Indigo Gem pollinationBorealis blossom and berries formingBlue Belle and Tundra berries
About the Honeyberry Shrub and Fruit
flavor of honeyberries is very hard to describe, so it may be best to
just say it's a "mystery berry" flavor, reminding some people of
blackberry, cherry and even grape or kiwi. With a very thin skin, the
zesty berries melt in your mouth!
These healthy berries can be eaten fresh off the bush, or used fresh or
in your favorite blueberry recipe.
Early blossoming honeyberries begin to ripen when the daisies come out in the spring
Honeyberry bushes sold commercially typically grow from 3 – 8 feet tall, with oblong berries ½ – 1 inch or
more in length, depending on the cultivar.
A member of the honeysuckle family, the honeyberry shrub (Lonicera caerulea) grows
circumpolar in the northern hemisphere. They are known as zhimolost in
Russia, haskap in Japan, and honeyberry in the
USA! Some people refer to the Japanese varieties as haskap and to the Russian varieties as honeyberry. Edible Blue Honeysuckle is an accurate way to refer to the species in general!
6 year old Borealis and Berry Smart Blue (Czech #17) with happy honeyberry grower
Cold hardy to -55 F, blossoms withstand 20 F
First fruit of spring (early blooming cultivars bear prior to strawberries, late blooming selections bear a few weeks later)
Higher level of antioxidants than blueberries
Grows in most soils in wide range of pH levels (4.5 - 8.5) though 5-8 is preferred. May perform better in clay soils than sandy soils.
USDA zone 2. Fruiting depends on availability of pollinators when
plants are blooming. Late blooming varieties may be more suitable for
warmer climates. Testing of U of S bred cultivars currently taking
place in zone 8.
Some varieties produce 10+ lbs of berries after 5 years, others produce 1-2 lbs
50+ year lifespan
Honeyberries do not sucker
Grows in sunny or shady locations. Bears best in sun in the North, needs some protection from sun in the South.
Disease and pest resistant, great for organic gardening
Many honeyberries require proximity to another unrelated honeyberry plant for pollinization by bees and other insects. Some varieties will produce some fruit alone.
Harvesting Canadian-bred haskap (honeyberries) at The Honeyberry Farm in northern Minnesota (4 year old Indigo Gem).
Some selections of
honeyberries can be harvested by
placing a child's plastic pool (cut in two and notched in the center) or large tote lid or other sheeting material
on the ground and wacking the shrub with a slapping motion until the berries drop! Upright bushes can be wacked with a stick (broom handle, plasic bat, etc.)
A leaf blower works great to blow away the leaf debris prior to washing. Use a tall sided container (like a plastic tote) so the berries don't blow away!
Make sure berries
are a dark blue color all the way through before picking for sweetest
Spacing: 4.5 - 6 ft (1.3 - 2 m) within rows, 8 - 10 ft (2.5 - 3m) between rows Depth: May be planted a couple inches deeper than original depth
to compensate for possible frost heaving or to establish a deeper root
Pollination: Proximity to an unrelated variety (within same yard is fine). A different variety (P for pollenizer) is recommended
per 2-4 smaller plants (X) to ensure the best fruit set. Example:
X P X
P X P
X P X
Fertilizer: Most soils are adequate to sustain honeyberry plants. Composted manure/compost tea may be applied in the spring.
Watering: Heavy watering a few times the first few years recommended to promote deep root growth.
Do not overwater potted plants. Let dry out in between watering.
Mulching: Honeyberries appreciate being mulched as it helps retain moisture and reduces competition from grass and weeds. Leave a couple inches away from stem free of mulch. Do not overwater mulched plants. Do not use cardboard mulch over winter as mice are attracted to cardboard. While mulch is not required, weed control is essential. Keep grass and weeds at least 24" away from plants. Honeyberries planted into sod do not thrive, and young transplants may get crowded out and die or be severly stunted.
Pruning: Prune older branches at base when bush gets too dense, about 25% of the bush at a time, beginning at age 6 or so. Recommended pruning time is late
winter or early spring. When mature plant is transplanted it usually needs more aggressive pruning in order to encourage root establishment along with new growth. If accidentally mowed off, the plants usually regrow.
Birds love these honeyberries. Best to net the
bushes. Nets should have 1/2" crosswires or smaller to prevent birds from getting tangled in the
Deer and rabbits may also nibble on young shrubs
Weeds should be kept away from young plants until the shrubs are well established.
Strong winds and heavy rain may dislodge ripe berries, which normally stay attached for an
Regular watering is advised for at least the first couple of years. Somewhat drought tolerant when older but will drop their leaves early in dry years.
Several sites have reported problems growing honeyberries in the vicinity of black walnut trees, other sites have reported no problems.
1. My honeyberry leaves look like they are afflicted by blight in mid-summer. Most likely it's sun/wind scald, and many cultivars of honeyberries, especially the early blooming ones, naturally experience browning and dropping of leaves. Honeyberries benefit from shade from the hot afternoon sun.
2. Are honeyberries self-pollinating? Most honeyberries, like apples, need a different honeyberry plant for pollination. Both plants must bloom at the same time. Some will not produce any fruit without a companion, others will produce some fruit alone, but will benefit from a companion.
3. How are honeyberries pollinated?Insects, especially bumble bees.
3. When will the plants produce fruit? Honeyberries produce fruit on year-old wood, so it is possible to see a couple berries the year following propagation, but the plants need 3-4 years in the ground to grow to sufficient size to produce any significant amount of fruit, and reach maturity at 5-7 years. Some varieties grow faster and produce fruit earlier than others.
4. Where are my berries? Look underneath the branches close to the older stem. Leaves may be hiding them.
5. Are honeyberries compatible with black walnut and other Juglandaceae trees? A grower in New York says, "I sure have a thriving wild (invasive) L. tatarica population in my yard under about 40 black walnuts. My baby L. caerulea "Aurora" showed NO signs of damage, growing in close proximity to walnuts." While in southern Minnesota, two sites with L. caerulea planted just beyond black walnut failed to thrive from 2011-2014, and we have heard of similar cases in other parts of the country, even after the trees had been removed from the field. The Fall 2000 Restoration and Reclamation Review explains that juglone is "an allelopathic compound, which inhibits stem elongation and lower germination rates." Note that this article refers to the invasive Lonicera maaki, not edible blue honeysuckle, Lonicera caerulea L., and also states that Lonicera has been found to grow under black walnuts, but while they may grow, they may not thrive.
6. Are honeyberries invasive?
Edible blue honeysuckle, Lonicera caerulea L. is distinctly non-invasive as compared to Lonicera maaki (Amur Honeysuckle), Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle), Lonicera tatarica (Tartarian honeysuckle), Lonicera japonica, (Japanese honeysuckle) and (Bell's honeysuckle/showy fly honeysuckle).
The University of Saskatchewan began breeding honeyberries(haskap) in 2002. Using lines
Russia, Japan and the Kuril Islands north of Japan, this program is
producing fruit that is sweeter and superior in taste to many other
honeyberry varieties on the market, as well as being larger and more
easily detachable from the plant. Royalty fees support ongoing research. Plants may be purchased from HoneyberryUSA.