How to grow honeyberries?

Haskaps: The New Berry

How to Grow

The Haskap (Canadian Honeyberry or Blue Honeysuckle) is the newest berry on the market for home and commercial gardening. The name Haskap is Japanese for Lonicera caerulea (Edible Blue Honeysuckle). Health benefits of the haskap have earned it the ancient phrase “the berry of long life and good vision”. A number of nutritional benefits include high vitamin C and A, high fiber and potassium. They also have high levels of antioxidants, anthocyanins, poly phenols and bioflavonoids. The flavor of haskap berries has been described as a cross between a raspberry and blueberry with the texture of a kiwi.

Growing Conditions, Habit and Zone
Haskap bushes prefer a sheltered site with a pH level between 5 – 7 which is slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soil which makes them an extremely versatile berry plant. They prefer being planted in full sun but will grow in partial sun as well. Bushes are rapidly growing should be planted 4.5 – 6 feet apart and will grow 4.5- 8 feet tall. It is a cool season fruiting shrub with early flowers which when pollinated mature into fruit mid to late June, making it one of the earliest fruiting berry plants. Berries are produced on one year old woody stems, by year 3 you should be able to harvest. After year 5 you should be yielding 7-10 lbs. If you wish to fertilize your Haskap plants use one designed for tomatoes such as a liquid 4-3-3 or 2-3-1, or use a powder such as 4-8-4. They are more closely related to tomato and potatoes than other fruit crops. Fertilize prior to planting an in following years only in the spring so growth can harden off before fall frosts. They are a hardy shrub when it comes to cold winter temperatures being able to withstand -40 C (Zone 2) and have infrequent winter damage.

The Haskap originated in Siberia with further research was preformed by the University of Saskatchewan to improve on these varieties and create strains that grow well in Canada and warmer Zones. Five strains have been created Tundra, Borealis, the Indigo series, Aurora and Honeybee.

  • Tundra Has firm fruit which makes it an excellent choice for commercial production and heavy handling. Firmness is an uncommon characteristic for large Haskaps, and this one also has an excellent flavor. It also does not bleed when picked making it an ideal fruit for frozen storage. Matures at 4-5 feet tall.
  • Borealis The largest Haskap berry that prefers to be hand picked due to softness of the berry. Also the best tasting variety an excellent selection for homeowners or U-pick operations. The berries will not tolerate shaking methods of harvest. Matures at 4 feet tall.
  • Indigo Gem A long flowering season which is beneficial since it is has fertile pollen and can cross pollinate other varieties of Haskap plants. It is a taller variety which is late maturing and the berry is able to withstand handling making it a good selection for homeowners or commercial growers. The flavor of the berry is similar to a plum.

Pollination/ Reproduction
Cross pollination is required for Haskap plants, as mentioned before the Indigo Gem will cross pollinate the Tundra or Borealis. It is a good idea to plant at least 3 bushes close to each other. Alternatively planting a Berry Blue Haskap (P-17) bush for every 3 fruit producing bushes will cross pollinate the others. The P-17 will produce abundant flowers that are present for a long period of time but not fruit.

Season of Harvest
After 3 years the Haskap plants will produce great yields. Keep in mind that the berries will look ripe about 10 days before they are actually ripe they should be completely purple on the inside and outside before harvesting. All the berries on the same bush will ripen at the exact same time, some will fall onto the ground when they are ripe. Depending on the firmness of that type of plant’s berries they can either be harvested by shaking (put a catch basin or large umbrella underneath before shaking) or handpicking.

Should be completed in late winter or early spring with the objective of letting more light into the branches that will bear fruit. Keep in mind that berries are borne on one year old wood and you need a continuous supply of these branches from year to year to produce fruit. Never remove more than 25% of the bush at a time. It will not sucker and can be pruned like high bush blueberries, dwarf sour cherries and Saskatoon berry.

Common Pests and Diseases
Birds are a major pest feeding on the berries and netting may need to be placed over the bushes to prevent them from eating your crop. According to the University of Saskatchewan the deer have not been seen feeding on the Haskap plants in their fields but there have been some reports of deer feeding on them in other wild areas. Powdery mildew is the only disease that can effects Haskaps and begins in July after the harvest of the berries when the heat of the summer sets in. Some varieties are more affected than others while some seem immune.

Haskap Berry Info – How To Grow Honeyberries In The Garden

Honeyberries are a treat that really shouldn’t be missed. What are honeyberries? This relatively new fruit has actually been cultivated in cooler regions by our ancestors. For centuries, farmers in Asia and Eastern Europe knew how to grow honeyberries. The plants are native to Russia and have remarkable cold tolerance, surviving temperatures of -55 degrees Fahrenheit (-48 C.). Also called haskap berry (from the Japanese name for the plant), honeyberries are early season producers and may be the first fruits harvested in spring.

What are Honeyberries?

Fresh spring fruits are something for which we wait all winter. The first honeyberries taste like a cross between raspberries and blueberries. They are excellent eaten fresh or used in desserts, ice cream and preserves. Related to the blueberry and huckleberry, haskap berry is a heavy producing plant that requires little special care.

Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea) are in the same family as blooming honeysuckle, but they produce an edible fruit. Birds and other wildlife love the berries and the attractive shrubs grow without much encouragement in temperate and cool zones to a height of 3 to 5 feet. The term haskap refers to

the Japanese varieties, while edible honeysuckle refers to the Siberian hybrids.

The plant produces a 1-inch, oblong, blue berry with a flavor that fails to be classified by most eaters. It is said to taste like raspberry, blueberry, kiwi, cherry or grapes, depending upon the taster. The sweet, juicy berries are experiencing new popularity among European and North American gardeners.

Propagating Honeyberry

Honeyberries require two plants to produce fruit. The plants need to have a shrub that is unrelated nearby to pollinate successfully.

The plant roots easily from dormant stem cuttings and fruits in two to three years. Cuttings will result in plants that are true to the parent strain. Cuttings can root in water or in the ground, preferably a soilless mixture until a good cluster of roots have developed. Then, transplant them to a prepared bed where drainage is good. Soil may be sandy, clay or almost any pH level, but the plants prefer moderately moist, pH 6.5 and organically amended mixtures.

