Chokeberry Shrub Guide: How To ID Black Chokeberry, Growing, Care Tips

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | May 7, 2024

Man looking at chokeberry shrub after learning how to identify black chokeberry, red chokeberry and other types of chokeberry bushes, and planting and care tips.

If you are looking for a low-maintenance shrub to add to your outdoor space, the Chokeberry bush can be a great choice.

Its colorful berries not only make it a great ornamental plant, but they make a great food source for all sorts of birds and other wildlife, attracting pollinators to your yard and helping support the local ecosystem.

Native to North America, the Chokeberry plant thrives in a variety of climates, meaning pretty much anyone can add this plant to their landscape no matter where they live in the country.

And, don’t let the name fool you, these berries are safe to eat and offer a number of health benefits.

This complete guide explains how to identify chokeberry plants, and how to ensure that planting chokeberry bushes goes smoothly so that your plants flourish.


(Aronia melanocarpa (black Chokeberry))

Chokeberry image in oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Rosaceae
  • Genus: Aronia
  • Leaf: 1 to 3 inches long, oval, green, smooth, shiny
  • Seed: Small, deep purple 1/16 inch long
  • Blossoms: White, five petals, pink stamens
  • Fruit: Red or black, occurring in clusters up to 30 berries
  • Native Habitat: North America
  • Height: 3 to 8 feet
  • Canopy: 2 to 6 feet wide
  • Type: Deciduous
  • Native Growing Zone: 3 to 10

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Least Concern


How To Identify Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

When it comes to how to identify Chokeberry, here are descriptions of the main parts of the plant.

Chokeberry Leaves

The leaves are on an alternating pattern, which means there is only one leaf on each node, and there is no other one directly opposite. They are usually one to three inches long and anywhere from ¾ of an inch to two inches wide and have an oval shape.

The base is narrower than the tip. Chokeberry leaves are very attractive with their deep green shade and shiny, glossy surface.

Graphic showing how to identify Chokeberry showing black Chokeberry fruits, white Chokeberry flowers, and Chokeberry leaf in circle frames on green background.

You will only find leaves on the top two-thirds of the plant. Some varieties have leaves that change color in the fall, producing brilliant shades of orange, red, and yellow.

Chokeberry Flower

The Chokeberry plant blooms as one of the types of white flowers that have five petals and several pink stamens. They form in clusters of about 2 inches in diameter and each cluster can have as many as 30 flowers.

The flowers bloom later in the spring, meaning they aren’t susceptible to the potential damage that comes from later-than-expected frost.

Chokeberry Fruits

Chokeberry fruits grow in clusters that may contain anywhere from a handful to 30 berries each. They have a glossy appearance and are either black or red depending on the type of shrub.

Chokeberry fruit is a pome, a fleshy fruit that has a central core containing anywhere from one to five seeds. The seeds usually reach full maturity in August and not long after, they start to shrivel and drop away.

Black Chokeberry vs Red Chokeberry

Both Black Chokeberry and Red Chokeberry can be used in the home garden, though black is much more common. These two species are very similar in most respects but there are some differences.

Black Chokeberry and Red Chokeberry comparative graphic showing the difference of the two species based on fruit color and size, fruiting season, and form.

The fruits of Black Chokeberry are bigger and turn a purplish-black shade while Red Chokeberry makes smaller fruits that turn a bright shade of red. The former’s berries mature in late summer and drop off the plant shortly after, while the latter’s mature in autumn and stay on the bush through the winter.

Between the bright red shade of its berries and the fact they stay on the tree through the winter, the Red Chokeberry may be more appealing for people looking to keep some color in their garden during a time when most things die off.

Black Chokeberry has a rounder structure and more leaves further down to the base, while Red chokecherry has a more upright shape and fewer leaves near the bottom.

Red Chokeberry has much more aggressive sucker growth, making it more likely to spread if the shoots aren’t regularly pruned. For this reason, it might not be the better choice if the available planting space is on the tight side.

Chokecherry vs Chokeberry

When it comes to Chokecherry vs. Chokeberry, you need to know they are two completely different plants.1 It’s easy to think they are related somehow given their similar appearance and that they come from the same family of plants.

Chokecherry and Chokeberry comparative graphic showing the difference of the two species based on fruit taste and height.

Chokecherry berries are not as tart as Chokeberry. They grow much taller as well to 20 feet–and are much denser. Chokecherry also suckers much more and grows much more quickly.

Best Growing Conditions for Chokeberry

While this plant is pretty hardy and low maintenance, it is still important to know the best-growing conditions for Chokeberry to create as healthy and attractive a shrub as possible.

