GROWING ARONIA BERRIES
An aronia berry is a tart, edible fruit best used for processing produced by an aronia bush (Aronia melanocarpa, or Sorbus mitschurinii -- a cross between Aronia melanocarp and Sorbus aucuparia). Aronia bushes are grown worldwide and have been cultivated by humans for hundreds of years. There are several named varieties of aronia, so it is important to choose one that is right for your area.
CHOOSING A VARIETY
Aronia are all similar sizes that can be maintained at approximately 5’-7’ tall at maturity.
Aronia are self-fertile and require no pollinator. While aronia are self-fertile, a pollination partner may increase the size and quality of the harvest.
The pollinizers should be planted no further than pollen carrying bees will fly, with no line of sight obstruction, to ensure proper cross-pollination. That distance varies with different bees, 100’ should be a good average distance.
Fruit ripen late summer to early fall, depending on variety and location.
USDA HARDINESS ZONE
Aronia are hardy to USDA zones 3-8. This rating tells you the minimum winter temperature the plants typically survive when properly hardened off. We do not have a good rating system at this time for summer patterns (long, short, hot, cool, humid, dry…), but if known, individual descriptions will indicate if a particular plant tolerates (or requires) hot or cool, long or short summers. On our web site you will find a USDA Hardiness Maps (select Growers Information at the bottom of the page) which provides information on the average minimum winter temperature in your location, by zip code.
Many plants native to locations that have cold winters have a Chill Hour requirement to ensure uniform waking up of flower and leaf buds in the spring. The chill hour requirement of plants varies by species, by cultivar, and sometimes by the level of dormancy achieved.
WHERE TO PLANT YOUR TREE
Aronia need to be planted where they receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight measured in early summer (late June to early August). Sufficient sun exposure triggers the initiation of new flower buds for the next growing season, without which there will be no fruit. Fruit ripening and flavor development are also benefited by the carbohydrate production stimulated by the sun, as well as it’s heat.
Aronia tolerate a wide variety of soils so long as they are well drained and moderately rich with a pH around 6.3-6.8. Improve your soil where you intend to plant by mixing an inch or two of plant based organic matter (manures are best for vegetable gardens), peat, or coconut coir into an area 1 1/2 to 2 times the diameter of the needed planting hole and up to a foot deep. A 2-4” deep layer of mulch (straw, leaves, or wood chips) applied after planting will continue to improve the soil.
Allow sufficient space for both the top of the bush and it’s roots when selecting the planting location. Refer to size descriptions for each variety, keeping in mind these are generally managed or pruned sizes, not maximum potential sizes. If you are planting an orchard be sure to include enough space between rows for transporting supplies in and fruit out.