Seeds require no special treatment, such as scarification or stratification. Propagating honeyberry from seed will result in variable species and the plants take longer to fruit than stem cutting plants.

How to Grow Honeyberries

Space plants 4 to 6 feet apart in a sunny location and plant them at the depth they were originally planted or deeper in amended garden beds. Ensure that an unrelated variety of honeyberry is nearby for cross pollination.

Water regularly the first year but allow the top surface of the soil to dry out in between irrigation periods. Mulch 2 to 4 inches deep around the plant’s root zone with leaf litter, grass clippings or any other organic mulch. This will also help keep competitive weeds away too.

Apply compost or manure in spring to add nutrients. Fertilize according to a soil test.

Pests are usually not a problem, but protection from birds is an important part of honeyberry care if you want to preserve the fruit. Use a framework of bird netting over the plants to keep your feathered friends from enjoying all your efforts.

Additional honeyberry care is minimal but may involve some pruning and watering.

Choosing a Location for Honeyberry Plants

The best way to succeed is to plan before you plant. Concerning location: do you know where you want to plant your new honeyberry plants? Avoid future obstacles by considering all aspects of the planting site, such as:

  • Cross-pollination
  • Sun and good soil
  • Surroundings
  • Spacing

NOTE: This is part 3 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow honeyberry plants, we recommend starting from the beginning.


Most honeyberry varieties require another different variety for cross-pollination and fruit production. In most cases, the lack of a compatible variety – defined as another different variety of honeyberry plant that blooms at the same time – is why honeyberry plants don’t bear fruit. Since insects and wind need to carry pollen from flower to flower between honeyberry plants, honeyberries and their pollen partners should be planted nearby – within 50 feet of one another for adequate cross-pollination to occur.

Sun and Good Soil

Honeyberry plants thrive in a growing location that receives partial shade to full sun and has a well-drained, fertile soil. (Full sun is at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight during the growing season.) Light is vital to fruit production and fruit quality, and also helps minimize the risk of fungal issues, so this is an essential part of choosing a location for your honeyberry plants. Keep in mind, the foliage of honeyberry plants may exhibit signs of injury if growing in a location that receives intense, direct full sun during the hot summer months. This can be avoided by planting in partial shade or construction a temporary shade cloth structure for protection during the summer.

A well-drained soil will help keep a honeyberry plant’s roots healthy and free of rot. Honeyberry plants will tolerate some more clayey soil types, but if your native soil is composed of heavy clay that retains water after rainy weather, first look for a different planting site for your honeyberries. Similarly, if your site has fast-draining, sandy soil, the honeyberry plants may exhibit water-related stress (similar to conditions of drought) and may require more frequent watering. For your growing success, we do not recommend planting honeyberry plants in rocky or heavy, pure-clay soils. If you can’t plant elsewhere, you can try amending the soil of your planting site prior to planting honeyberry plants.

Soil amendments greatly depend on your individual location, so communicating with your local county cooperative extension is recommended. In general – to help with water distribution – you can add coir, like our Coco-Fiber Growing Medium, to your honeyberry planting hole, or mix in one-third sphagnum/peat to the soil at planting time. Sphagnum/peat can lower the soil pH, so if your soil pH is already lower than honeyberry plants tolerate (5.5 – 7.5), this may not be the best option.

Alternately, to avoid directly dealing with your native soil, you can try planting your honeyberry plants in containers. Start with a pot that accommodates each honeyberry plant’s current root system (with room to grow). Most new honeyberry plants can be planted in a 3-gallon container to start, and you can move container-grown honeyberry plants into larger containers as the plants outgrow them.

Even if your yard isn’t the most ideal location, take heart. Honeyberry plants can be very adaptable and they respond well to soil additives like compost or fertilizers, so they can get along well even where the soil is nutritionally poor. Just remember to avoid planting sites with extremely heavy soils and poor drainage and ensure they have the necessary full-sun requirement.


Growing your own honeyberry plants can be a landscaping asset, so choose a planting site with this in mind. Imagine your honeyberries as full-grown plants and observe the surroundings:

  • Honeyberry plants have shallow root systems, but are there cables, pipes, or other lines and utilities you should avoid underground?
  • Is there a sidewalk or foundation within the range of your honeyberry plant’s roots?
  • Might your honeyberry plant block the view of something you want to see once it’s fully grown?
  • Will neighboring trees be in the way or block sunlight from your honeyberry plants as they grow?

Even a year or two after planting, a honeyberry plant can be very difficult to move with stress-free success, so take the time to plant in just the right place the first time around.


Ordinarily, planting honeyberry plants near structures like patios is not problematic because the soil beneath them is dry and compacted. The honeyberry’s roots will not be as encouraged to grow into this area; however, it’s better to plant with at least 4 to 5 feet of space between these structures and your honeyberry plants. A good estimate is somewhere beyond your honeyberry plant’s estimated maximum spread. By planting honeyberry plants far enough away from man-made structures, you can avoid problems in the near or distant future.

Space Between Plants

Depending on the variety you choose, the spacing may vary. As a general rule, most honeyberry plants naturally grow (or can be maintained with pruning) within a 4-foot range, both tall and wide. Use the honeyberry plant’s mature width as your guide for spacing between plants.

  • Plant each honeyberry plant at least 3 to 5 feet apart and up to 50 feet apart for adequate cross-pollination
Space for Future Plantings

When you’re new to fruit gardening and growing honeyberry plants, or you’re planting in a location that is new to you, it’s wise to start with just a few honeyberry plants. Later on, especially after you have reaped the rewards of growing your own honeyberries, you may want to expand your fruit garden. If you plan ahead and leave room for additional berry plants, or even fruit trees and other garden plants, then the space will be available when you are ready to expand, without hindering the growth and development of your existing honeyberry plant

In This Series

  • Introduction

Getting Started

  • Acclimate
  • Location
  • Planting
  • Soil Preparation

Care & Maintenance

  • Fertilizing
  • Pest & Disease Control
  • Pruning
  • Spraying
  • Watering

Other Topics

  • Harvesting

Planting Honeyberry Plants

Few things are as versatile and flavorful as homegrown honeyberries, and the success of your harvest begins right with the planting site and method. For maximum growth and yields later on, give your honeyberry plants the best foundation possible, starting with the planting site.