Spacing for the Chokeberry Bush

Knowing how far apart to plant Chokeberry is important if you plan to have more than one shrub so they don’t crowd each other. Generally, it is best to place them about 4 to 6 feet apart.


The watering needs for Chokeberry plants will change as the plant gets older. During its first growing season, it is important to water it regularly as it gets established.

If the first couple of inches of soil are dry, it needs a nice drink. Once Chokeberry gets established, it is technically considered a drought-tolerant plant, but it will do best with moderate watering, especially if you want to maximize berry production.

If there are prolonged dry spells or hot weather, you should give it a thorough watering.


This plant can tolerate a very wide range of soils, even sand and clay. While it will do okay in alkaline soils, it thrives best in ones that are slightly acidic, which would have a pH of between 5.1 to 6.5.

Well-draining soil is best, but it actually does well in wet dirt, meaning Chokeberry can be a good choice for boggy areas where most other plants would not be able to survive. It can also tolerate salt, so can do just fine near roadways that get salted in snowy weather.


So how much sunlight does Chokeberry need each day? The answer is a pretty good amount.

It will thrive best if planted in an area that gets full sun, which translates to a space that gets at least 6 hours of direct light daily. It can do just fine in partial shade, but it probably won’t produce as many flowers and berries.

Too much shade will significantly impact its growth, and could even kill it.


Chokeberry can withstand a range of temperatures and seems to do just fine in the coldest and hottest average temperatures of its ideal growing zones, which as mentioned earlier, are 3 to 8.

Because it doesn’t bloom until much later in the spring, it is protected from any frost that still may occur earlier in the season. Provided there is good air circulation around the leaves, higher levels of humidity shouldn’t put the plant at risk of fungal diseases.


Unless you are planting the shrub in especially nutrient-poor soil, regular fertilizing should not be necessary. As mentioned earlier, when first planting Chokeberry, putting some compost in the dirt could give it a nice boost.

You could consider doing this yearly to keep it healthy but it is not necessary.

When To Plant Chokeberry Bush

As for when to plant Chokeberry for the best yield, put the plant in the ground when the weather is more moderate, which would be either spring or fall.

Here are a few planting tips for Chokeberry:

  • The area you prepare for planting should be about three times as wide and deep as the plant container
  • Enhance the soil with compost or other types of organic matter
  • Gently loosen the roots from the pot
  • Create a hole equivalent in size to the root ball, and make sure the top of it is even with the surrounding soil
  • Fill the hole with dirt and pat down on it gently to remove air pockets
  • Give the plant a nice thorough watering

Chokeberry Growing Zone

The Chokeberry growing zone ranges from 3 to 8.2 So when it comes to where to grow, it can thrive in a wide range of climates.

The lower end of the growing zones for Chokeberry–zone 3–covers some of the coldest areas in the continental US, meaning this plant is quite cold-hardy.

Chokeberry Growth Rate

When it comes to the Chokeberry growth rate, it comes in at the slower end of the spectrum. How long it takes to grow Chokeberry will ultimately depend on the size of the shrub, but generally, it will take about 5 years to reach its full height.

Growing a Chokeberry From a Seed, Cutting or Seedling

When growing a Chokeberry from a seed, cutting, or seedling, here is what you need to know:

Growing From a Cutting

Growing the plant from a cutting is the easiest way to propagate Chokeberry, and is the only way to guarantee the new plant will be identical to its parent.

Propagating requires softwood growth, and the cuttings should be taken in the mid-to-late summer. The branch should be long enough that it contains 2 to 4 internodes–this is the part of the branch from which a leaf or another branch would sprout.

Keep only the top two leaves of the cutting, and dip the cut end in the rooting hormone. Place the cutting in a 4-inch pot filled with moist potting mix, with the last two inches of the cutting buried in the dirt.

While Chokeberry does best in full sun, a new cutting should be placed in an outdoor space with partial shade and watered regularly. Once you see new growth, you can move the plant somewhere in your garden or keep growing it in the container until the fall.

Growing From a Seed

Growing Chokeberry from a seed is a more involved process. Its seeds need to undergo something called cold stratification,3 where prolonged exposure to colder temperatures is necessary to break down the coating of the seed, allowing in the water necessary for it to sprout.

The seeds would need to be placed in peat moss and stored at temperatures between 33 and 41 degrees for about three months. It is best to start this process in September.

Cleaning the pulp from the seed thoroughly is important for germination.

Between this long preparation time and the fact that the new plant would not be identical to the parent plant, meaning you don’t know what you are going to get. Because of all this, it really isn’t the recommended route.

Growing Chokeberry Bush in Containers

Chokeberry can be grown in pots but they must be very big–at least 20 gallons with ample drainage holes. Like Chokeberry that gets planted into the ground, adding some compost to the soil is a good idea to encourage healthy growth.

