So, you wanna get into honeyberry.
These delicious, sweet, yet tarty berries are one of the hardiest fruiting shrubs around.
You can grow them in a wide range of zones.
They tolerate a huge range of temperatures. And they require little maintenance to produce plenty of fruits for you.
Plus, they can be used as a border or pathing plant. So they serve dual purposes.
Let’s dive in and learn how to care for haskap berry shrubs.
Quick care guide: Honeyberry
|Scientific name||Lonicera caerulea|
|Other names||Blue honeysuckle, sweetberry honeysuckle, fly honeysuckle, blue-berried honeysuckle|
|Soil type||Loamy, rich, fertile, well-draining|
|Soil pH||6.5-6.8 (slightly acidic)|
|Sunlight requirement||Partial sun|
|Bloom season||Spring, summer|
|Colors||Blue, green, white|
|Max height||6-8 feet|
|Max width||4-5 feet|
|Ideal temperature range||50-70F|
|Watering requirements||Often during first year of growth, spring, and summer|
|Days until germination||3-6 weeks|
|Days until harvest||2-3 years|
|Days until bloom||3-5 years|
|Speed of growth||Moderate|
|Hardiness zones||2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Plant depth||0.25 inches|
|Plant spacing||5 feet|
|Plant with||Comfrey, chives, eggplant, chives, orchards|
|Don’t plant with||Other plants in the same family|
|Propagation||Seeds, cuttings, transplants|
|Common pests||Spider mites, scale, aphids, whiteflies, beetles, leafrollers|
|Common diseases||Downy mildew, root rot, blight, stem rot|
|Grown in container||Yes|
|Care level||Low (very easy)|
|Uses||Decoration, edible, indoor plant, recipes, jams, preserves, cakes, desserts|
Honeyberry, also known as haskap berry, is a delicious berry that’s fruity, sweet, and quite hardy. If you’ve been having trouble getting a good yield from your blueberry or gooseberry, you may want to try out honeyberry!
Grown in Asia, Europe, and other distant countries (if you’re from the US), this secret berry is grown to be enjoyed.
They can be eaten raw, used in ice cream, desserts, or even jams and jellies. Birds love them. And they’re quite compact in size.
A springtime bloomer, honeyberry produces for you with minimal care. If you’re the hands-off type or you just don’t have time to tend to every plant but want a fruiting bush, honeyberry is it.
Let’s dive in and learn all about ‘em!
What do they taste like?
Honeyberry tastes tarty and sour at the same time. Think of raspberry, but sweeter.
Or blueberry, but sourer. It’s a mix somewhere between, depending on the type of honeyberry you’re growing and how you’re growing it.
You don’t have to eat them raw- you can always use them in sweet desserts or preserves.
Types of honeyberry
There are dozens of different types.
Here are some of the most popular cultivars:
- Berry blue
- Honey bee
- Indigo gem
- Yezberry honeybunch
- Yezberry Maxie
You can find lots of varieties of honeyberries from nurseries. Cross-pollinated hybrids are produced all the time, so you have a lot of choices.
Honeyberry is easy to propagate. You can start with the traditional method (seed) or get a batch of them pre-grown so you can skip the boring part. But some people like it. It’s rewarding.
Note that the shrub needs at least two individual plants to produce berries. A single shrub won’t be able to pollinate itself. You need to at least one other shrub for successful fruiting.
The two shrubs also need to be next to each other or else pollen won’t transfer between them.
If you have an established honeyberry bush, you can take stem cuttings when they go dormant.
Use a clean pair of pruners that’s been sterilized and then snip off a stem. Root it in rooting hormone or gel, then plant in the soil or in water.
Honeyberry cuttings especially like soilless mixtures until they root. Afterward, you can plant them in their new home.
Like most other berries, they require good draining soil that’s fertile, rich, and well amended with nutrients.
If you want to keep the new plant identical to the original, stem cuttings result in identical offspring.
The first harvest should be around 2 years after stem cuttings root. Plant in the springtime after they emerge from dormancy.
Put some mulch to help retain moisture immediately after you plant.
Growing from seed takes a lot of patience and isn’t for someone who wants to see results or plans to harvest anytime soon.
Seeds can be planted as directed. Read the packet for directions.
Unlike blueberry, the seeds of honeyberry don’t require any cold stratification or scarring. You can literally just plant them as directed. Use a seed starting kit with good fertile soil.
Put 1-2 seeds per compartment. Then water and cover with a dome for humidity.
Continue keeping it moist, but not wet. Transplant to the outdoors after the last frost and at least two pairs of true leaves have sprouted.