NOTE: This is part 4 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow honeyberry plants, we recommend starting from the beginning.

Before Planting Honeyberry Plants

Honeyberry plants thrive in fertile soil, so, before you plant, test the soil where your honeyberries will be planted – including a test of the soil pH. Refer back to the section on Soil Preparation for tips on soil testing.

If the soil pH where you plan to plant your honeyberries is between 5.5 and 7.5, that’s where you want it to be – this is an ideal range for honeyberry plants. Observe the established trees and plants around the site. Check to see that they look healthy and are growing well. This will help give you an idea of the success of new plantings in the area. If nearby trees are unhealthy or pest-ridden, their issues may eventually affect your new plants. It’s best to be aware of the surroundings so you can be equipped with as much information as possible should any issues arise. And remember to avoid planting in soils that are extremely heavy or poorly drained.

When to Plant Honeyberry Plants

Honeyberry plants may be planted even when if you’re experiencing cooler temperatures in your area. If you are planting potted honeyberry plants that may arrive awake and even leafed-out, and your weather is expected to be cool, or if a hard frost is expected, it is advisable to delay planting for a while until temperatures become more suitable for planting. Before planting potted honeyberry plants, you may need to gradually transition or acclimate them to their new environment. When you do plant, do not expose the root system to temperatures that are freezing or below for any longer than it takes to move the plant from its protective packaging and planted in the protection of the soil. It’s beneficial to have the planting holes pre-dug and prepared for plants.

Generally, as long as your soil is workable and not flooded or frozen, it is fine to plant.

How to Plant Honeyberry Plants

Planting Tips
  • If your plant is potted, plant them at the same depth they were in the pot.
  • Honeyberry plants have shallow root systems – similar to blueberry plants. It is important to water thoroughly especially while fruiting and growing during summer.
Planting Steps
  • Do not soak potted honeyberry plants prior to planting. Instead, ensure that the soil around the potted honeyberry plants’ roots does not dry out.
  • Prior to placing the potted honeyberry plant in the planting hole, carefully remove the root system from the pot.
  • Gently loosen and spread the circling roots to encourage them to grow outward as they establish in the ground during the growing season.
  • The planting hole should be deep and wide enough to accommodate the current root system without being restricted. (When digging the planting hole, make sure it is deep and wide enough so each honeyberry plant’s root system has plenty of room to easily expand. Keep the more-nutritious topsoil in a pile so you can put it in the bottom of the hole, where it’ll do the most good.)
  • Place each honeyberry plant in the center of the planting hole with its roots down and spread out. Holding onto the stems to keep them vertical, backfill the hole, putting the topsoil back in first. You can avoid creating air pockets by working the soil carefully around the roots and tamping down firmly with your hands as you refill the planting hole around your honeyberry plants.
  • Spread soil evenly around the plants and finish with a layer of mulch to prevent damage from water pooling and injury from freezing around the plants in fall going into winter.


Thoroughly water your newly planted honeyberry plants. A deep, slow soaking is best. If you previously determined you need to fertilize your honeyberry plants, this can be done in spring, even at planting time; however, as with any packaged product, follow the printed package label for specific instructions. If planting in the fall, wait until spring instead to make any fertilizer applications. After watering, if soil appears to settle or sink into the planting hole, just add more soil – enough to bring the hole to ground level again.

Apply a layer of organic material like wood mulch (rather than inorganic material like rocks), about 2 to 3 inches thick, around the root zone of your honeyberry plants. Mulching helps discourage weeds while also keeping water from quickly evaporating away from the root zone. In the fall, increase the mulch layer or add a layer of straw for winter protection.

Note: Rodents and other small gnawing critters may take advantage of mulch that is applied too thickly, and they may chew honeyberry plants for sustenance. If these animal pests are problematic in your area, consider applying repellents within the mulch layer to keep them out.

Additional Notes

  • Honeyberry plants may live and be productive 30 to 50 years with proper maintenance.
  • Average yield per plant is 1/2lb to 2lbs (and upwards of 4lbs) of honeyberries, depending on factors like variety, location, pollination, and so on.

Growing Honeyberry bushes, about Honeyberry

Choosing Cultivars

Growing Honeyberry plants and bushes is easier than you might imagine. The agricultural technology in many respects is similar to the cultivation of traditional fruit crops. Honeyberry cultivars (varieties) widely vary between theU.S.D.A.‘s agricultural hardiness zones. It is imperative that you choose a variety that not only is rated for your zone, but one that will produce the quality of honeyberries that you desire. Berries Unlimited offers a wide variety of honeyberry cultivar varieties for U.S.D.A. agriculture hardiness zones 2 thru 8. Zones 2-4 are the best to keep those plants happy, zones 5-9 are POSSIBLE to grow but it takes more of Your time to water them carefully through the hot season. If you are unsure of your hardiness zone, or just need help choosing which of the many fine varieties available to you, our staff will be more than happy to assist you in making the right choice. We can also help with buying honeyberry plants wholesale!


One of the advantages of Honeyberries is that they can grow even in clay soil in wildness. They grow well in most soils, but the ideal environment would be loose and drained well fertilized with humus soil because the root system spreads close to the surface. The ideal ph would be 6.5, but the plants can grow in a wide range, ranging from 5 to 8.


When planting honeyberries your plants should be at least 5 to 7 feet apart because certain varieties can range up to 7 feet in diameter. To ensure that you have enough space in between rows, your rows should be at least 14 feet apart from center to center, so that you will not have trouble collecting berries and keeping up plants. When planting 2 to 4 year old honeyberries the size of the hole should be 10 to 12 inches in depth and 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Rows should be run South to North.