Plants in containers dry out more easily, meaning your potted Chokeberry plant will need a bit more attention watering-wise. Because these plants do not grow super-quickly, you will not need to re-pot them yearly.

A Chokeberry plant will not need to be moved to a bigger pot until the roots have filled the bottom of the container and are growing out of the drainage holes.

Companion Plants For Growing Chokeberry

The best companion plants for growing Chokeberry are fellow woody ornamentals and herbaceous perennials. When choosing these plants, check their growing zone as some may not have the same wide range as Chokeberry.

Top shot of newly harvested black Chokeberry fruits inside a bucket.

(Image: Salicyna10)

Some good herbaceous perennials include:4

  • Yarrow
  • Fernleaf yarrow
  • Hyssop
  • Double bubble mint
  • Hollyhock
  • Sea pink
  • Prairie sage
  • Silver mound sage
  • Butterfly weed
  • New England aster
  • Dwarf fall aster
  • Basket-of-Gold
  • False indigo
  • Chocolate flower
  • Poppy mallow
  • Cupid’s dart
  • Mountain bluet
  • Coreopsis
  • Purple prairie clover
  • Coneflower

Some good choices for woody ornamentals include:

  • Hibiscus
  • Hydrangea
  • Crepe myrtle
  • Azalea
  • Forsythia
  • Redwood dogwood
  • Crabapple
  • Butterfly bush
  • Chaste tree
  • American beautyberry
  • Japanese beautyberry
  • Chinese fringe flower
  • Inkberry
  • Red buckeye

Pruning the Chokeberry Tree

Pruning should generally take place after it has finished flowering for the season,5 but you can also do it in late winter.

There are a few different reasons you would want to prune Chokeberry. Like any other shrub or tree, removing dead, damaged, and diseased branches is important not only for aesthetic purposes but to maximize its health by getting the plant to direct its energy to produce blooms, fruit, and healthy new growth.

Pruning for shaping purposes is also important as shrubs can become unsightly when left to their own devices.

Removing suckers from the base is important to prevent their spread. This is something you would need to do more often–perhaps once a month between early spring and early fall.

Cutting back a third of the branches every few years can be good for rejuvenating Chokeberry.

How To Stop Chokeberry Disease

Chokeberry plants are pretty hardy in various respects, including being resistant to damage from disease and pests. So when it comes to Chokeberry disease prevention, this isn’t something you have to be majorly concerned with.

But while this plant may not be one of the more fragile ones in this regard, this doesn’t mean it is invincible. There are certain diseases and pests that have the potential to do serious damage.

Problematic Pests

Some of the common pests of the Chokeberry include:

Mealy Lantern Fly

This insect can damage the Chokeberry plant by feeding on juices in its cells, which stunts its growth and introduces several diseases to the plant. This pest is one of the more difficult to get rid of since its body is coated in a substance that makes it resistant to treatments designed to kill it.

But one form of natural pest control for Chokeberries that may help with this insect is white vinegar sprayed directly on them.


Mites love to attack fruiting shrubs like Chokeberry. Once they start to feed on the plant, the leaves will take on a dry appearance, the flowers will not produce fruits or seeds and the plant will just not grow as it should.

Some ways to kill mites on plants include spraying down the leaves with 70% isopropyl alcohol and wiping them down with a solution of soap and water.

Fall Webworm

The fall webworm, AKA the American white moth, is known for feeding on ornamental plants and fruit-bearing plants such as Chokeberry.

It spawns two generations yearly, with the caterpillars taking up shop on the underside of the leaves and the pupa in the top layer of the soil. Eventually, they form nests where they feed.

This pest will cause the shrub to lose leaves, which will lead to decreased flower production.

The most effective way to deal with this insect is to remove the webbing from the plant or even the affected branches completely. Even if you can’t remove it all, even just a little damage to the web can be helpful since it will allow predators easier access.

Neem oil may also help.

Cherry Fruit Fly

Cherry fruit flies will go after the berries, leading to discoloration and rot. They will make an appearance sometime in the middle of May and fly for about a month.


Aphids are a common pest in the home garden. They attack the plant organs and feed on the cell juice.

Typically they form colonies on the bottom side of leaves, in young shoots or the flowers. A particularly aggressive attack of aphids may stress the plant in various ways, and make it less resilient against a variety of plant diseases.

When it comes to insecticides, oils are usually the best treatment for aphids, such as neem or canola, as they do a good job of suffocating them.6

Potential Diseases of Chokeberry Shrub

Here’s a list of the possible Chokeberry shrub diseases:

Bacterial Gall

This bacteria enters the plant when it suffers a wound from causes like the weather or nematodes. It is most likely to occur when the weather is warmer and humidity is high.