Note that starting from seed with taking many years until you see your first harvest. So be wary of that! Additionally, seed starting will produce hybrids and mixes. If you want to only have one type of berry, seeds are not the way to go.
How to grow honeyberry
Here are some tips to grow and care for honeyberry plants.
Depending on the type of berry you’re growing, your needs will vary.
However, these work as general guidelines for proper is to get the most yield.
Haskap berries grow in USDA hardiness zones 2-9 (latitudes 42-62). This will give you the least headaches if you plant in the right hardiness zone.
Honeyberries are hardy plants in general but will provide the most fruits if the conditions are within a good range.
It’s definitely possible to grow in a higher zone, but you should provide more shade. Provide cool shade, stable temperatures, and plenty of nutrients for maximum yield.
Honeyberry likes fertile, rich, well-draining soil. It should be packed with sufficient nutrients to ensure optimal growth.
If you have no idea what your nutrient profile looks like, get a soil test kit and find out. You should test every spring to get a good picture of it anyway. Amend if needed.
They grow well on borders or woodland edges.
The soil should have compost dug in to offer some additional nutrients for your plants.
The shrubs do well in clay, sandy, or regular garden mix fortified with nutrients. Brownie points if it has moisture-retaining properties.
Use organic soil if you want to grow your own organic berries without having to get ripped off at the grocery store.
Shoot for a pH of slightly acidic to neutral around 6.5-6.8. Don’t worry about it too much. They’re not picky about the pH.
If you’re a perfectionist, you can organically amend it to help lower the pH. The majority of berry plants like acidic soil. You can drop the pH to 5.0 if you wish.
Plant seeds about 0.25″ deep when starting from seed. Don’t worry about the exact depth for this, as it’s not important.
Space each cutting or sprout at least 5 feet apart.
This is enough to give each plant the opportunity to pollinate each other, but not clutter them so they compete for nutrients.
Some types can do well up to 7 feet apart, but others can be compact at a mere 3 feet.
Do your research first on your specific strain.
Note that if you want cross-pollination, they must be different types. If you want to grow multiple honeyberries, plant them in rows to save space.
Give extra water during the first year of planting. Allow the soil to dry out between each watering session. Never make it wet, only moist.
You can use a soil meter to get an accurate picture of the substrate’s water saturation if you’re unsure. Reduce watering after the first year.
Aim for 2-3 inches of water per week, but don’t forget to account for rain or drought. Adjust as needed.
Provide plant food in the fall with a balanced fertilizer.
You can also use compost or organic manure around the base of the plant. A 1-2 inch layer should do, or use as directed.
If you’re using fertilizer, opt for organic plant foods. Use as directed. A slow erased 5-5-5 should do the trick.
Plant honeyberry in partial shade. Provide partial shade, because the leaves will burn if you plant in direct sunlight. Provide 4-5 hours of light per day. Plant near taller plants if possible.
Keep humidity low. Excess moisture or humidity trapped in the leaves will lead to fungus or mildew. Prune your leaves regularly to help increase evaporation. Use mulch to retain water.
These berries are extremely hardy and will withstand a wide temperature range- so wide that you don’t have to worry about them getting too cold or too hot.
The only thing you SHOULD worry about is drastic temp swings. If it’s sudden, it can damage the berries. You can control and minimize the changes in temperature by using mulch, compost, or covers. These can help insulate the shrub.
Honeyberries’ temperature tolerance depends on the cultivar you’re growing and your hardiness zone. The average honeyberry can handle temperatures as lows as -55F to 85F.
Ain’t that something? These are some of the most cold-hardy fruits you can possibly grow. Some cultivars will tolerate lower temp swings.
Haskaps produce little yield when the temperatures are too high- above 85F.
Put a layer of organic mulch every spring. This will help retain moisture, prevent temperature swings, and keep weeds out.
You can use bark mulch, straw much, or even grass clippings. Mulch 2-3 inches around the plant’s stem. Replace every season.
You can also add some compost or manure to help out as they add beneficial nutrients to the soil, but only if your soil needs it. This is why you get a soil test kit to find out!
Honeyberry should be pruned in late winter or early spring. The plants are dormant during these periods, so you don’t stunt the growth of the plant.
Prune carefully, as excess pruning will remove fruiting wood and result in a lower yield. If you notice the buds start to develop, it’s too late to prune. Let it grow or wait until later.
Pruning is simple. Just use a clean pair of pruners and cut off any damaged wood or branches.
Cut spent flowers. Prune off foliage where it’s too much and hinders water evaporation. There are so many videos online that you can follow, like this one:
You can tell when it’s time to harvest by looking on the inside of the berry.
