Virtues: 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.