Mulch will significantly increase honeyberries growth and yield. Decomposing mulch not only helps improve soil structure, but also aids in the nutrient uptake of a honeyberry bushes root system. Mulching maintains uniform soil moisture, reduces soil temperature, and control weeds, but leave mulch free spot right after planting to let the roots to be rooted in, please. Berries Unlimited highly recommends using leaf mulch. Better to use mulching BEFORE the winter comes and take away most of the mulch in early spring not to have roots over watered or over heated. When applying mulch, always keep the mulch two inches under the base of the 3+ years old bush because honeyberry bushes root system is close to the surface. Smaller plants mulch very lightly around stems( 1/5th of inch or less leveled in 1 foot plant base ) AFTER they rooted in completely just to cover carpet type roots which always try to be on the surface. Mulch four inches deep and twenty-four to thirty-six inches around honeyberry bushes before winter comes. If your soil is clay you can add additional mulch.

Weed Control

Prevent weed growth around honeyberry crowns by mulching, cultivating, or applying herbicides labeled specifically for use on honeyberries. Do not cultivate more than two inches deep within rows, since most honeyberry roots are in the top 5 to 7 inches of soil. To reduce root injury due to cultivation, a mulch within the rows is highly recommended to keep weeds down. You can leave some grass in between the rows to prevent mud. It also will help to keep water balanced better.


A good-sized, healthy canopy is needed to support the growth of fruit. Pruning encourages production of large, high-quality fruit, and encourages earlier blooming. Fruit is produced on one-year-old wood. The largest berries are produced on the most vigorous wood, so a good supply of strong, one-year-old wood is desirable. When pruning shape the bush by removing dead and diseased wood. Pruning new bushes is recommended only to remove any dead or dying parts of branches. After the fifth year, prune the bushes annually. Honeyberry bushes should be pruned in late winter while they are dormant, and before the buds swell. Proper pruning (the whole branches) should be done to maintain an adequate number of vigorous main stems, to prevent too much shade inside of the bush (only old not productive branches!), and to stimulate new shoot growth. Excessive pruning should be avoided because it greatly reduces the crop for that year. Keep the bush fairly open by cutting out any weak, old stems that no longer produce strong young wood at ground level. Keep four to six of the vigorous older stems and one to two strong new shoots per mature bush. The new shoots will eventually replace the older stems. It is imperative to have a good balance between berry production and growth of vigorous new shoots to insure proper yield of fruit. Try to avoid cutting off the tops of the shoots because they have the maximum number of flower buds, they give you maine crop ,so only cut if damaged(broken).


Fertilizer application is often necessary to provide optimum level and balance of nutrients for honeyberry bush growth. Poor vigor and leaf discoloration often indicate lack of fertilizer. Base initial fertilizer use on the soil analysis. For established bushes, leaf analysis, soil analysis, and observation of plant vigor indicate fertilizer needs. Distribute fertilizer evenly within the root zone and avoid concentrating fertilizer near the crown of the plant. During the growing season try to fertilize three times: The first in early spring with ammonium-nitrate 30g for 2sq ft. The second should be in May with 10-10-10 fertilizer, and the third time in the Fall (October) you can add manure once every two to three years. According to soil type you will have to choose your own plan to fertilize your bushes.


Young honeyberry bushes require frequent watering since the root systems are shallow, usually less than 18 inches deep. Soil moisture content should not be allowed to become excessively dry. Reddened foliage, wilting, browning leaf margins, thin, weak shoots, early defoliation, and decreased fruit set are often symptoms of inadequate moisture. Water the honeyberry bush frequently enough to keep the soil moist but not saturated. Honeyberry bushes need at least 1 to 2 inches of water per week, do not apply water after early September unless soil is very dry. A rain gauge with a two-inch or greater diameter should be set up in the honeyberry fields to track daily precipitation amounts. Honeyberry bushes may be effectively irrigated by either sprinkler or drip irrigation systems. Drip systems deliver water under low pressure through small emitters. In this method, water is applied only within the rooting area. Since only the row area is wetted, foliage remains dry during irrigation, and weed development between rows is reduced. Mulching will help reduce the frequency of watering. Honeyberries are famous for being tolerant to heat and drought and even over watering, but you should be careful with younger or newly planted honeyberry bushes.


Bees pollinate honeyberry bushes. In many instances, wild bees will be present in sufficient numbers to pollinate the flowers. Bumblebees are more effective pollinators than honey bees. Honeyberries require cross pollination because the male and female reproductive organs develop at different times, so you need at least 1 to 5 different varieties for production of berries.


Honeyberries are famous for fruiting early. They fruit at least two weeks before strawberries. They fruit for a two to three week period, depending on variety. Honeyberries can produce berries for thirty years or more. They can produce berries being just one year old, and this is an advantage for customers.

Growing Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea)

Latin Name Pronunciation: lon-iss’-er-ah

A member of the Honeysuckle family, Honeyberry is a dense, sturdy shrub native to the higher altitudes of Russia and Asia. In order to produce fruit, two different varieties of Honeyberries are required.

Light: Grow in full sun.

Soil and pH: Like their Honeysuckle cousins, Honeyberries grow best in average, well-drained garden soil. They prefer a slightly acid pH of 6.5, but plants can grow in soil with a pH ranging from 5 to 8.

Watering and fertilizing: Water thoroughly after planting. Then, give plants a good soaking once a week during summer, unless rainfall is plentiful (more than 1in per week). Apply a 2ft-wide, 4in-thick layer of mulch (keep at least 2in away from the stems to avoid rot), which will keep the soil moist and keep down weeds. We recommend against fertilizing at planting time and during the first growing season in your garden. Plants need time to settle in before being pushed to grow. Most established plants grow best if fertilized with a light hand. Here at the Farm, we fertilize shrubs and trees just once — in early spring — with a light but even coverage of a balanced, granular fertilizer (such 10-10-10 or an organic fertilizer).

Pruning: In early spring, remove branches that have suffered damage over the winter and thin interior branches if they are crowding each other.

Harvesting: Bushes begin bearing fruit one to two years from planting. The clusters of berries are easy to harvest and may be eaten fresh or frozen for later use, just like Blueberries.

Have you ever heard of a honeyberry? If not, they’re definitely worth checking out! These members of the honeysuckle family produce really interesting, delicious fruits. They look like elongated blueberries and taste like… well, the jury is still out on that. Read on to learn more about this little-know, delicious fruit, and how to grow your own.

