. http://www.shop.shadygardensnursery.com/Plants-for-Dry-Shade_c32.htm

I've had Azaleas and American Hollies growing in dry shade with no supplemental watering for years. I bet you have enough Azaleas already, though, and American Holly might grow taller than you want. On the other hand, my American Hollies have grown at glacial speed, especially the one in the driest, shadiest spot, and you could always prune them. I have some growing within inches of my fence, so I'll keep those pruned to shrub form.

I'll think about which native plants I would want to order; good idea! Now, back to potting for the swap.

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Hey Muddy, my aronias are about 4' apart. They were just planted this season though.

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks. I might move the one I just planted when it's dormant. I have to dig out an Azalea first, though, and it has a huge root system. I actually have 2 huge Azaleas that should be moved, and room to spare in my shrub graveyard.

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Lol...shrub graveyard. What started as a shrub graveyard for me turned into a shrub garden and an excuse to buy more shrubs...

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

So far I have only purchased a Dogwood tree cultivar for that area.

Charlottesville, VA(Zone 7a)

Very healthy looking little shrubs (A. melanocarpa) arrived from Lazy S Nursery this week. They're hanging out in the shade for the moment. How much suckering have you all seen with black chokeberry? BTW Rickwebb, thanks for the photos you posted awhile ago.

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

I've haven't seen any suckering yet.

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