Cut one off and slice it apart. It should be solid blue on the inside. You can also taste test. If it’s too sour, it’s not ripe yet.
Honeyberry can be cut fresh, then stored in eh fridge like any other berry. They’re good for 2-3 days.
If they get mushy or soft, they’ll taste bad and should be thrown out. You can also use them in preserves, sauces, or jams.
You don’t need to do anything to overwinter honeyberry.
If you’re in the right zone, it’ll die back and drop all its leaves. This is normal. Like most other berry shrubs, honeyberry goes dormant during the wintertime while it “sleeps.”
If you’re in a zone that’s prone to temperature dips, it can tolerate -30F swings, so you should be OK. But you can add some mulch to help insulate it from swings or get some shrub covers.
Otherwise, winterberry needs no special care other than cutting back from the winter. Trim it down and remove older wood during this time. This will minimize pests.
Get rid of any green foliage as well if it has trouble dropping them.
If you want to grow hybrids, ensure that each honeyberry has a neighbor next to it that’s not the same type.
This will allow some pretty cool mixes between the two shrubs. If you don’t want your berries to cross-pollinate (produce hybrids), then either grow from stem cuttings or keep them separate by distancing each shrub.
They only need about 5 feet to successfully pollinate each other.
These plants produce pretty flowers. These flowers are nice to look at and they release an aroma that’s pleasing. If you want extra berries, prune off the buds.
Otherwise, let them flow and then cut off the spent ones.
You can plant them in pots, but you’ll need a sufficient size to do so.
These shrubs are large and will produce up to 5 feet of growth. Get a pot that’s large enough to handle them.
Starter pots can be 3 gallons, but you need to upgrade in the future. Or you can just get a big enough one in the beginning to avoid that and plant shock.
When you container plant, be careful about overwatering or excess fertilizing, as both of these will build up in the container. Use well-draining soil.
Otherwise, plant care is the same as soil planting.
You can safely plant honeyberry with companion plants to maximize yield. If the neighboring plants don’t compete for resources, then they should be OK to grow with your berries.
Some good choices are plants NOT in the same genus. Think comfrey, chives, eggplant, chives, orchards, etc.
Honeyberry makes an excellent companion plant to help stop weeds as well, as they’ll compete for soil nutrients. They can be grown on the border as a decorative plant or on the edges.
They’re no stranger to the common handful of bugs you’ll see on berry plants. Expect to see spider mites, scale, beetles, whiteflies, aphids, and leafrollers.
The majority of them can be controlled by manual removal, organic insecticides, or using a hose to spray them off.
Rabbits are a common pest that’ll eat delicious fruits. You can use wire cages around each plant to help defend against them from coming through. Just like you, they want that fruit.
Other commonly asked questions about honeyberry care
You may find these other questions commonly asked by readers helpful on your journey to grow haskaps.
Are honeyberries hard to grow?
Yes, honeyberries are very easy to grow and excellent for beginners.
They also need minimal TLC and can be basically taken care of themselves.
Just provide water, pant food, and prune it regularly at the minimum. That’s all you need really for a successful harvest.
Honeyberry has a high concentration of phenolic acids, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin A and C. They’re a good all-around treat eaten in cakes, preserves, jams, or raw.
Can honeyberries be grown in pots?
Yes, you can grow honeyberries in containers assuming the container is big enough. You’ll need at least a 3-gallon container for starters. Upgrade as it grows.
Do deer eat honeyberries?
Deer may nibble on honeyberries, as they don’t have any natural repellent to them. You can utilize fencing to help keep deer out.
When do honeyberries bloom?
Most types of honeyberry will be ready for harvest in the spring. They continue blooming all season until the winter time.
Grow with honeysuckle for two different edibles that are ready for harvest at eh same time!
Here are some references you may be interested in:
- Honeyberry – Houzz
- Does anyone grow Currant, Honeyberry or Elderberry? – Reddit
- Haskap/Honeyberry – Cornell blogs
Enjoy your homegrown honeyberry
Now that you know all the basics of how to grow and care for haskap berries, it’s time to grow your own.
Get out there and enjoy the sweet, tarty blast of flavor from these tender juicy berries!
They’re good for beginners, easy to grow, and require basic maintenance to care for.
Do you have any questions? Post your comments and let me know! If you have any tips or tricks for honeyberry care, post them for other readers.
I took interest into microflora and microgreens before it became mainstream. The idea of growing an entire ecosystem on a tiny scale simply was astounding. That’s where I discovered that I actually like raising plants and wasn’t as much of a black thumb as I thought. Now, I’m relaying what I’ve learned to others who are getting into the hobby in a way that anyone can understand.