Photo credit:Wikimedia Commons

In eastern Russia, the honeyberry (or haskap) shrub grows wild. It’s hardy to at least -40 degrees (zone 3), making it an ideal fruit crop for northern growers. As our winters have gotten colder and longer, the honeyberry is looking more and more attractive, even for southern gardeners.

Some people say honeyberries taste like blueberries, others say ‘raspberries.’ Some even claim the fruit tastes a bit like sweet-tart candies. However they choose to describe them, everyone agrees that honeyberries are absolutely delicious.

I’ll be planting a few on my homestead this year, but before now, the honeyberry wasn’t even on my radar.

1. A Variety for Every Purpose

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

All honeyberries are hardy and sweet, but which variety is right for you?

Haskap, Kamchatka, or Fly Honeysuckle?

You might hear honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea) referred to as haskap, kamchatka, or fly honeysuckle. Don’t be confused: these are all different names for the same plant.

There are a few great varieties that you should consider. It all depends on what your priorities may be. Do you prefer to eat fruit raw? Or do you enjoy making jams and jellies? Below are a few different varieties to check out, so you’re sure to get one that best suits your needs.

Early Berries

If you’re looking for an early harvest, the sweet-tart flavored Blue Moose variety is ideal. This shrub may fruit as early as April, and its flowers can withstand temperatures in the low twenties.
The sweeter Honey Delight is also an early ripener. So is the very tart Russian variety known as Bakczarskaja.

Wine-making Honeyberries

Sweeter varieties with higher Brix levels are best for winemaking. If you’re hoping to produce lovely bottles of homemade fruit wines with your honeyberries, look for sweeter fruits.
Giant’s Heart and Jugana are two varieties that mature into fine berry wines for you to enjoy all year long.

Jams and Jellies

If you’re planning to make preserves from most of your honeyberry harvest, the tarter varieties will be perfect for your orchard.

Tart berries have high pectin content and hold their flavor better through processing. Try Blue Belle and Jolanta for tart berries that jelly well.

2. Planting

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Honeyberries are surprisingly hardy. They just want to grow anywhere and everywhere. That said, as willing as they are to put up with a variety of conditions, honeyberry does have its preferences.

In northern climates, this berry produces best in full sunlight. If you’re growing in the south, however, plant your honeyberry vine in partial shade to save it from overheating.

It grows well in wet, clay soils, but it would rather have a plot of soft, well-drained earth to grow in. Each plant can reach up to 7 feet tall, so give your honeyberries some leg room. Space your shrubs about 7 feet apart so overcrowding doesn’t limit your harvest.

It’s vitan to mix and match a couple varieties to ensure proper pollination. In addition, try to choose varieties that flower on a similar schedule for maximum berry production.

Starting Young Honeyberries

Purchase young honeyberry plants for the best start. You can start honeyberries from seed or cutting as well, but the plants can take a lot of time to establish. Small plants are easily available and transplant well.
Once you have a few established plants, it’s fun to try the more challenging propagation methods!

If you’re interested in growing honeyberry from seed, allow a few berries to ripen on the bush. Pull the seeds out of the berry and plant directly. Cover with a thin layer of loose potting soil.

They should sprout within 3-6 weeks. Give them at least 4 months of growth before transplanting outdoors. Honeyberry plants started from seed rarely produce fruit within the first 2 years.

Growing haskap from a cutting is easier than growing from seed. Simply place a neatly cut shoot in water. A good cluster of roots should develop within a few weeks. After the cutting develops healthy roots, you can plant it in loose, moist potting soil.

Keep your young honeyberry potted for a few months as its roots strengthen and grow. Then transplant outside.

3. Care and Feeding for Your Haskap

Photo credit:Flickr Creative Commons

Your honeyberry plants love to be mulched with loose bark chips, leaves, compost or manure. This mulch will help keep to soil moist, which is perfect for producing plenty of berries.

Unless you have poor soil, honeyberries are fine without feedings. If you notice signs of undernourished plants, however, add a little compost teas or a balanced, organic fertilizer to the base of the shrub.

Spring is the best time to add nutrients. Before fruiting, so the berries get the full benefit of the feeding. Honeyberries really don’t need more care than this. It’s amazing how self-sufficient these tough bushes are.

Pruning tips

Like all shrubs, honeyberries produce best with a bit of pruning. They don’t need much, though. Don’t prune at all during the first 5 years of the bush’s life. These new, young branches don’t need to be clipped. After 5 years of growth, prune away the older, spindly branches to make room for new growth.

The happiest honeyberry plants have 5 or 6 mature branches and a few younger ones growing up around them.

It’s best to prune your berries in late winter, as it blooms so early in the spring. Avoid later pruning that will be shocking to the plant. It’s better to miss a year of pruning than cut too late and risk damage.

4. Pests and Diseases

Honeyberry isn’t attractive to most pests, and it has no known diseases.

You may find occasional infestations of leafrollers. These destructive creatures can devour leaves and over winter in mummified berries. If you find them, spray the leafrollers and damaged plants with a neem oil solution.

Southern gardeners may find that honeyberries planted in full sun end up with a sunburn. If your honeyberries are toasting in the summer sunlight, give them a bit of shade.

During the hottest parts of the day, set up a sun shelter. Or, just move them to an area of dappled light. Transplant in the fall if you need to move honeyberry to a shadier spot.

5. Orchard Companions

Honeyberry bushes make fantastic border plants. Additionally, their hardiness and self sufficiency make them great companion plants for most other orchard crops. They don’t overtake an area the way raspberry and blackberry bushes do either. I’m planting my new honeyberries in amongst my pear and plum trees.

The early blooming flowers are ideal near hives as well. Hungry bees waking after a long winter will have early food on your honeyberry bush.

Because they’re such tall and wide shrubs, the bushes can overwhelm smaller plants. Make sure that whatever you plant alongside them will still have access to sunlight and fresh air when your haskap shrub is 7 feet tall.

