Grown as an alternative to barberry, winged euonymus (burning bush), buckthorn, Russian olive, shrubby honeysuckles, or privet, Aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry) is valued for its scarlet fall color, red berries that hold into winter, fragrant flowers in spring, and ability to adapt to wet or moderately dry soils. Vase shaped with arching stems, it is also drought-tolerant, salt-tolerant, and pest-free; a great plant for mass plantings and hedges in sunny to partly shady sites. Stems can grow leggy with age, but it is easily pruned to keep it more compact. The fruits are slightly astringent (the basis for the common name), so birds tend to ignore them until winter, when their food choices are more limited. This means retaining sustenance for overwintering and returning migrants, as well as bright color in the garden after the first snows. The cultivar ‘Brilliantissima’ bears larger fruits and has more lustrous foliage.
Shrub for four-season interest, fragrant flowers, wildlife value. NE native. Zones: 4-9. Height: 6-8 feet. (taller in shady or moist sites).
Tip: Aronia melanocarpa (Photinia melanocarpa) is a slightly smaller species with glossy leaves and black fruits.