Bacterial gall causes tumors to form on the stems and roots. They start soft but get harder and wood-like over time.

Copper-based treatments are the most effective.

Fire Blight

This is another disease that is most likely to occur in high humidity and can potentially destroy the plant completely. Other contributing factors include lots of wind and precipitation.

Affected plants can take on a burnt-looking appearance, including the fruits. Bacterial growth may appear if the weather is very wet.

Just like with bacteria gall, copper-based products are the most effective treatment.

Powdery Mildew

This disease affects the leaves, particularly younger ones, and shows up as white spots that can eventually cover the whole surface. Over time, any affected areas become wrinkly and dried out.

This fungus can also appear on the fruit, covering them with a white-felt-like substance. Eventually, the berries will crack and rot away. Removing affected areas is the best treatment.

Using Chokeberry Bush in the Landscape

Chokeberry bushes, like many other shrubs, have a lot to offer when it comes to landscape gardening.7 It is a great choice if you are looking to create some privacy hedges, fill in empty areas, cover up less aesthetically pleasing parts of your garden, or create a boundary.

Chokeberry bushes in particular are great for providing some structure to the space, and their colorful berries and attractive foliage give them great ornamental value.

When choosing a planting spot, there are a few things to take into consideration such as the height and width they will be when fully mature, the soil and sun conditions of the area, surrounding structures, and what types of plants will surround the bush.

They go well with other woody ornamentals and herbaceous perennials. If you have taller shrubs, low-growing plants placed in front will provide a nice contrast and soften the edges.

Benefits of Aronia Berries (Black Chokeberry)

Aronia berries are a popular food source for nearby wildlife and you may be wondering: Can you eat chokeberries? And the answer is yes.

They are known to have numerous health benefits and are a popular ingredient in jams, jellies, syrups, teas, and other beverages. The raw fruit has a pungent taste with a dry sensation, so would not be very palatable when consumed in this form.

A person pouring Chokeberry extract with thick consistency into a ceramic bowl atop a wooden table.

(Image: City Foodsters11)

Its primary health benefit comes from being extremely rich in antioxidants, which are substances that can protect the cells in our bodies from damage that lies at the root of numerous diseases from cancer to autoimmune conditions. Some powerful antioxidants found in the berries include triterpenoids, phenolic acids, cyanidins, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins.

According to the National Library of Medicine,8 research shows that the fruit of the Black Chokeberry tree may be beneficial for managing blood sugar, fighting infection, promoting healthy weight, protecting the heart, liver, and brain, and fighting tumor growth.

They are also rich in several other nutrients including vitamin C, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin E, vitamin K, pantothenic acid, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron.

Between being able to grow in a variety of climates, being highly adaptable to soil conditions, and its overall hearty nature, Chokeberry is a great choice for pretty much any garden.

Whether you choose Red or Black Chokeberry shrub, both will produce beautiful leaves, flowers, and fruits, brightening up any outdoor space and produces edible fruits that are extremely good for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chokeberry

Is Chokeberry Invasive?

Chokeberry can spread very rapidly and crowd out surrounding plants.

Are There Any Side Effects To Eating Aronia Berries?

The berries are generally safe to eat and are quite good for you. However, some people may experience diarrhea and an upset stomach if you eat too many.


1Stoner, N. Chokeberry | Horticulture, Landscape, and Environmental Systems | Nebraska. Horticulture, Landscape, and Environmental Systems. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from <>

22023 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from <>

3Parker, K. (2022, January 27). Seed stratification: What seeds require cold treatment. Illinois Extension. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from <>

4Greene, L., Klett, J., & Staats, D. Herbaceous Perennials – 7.405 – Extension. CSU Extension. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from <>

5How to Grow Chokecherry in Your Garden. USU Extension. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from <>

6Aphids Management Guidelines–UC IPM. UC IPM. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from <>

7Incorporating Chokeberry (Aronia) into a Home Landscape. University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from <>

8Potential Benefits of Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Fruits and Their Constituents in Improving Human Health. NCBI. Retrieved February 1, 2024, from <>

9Species Information Image: Red and black round fruits Photo by Minna Autio. Unsplash License. Cropped and remixed with text, shape, and background elements. Unsplash. Retrieved January 31, 2024 from <>

10Aronia melanocarpa 2022-08-10 7994 Photo by Salicyna. (2022, August 10) / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Resized. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 31, 2024, from   <>

1120: Aronia Berries and Söl Photo by City Foodsters. (2014, October 9) / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Resized. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 31, 2024, from <>