6. Harvesting Honeyberries

Photo credit:> Flickr Creative Commons

Keep an eye on your honeyberries as they ripen. Berries will turn from green to light purplish-blue, and finally, ripen to a beautiful indigo.

Remember that the birds are also watching. Additionally, as your berries ripen, you may want to cover the shrubs with netting to keep your crop from raiders.

Once berries are fully ripe, you can either hand pick them or shake them off the bush. If you’ll be shaking them, spread a cloth under the honeyberry bush to catch the berries when they fall.

What to do with Your Honeyberry Harvest

Each mature bush produces anywhere between 1 and 5 pounds of berries. If you plant a few bushes, consider making a few bottles of honeyberry wine each year! Honeyberry wine is a delicious, sweet, flavourful wine with a tart edge that saves it from being too sweet on the palate. There’s really nothing quite like it, so definitely try it if you can.

Honeyberries are superb cooked or fresh. They work well in jams, pies, muffins, and smoothies. Think of them as big blueberries as you bake with them. Mix them into homemade ice cream for a special spring treat. Process a batch of sauce to pile on pancakes all year long.

These berries are also higher in antioxidants than blueberries. They’re high in vitamins C and K, manganese, and other trace nutrients. Many people also consider it a heart-healthy berry. In fact, it may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Throw a few bags of honeyberries into the freezer for health-boosting winter smoothies!

Hardy Berries for Hardy Gardeners

However you decide to use them, I know you’re going to love this tough, tolerant, delicious little fruit.

For those of us rethinking some of our garden options as the winters get colder and wilder, honeyberries are a reliable, exciting addition to the orchard.

Bob Bors used to be a strawberry guy, whose area of interest was an obscure variety of the luscious red fruit with no real commercial potential. When Bors talked about his strawberry, as academics do, he would watch his listeners, be they students or colleagues or friends, nodding off while the words of his mentor echoed through his head.

“My mentor had been a strawberry breeder too, but then he became a raspberry breeder,” says Bors, the head of the fruit program at the University of Saskatchewan. “The motto he always repeated to me was, ‘Why be one of the world’s 100 best strawberry breeders when I could be one of the top 10 raspberry breeders?’”

Those words stuck with Bors, and he carried them with him to the Prairies, along with a sense that his career should be about something greater than an obscure strawberry.

“I was looking for something,” he says.

University of Saskatchewan Fruit Program

He was looking to crack into the top ten. Then, one day, there it was, in the university’s nursery, alongside the sea buckthorn and Nanking cherries. Only it wasn’t a raspberry, but a “funny little crop that nobody had ever heard of.”

It is called haskap. And you may not have heard of it either. I know I hadn’t. But it is Canada’s newest super food. A hardy, anti-oxidant rich, cold-weather-loving berry — with Russian, Japanese and Canadian roots — that has researchers buzzing about its health-boosting potential. The Japanese refer to haskap as the “fruit of longevity.” Farmers refer to it as a berry gold mine waiting to be developed, a cash crop that could catapult the haskap to the top of the Canadian berry heap, alongside the almighty blueberry.

Imagine a grape/raspberry/blueberry or a raspberry/blueberry/black currant all mashed together, with a zingy finish

“It is the perfect berry,” says Axel Hvidberg, a grower in Salmon Arm B.C. “Haskap is tasty. It thrives in the cold. Rank it up there with beaver tails on the Rideau Canal in winter as an iconic Canadian treat — that is where I think haskap is going.”

Hvidberg describes Bob Bors as the “father of haskap in Canada.” But he is more like a grandson. Haskap has been around for decades as an ornamental bush as well as existing in the Canadian wilds. Nestled beside wetlands where only the foolhardy, like Bors, dare to tread during blackfly season in June when the berries ripen.

David Stobbe for the National Post

“Nursery men nicknamed haskap ornamentals — Sweet Berry Honeysuckles — but that was a total lie,” Bors says, laughing. “They tasted awful.” Older Russian varieties of haskap tasted like tonic water. Fine for the Russians, since they mixed the juice with vodka.

Bors big idea was to crossbreed a newer northern Russian strain of haskap with a northern Japanese variety. The mix produced a fruit that looks like a blueberry, only longer and fatter. The payoff was its great taste. Imagine a grape/raspberry/blueberry or a raspberry/blueberry/black currant all mashed together, with a zingy finish, and you are on the right track.

David Stobbe for the National Post

Haskap ripens before blueberries. Meaning farmers can grow and harvest haskap — and blueberries — without one cash crop simply replacing the other. Haskap also craves cold, eliminating the prospect of California mega-farms adopting it as their own.

“We’re not going to see any big haskap plantations down in the States,” says Hvidberg.

What makes a super food a super food is its environment. Haskap can withstand temperatures of -47 Celsius, high exposure to high latitude UV rays and thrives in soggy, oxygen-deprived soils. In a word, it is one tough berry, and especially healthy for humans because it is particularly high in cancer fighting antioxidants.

Vasantha Rupasinghe, an associate professor of agriculture at Dalhousie University, compared the total anti-oxidant content of haskap to blackberry, blueberry, partridgeberry, strawberry, raspberry and red table grape.

“We found haskap was by far the top in terms of total antioxidants per portion,” he says. “It has two to three times more antioxidants than blueberries. It is the better berry.”

Rupasinghe’s lab works closely with Haskapa, a grower and maker of haskap products — juices, jams, dried and frozen berries — based in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. The company was originally a sustainable forestry start-up. But its forests around Lunenburg County were immature, so the owners experimented with crops.

“We tried growing hops, we tried Arctic kiwi,” says Liam Tayler, Haskapa’s commercial director. “Then we came across haskap (they got the plants from Bors’ university nursery in 2011).

CNW Group / Boreal Winery

“Despite the weed competition, it flourished.”

Haskapa now has 30 acres of haskap under cultivation with plans to plant 200 more. Sobeys stores in Nova Scotia stock its products, including a juice I sampled this week — my first taste of haskap — that retails for about $15 a bottle.

The verdict? I tasted raspberries, subtle hints of blueberry, and enjoyed a drink with a delightfully tangy finish, though I am not convinced I would pay $15 for 500ml. (It was a gift from my editor).

