Chokeberry

chokeberry aronia arbutifoliaVirtues: We love chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), a medium-size deciduous shrub, for its delicate spring bloom, long-lasting red berries and bright fall foliage, which makes it a good substitute for invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus). Its common name comes from the sour taste of its fruit. Birds generally eat its berries only after they have exhausted other food sources and cold temperatures have mellowed the chokeberry flavor, so this shrub’s ornamental quality persists deep into winter. ‘Brilliantissima’ is a cultivar often seen at retail; it is slightly more compact than the species and boasts even brighter red fall color and fruit. Good plant for spring pollinators and late-season birds.

Common name: Chokeberry, chokecherry

Botanical name: Aronia arbutifolia, syn. Photinia pyrifolia

Foliage: Simple green deciduous leaves turn purple-red to scarlet in fall.

Flowers/fruit: Clusters of small white flowers appear in spring. Bright red berries, almost a half inch wide, develop in fall and hang on into winter.

Habit: Deciduous vase-shaped shrub, 6 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.

Season: Spring for flowers, fall for bright red foilage, fall and winter for persistent bright red berries.

Origin: Open swamps and bogs and dry thickets of eastern North America, from New Brunswick and Ontario south through New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Southeast and Gulf States.

Cultivation: Grow in full sun to part shade. Growth is fuller and more compact in sun, and berry production is better. Adapts to a wide range of soil types and conditions (wet to dry), so long as drainage is halfway decent. May slowly spread by suckers; remove suckers if a colony is not wanted. Less likely to sucker in full sun. USDA Zones 4–9.

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6 thoughts on “Chokeberry

    • Hi, Chris — Deer will browse on this shrub but it isn’t their first choice. They’ll nibble at it once they’ve exhausted tastier options, much as they do with forsythia, for instance.

      Washington State University classifies chokeberry as “deer tolerant,” which I take to mean it can withstand some munching. Similarly, Rutgers University lists it as “seldom severely damaged” by deer. (Here’s a neat Rutgers page on deer and plants: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/ .)

      I would go for it if I were you.

    • We planted several chokeberries last year, along with several dozen other fruiting trees and shrubs, and the chokeberries are the only plants we’ve had consistent, recurrent deer damage on. They generally start by nibbling them back to nubbins when the flowers are about to open, then browse off any new growth throughout the summer. That’s what brought me to this website…googling for advice on how to keep the deer off my poor stunted chokeberries.

  1. Great 4 season shrub. Last year a flock of Robins descended upon my Chokeberry during a January snowfall and ate every berry. This year the berries remain, though in a somewhat shriveled state in late March.

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