What is holding haskap back, its boosters say, is patience. Farmers who plant haskap today will wait six years for their crop to fully mature. So even if there is growing demand there remains a dearth of berry supply, keeping prices at a level where the average consumer might balk.

But Liam Tayler remains unbowed.

“I don’t see it as unrealistic for haskap to become a $500-million a year business in Atlantic Canada in the next five years,” he says. “The limiting factor at this point is berry supply.”

David Stobbe for the National Post

(For comparison: blueberries represent a $360-million a year export business for Canadian farmers, tops among fruit crops).

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is visiting Haskapa’s new retail store in Mahone Bay next week, an indication, perhaps, of the province’s enthusiasm for the budding industry.

Bob Bors, at the University of Saskatchewan, is working on the haskap supply issue for farmers while perfecting new varieties — Tundra, Borealis, Aurora — to name a few. But what about the berry itself? Has it been all that he had hoped it might be, professionally, and has it put the professor in that rarefied company his mentor once spoke of, where he is not just one of the many but one of best?

“People say we are number one in the world,” Bors says. “We sold our millionth plant last year, and so that is pretty good, to have a million of something sold.

“But I don’t get any money from it personally.”

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter: oconnorwrites

David Stobbe for the National Post

Honeyberry Nutritional Facts

The health and medical benefits of the Honeyberry have long been recognized in the folklore of indigenous Siberians. In Hokkaido, the Ainu people considered these wild fruit as ‘ the elixir of life.’ Several studies on the chemical composition of fruit have demonstrated exceptionally high vitamin C content and high values for both total phenolics and anthocyanins, all compounds known in contributing to good health in humans.

A nutritional powerhouse

In a study reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, March 2005, researchers found blue honeysuckle berries to possess the highest content of phenolic acids compared to other berries tested. Tested against blueberries, mulberries, juneberries, black currants, and blackberries, the fruits berries from the blue honeysuckle consistently produced the highest level of antioxidants.

So in summary, the Honeyberry is a nutritional powerhouse!

In 2009, a group of Slovak researchers published a study that analyzed the anthocyanin content of six uncommon berries, including black mulberries (Morus nigra), Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas), dewberries (Rubus caesius), Blackthorns (Prunus spinosa), rowanberries (Sorbus aucuparia), and Lonicera caerulea var. kamtschatica, a blue honeyberry variety that is native to Northeastern Asia. In this study, honeyberries had by far the highest levels of anthocyanins. Fruits and berries rich in anthocyanin flavonoids have several potential health benefits, including Anti-Inflammatory Properties, Good for the Eyes, Inhibitory Effects Against Colon Cancer Cells and Cardiovascular Benefits.

There is also accumulating scientific evidence that bioactive compounds such as antioxidants found in berries have significant other potential health benefits. Researchers at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture, based in Nova Scotia, have just announced their intention to examine the anticancer activity of Honeyberry’s bioactives after being awarded a grant from the Cancer Research Training Program.

Russian Honeyberry Smoothie

Honeyberry nutritional values

Nutrition facts for fresh Honeyberries are listed per 100 grams (or 33 calories) in the table below. The source of this data is to be found at the following link site or clicking on the chart below.

Recent scientific research papers on Honeyberry

  • Haskap (Lonicera caerulea): A new berry crop with high antioxidant capacity, H. P. Vasantha Rupasinghe. 2012
  • Phenolic Profile of Edible Honeysuckle Berries (Genus Lonicera) and Their Biological Effects, 2012
  • Y. Zhao et al. (2011). Antihypertensive effects and mechanisms of chlorogenic acids. Hypertens Res
  • A. Zdarilova (2010). The polyphenolic fraction of Lonicera caerulea L. fruits reduces oxidative stress and inflammatory markers induced by lipopolysaccharide in gingival fibroblasts. Food and Chemical Toxicology
  • B. Paulovicsova et al. (2009). Antioxidant properties of selected less common fruit species. Lucrari scientific zootechny si biotechnology. vol. 42 (1), Timisoara
  • I. Palikova et al. (2008). Constituents and Antimicrobial Properties of Blue Honeysuckle: A Novel Source for Phenolic Antioxidants. J. Agric. Food Chem
  • X. H. Jin (2006). Effects of blue honeysuckle (Lonicera caerulea L.) extract on lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo. Experimental Eye Research
  • C. Zhao, et al. (2004). Effects of Commercial Anthocyanin-Rich Extracts on Colonic Cancer and Nontumorigenic Colonic Cell Growth. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry



The Plant:

Edible blue honeysuckles are commonly known as Honeyberries, or Haskap. Native to northern Russia, Japan, and naturalized in Canada, this shrub can grow as a low, sprawling or upright bush.
The selections we have chosen generally range in height from 3-5 ft. tall.

Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea edulis and related cultivars) are generally considered to be of Siberian or Canadian heritage and flower and fruit approximately in season with strawberries. Dr. Bob Bors (University of Saskatchewan) has done a great deal of research focused on the super-hardy Siberian varieties and has collected specimens from the wild, selecting and hybridizing varieties with larger and sweeter fruit, manageable plant habitat and greater productivity.

Haskaps (Lonicera caerulea emphyllocalyx and related cultivars) originate from northern Japan and tend to ripen 3-4 weeks later than the Russian lineage. Dr. Maxine Thomson (University of Oregon) has worked extensively with, and developed numerous cultivars from, this species focusing her efforts on improving the best Japanese traits including later blooming, larger fruits with uniform ripening, and better growth habits.
Currently there is a great deal of research and trialing of blue honeysuckle varieties emanating from these research programs, with cross-pollination and inter-breeding between the sub-species. There is some confusion regarding the differentiation between sub-species, and we have tried to sort out the heritage as best we can. For our purposes, we are currently characterizing species as being “Honeyberries” and then typing as either: early season or later season. Additional information about this crop can be found using the links below.

The Fruit:

Honeyberries produce deep blue berries beginning with the strawberry season in late June, and early varieties may produce the first fruits of the year. Later varieties begin a few weeks later, while the latest pickings may be into late August. Fruit may be oblong, barrel, or flattened bullet in shape and contain high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C. As Bob Bors describes the flavor… “it could be described as sweet, sour, bland or bitter versions of raspberry, blueberry, plum or black currents and any mixture in-between. The best ones however seem to have a predominantly raspberry flavor with sweetness and just a hint of sour or bitter or astringency to give a little zing. That little zing might be described as desirable ‘mouthfeel’ in the world of red wine tasting”. Seeds tend to be small and unnoticeable. Honeyberries can be used as a fresh ‘dessert fruit’, as fresh fruit toppings, or in sauces, in pies, jams, compotes, frozen as with other berries, dried as with cranberries, cherries, grapes, or apples, or made into wines.

The Harvest:
The fruits of honeyberry are picked after they turn a deep purple- blue. Sweetness increases with maturity. The berries don’t tend to prematurely drop, and picking too early can result in a sour or bitter taste. Fruit should be blue inside when ripe, not green. Berries can be hand-picked, shaken from the plant, or machine-harvested. Plants begin to yield in 1-2 years after planting, and production can reach 3-7 kilos per mature 3-4 year old plant.

Planting considerations:
Honeyberries grow in blue-berry type soils, being a fibrous and shallow-rooted plant. Soil PH should be within the 5-7 range. Plants can take heavy soils, as they are from wetland or marginal ancestry, however planting in sunny, well-drained organic soils should bring more dependable performance. When planting in rows, a 3-4 ft. x 10 foot spacing between rows seems to be the general recommendation. Even watering is quite important, although Russian publications suggest that established plants are mildly drought-tolerant. Honeyberries are hardy to USDA Zone 2; blossoms in spring are also very hardy and can survive temperatures of 22-24 degrees. Pollination Requirements: Although many varieties may be considered self-pollinating and will set some fruit, it is generally considered more productive to have 2 or more varieties from the same blossoming season (ie: ‘early flowering, or late…’) to provide cross-pollination.

Birds and pests:
Birds like to eat Blue Honeysuckles, especially cedar waxwings. Netting may be needed. Placing netting directly on the bushes doesn’t work because birds will sit on the netting and eat. A framework may be needed to hold the net away from the plants, out of the reach of the bird.

Honeyberry Plants
Great Northern Berry plants are sold at Wayside Farm in North Sandwich, N.H. Quantities of some varieties are limited and are subject to current availabilities.

Early season (honeyberries):

Berry Blue
Lonicera carulea edulis (honeyberry)

A vigorous and productive plant with an upright growth habit, Berry Blue grows to be a large variety reaching up to 8 ft. in height, producing abundant, large, sweet and tasty berries.

Blue Bird
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
A medium vigor, upright growing bush that will reach 5-6 ft. in height. Blue Bird bears many large, long, dark blue, sweet and tasty berries.

Blue Nova
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
A favorite from eastern Russia, this attractive, compact shrub grows to about 4 ft. in height and bears abundant crops of medium-blue, flavorful berries.

Blue Sky
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)

This unique variety is from the work of an amateur breeder in Siberia. Producing abundant, sweet, and very flavorful fruit, Blue Sky is also an attractive, compact shrub growing 3-4 ft. in height.

Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
Mature at about 4 feet tall with sweeter and larger berry. This University of Saskatchewan introduction produces blueberry-like fruit that ripen with strawberries.

Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
Native to east Siberia, this edible member of the honeysuckle family has been greatly improved. Large, turquoise, tasty berries ripen in mid-June. Very hardy. No pest or disease problems. 3-4 feet tall. Great for fresh eating. More than one early variety is a must for cross-pollination.

Honey Bee
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
A very tall honeyberry producing large elongated fruit. A fairly tart taste with good flavor and depth useful in prepared fruit dishes, jams, wine, and perhaps dried. A great, mildew resistant pollinator of other early honeyberries.

Indigo Treat
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)

Excellent tasting. Large, elongated, firm blue fruit. Harvest in June. Mature 4-5 feet Similar to Tundra but smaller berry. Upright growing plants are suitable to mechanical harvesting.
Polar Jewel Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)

Sweet, deep blue berries are produced on this sturdy, compact shrub. It is extremely cold tolerant as a plant but needs another early variety for cross pollination to produce a good fruit set. Likened in flavor to blueberries, the fruit may be eaten fresh or used in recipes, jams and jellies. It is very healthy and Polar Jewel is known as a great pollinator for varieties like Tundra and Borealis.
Tundra Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)

Mature height about 4-5 feet tall. Firmer skin than other varieties; bleeds less from the scar. Average weight of 1.5 gram is among the largest fruits of honeyberries. Upright growing plants are suitable to mechanical harvesting.

Later season (haskaps):

Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
Bush will grow 5 – 6 ft in height with elongated oval shaped berries. Very productive and vigourous with sweet and juicy berries.

Blue Forest
Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
Large deep green foliage with spreading 2-3 foot tall form. Large, tasty dark blue fruit.

Blue Hokkaido
Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
A very popular variety with Japanese Honeyberry growers, Blue Hokkaido features an upright 4-5 ft. tall growth habit and very large, sweet-tart, crisp and flavorful, dark blue berries.

Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
The fruit is oval, of medium firmness, with a good sweet-tart taste. Very little juice is produced.

Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
Cylindrical shaped fruit of medium to large size.

Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
Fruit is tart-sweet, of medium firmness, and oval shaped.

Credit to: Maxine Thomson and Bob Bors for their contribution to the development of Blue Honeysuckle as a new fruit to North America, and for their pictures and content.

Link to Bob Bors introductory article on Blue Honeysuckle (Lonicera caerulea) in Saskatchewan:

Link to Maxine Thompson introductory article “Haskap Arrives in North America”:

Link to Aug. 2009 Growing Magazine article regarding Dr. Maxine Thompson’s research with Japanese Haskap (Lonicera caerulea) in Oregon: “On the Edge of a Fruit Breakthrough”:

Link to Dr. Bob Bors observations on Maxine Thompson’s research in Oregon on Japanese Honeyberries:

Link to University of Saskatchewan Fruit Program

Link to Haskap and honeyberry breeding in the future (Bob Bors):

Link to Haskap wines:

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