How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Honeyberry Shrubs

Destined to be the next superfruit, honeyberries look like elongated blueberries with a similar taste. In this article, gardening expert Wendy Moulton looks at how to grow and care for these special plants.

Close-up of ripe berries on the branches of a Honeyberry shrub. The Honeyberry shrub presents a striking appearance with its upright growth habit and slender, arching branches adorned with oval-shaped leaves of deep green color. The bush produces clusters of small, elongated berries that ripen to shades of deep blue.


Known as the edible honeysuckle, honeyberry shrubs are cold-hardy and easy to grow and maintain. They flower in winter when most other plants are dormant, and the creamy, tubular flowers have a lovely honeysuckle fragrance.

They taste similar to blueberries, but with raspberry and blackberry undertones. This unique fruit is a member of the honeysuckle family and is easy to grow with few pests and diseases. The fruit appears in spring and is very high in antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients.

Honeyberry is a good ornamental plant and an edible for the food garden. With very little care but for annual feeding and pruning after a few years, they will perform well for many years to come. Read on for more about this great perennial.


Close-up of Lonicera caerulea with ripe berries in the garden. The plant has slender branches adorned with lance-shaped, deep green leaves covered with drops of water. Among the leaves grow clusters of small, oval, oblong berries of a deep blue hue. These berries are covered with a powdery bloom.
Genus Lonicera
Species Lonicera caerulea
Family Caprifoliaceae
Native Area Eurasia and North America
Height and Spread 4-6 feet tall and wide
Maintenance Pruning
Hardiness Zones 2-7
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Watering needs Medium
Pests Few
Diseases Powdery mildew
Soil Type Loamy, rich well-draining
Soil pH Acidic (pH 5.5 – 6.0)
Flowering time Late spring to early summer
Attracts Honeybees, butterflies, and birds

What Is It?

Close-up of a branch with ripe blue honeysuckle berries in a sunny garden. This honeyberry bush has oval-shaped, deep green leaves and clusters of dark blue berries. These berries are small, oval, oblong.
Winter-hardy and prolific, Lonicera caerulea bears delicious early spring fruit.

Lonicera caerulea is a member of the honeysuckle family and has various common names, including haskap (from Japan), zhimolost (from Russia), blue honeysuckle, and honeyberry. The Russian and Japanese varieties have some subtle differences.

Honeyberry is a tough, deciduous shrub that is winter-hardy and produces a fruit crop in early spring.

Native Area

Honeyberry berries growing in a sunny garden. Lonicera caerulea presents a charming appearance with its deciduous shrub adorned with oval-shaped, deep green leaves. Delicate clusters of elongated berries of a deep blue hue with a powdery bloom form on the branches.
With origins spanning from California to Canada, Honeyberry thrives globally.

Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea) has origins in the temperate regions of most of Europe, Asia, and parts of the US, including an area from California to Wyoming and north into Canada. Several hybrids have been bred, many Russian and some from Canada.


Close-up of ripe Honeyberry berries among dark green oval foliage. Honeyberry berries present a delightful appearance with their small, elongated shape and vibrant deep blue hues. These berries are covered with a powdery bloom.
With compact growth, fragrant blooms, and versatile fruit, honeyberry shrubs are prized for their longevity.

Honeyberry shrubs grow 4-6 feet tall and have a girth of about the same size, but they can be pruned to keep them more compact. There are also compact varieties to choose from.

The flowers are a creamy yellow color, and a tubular shape, and appear in late spring and early summer. They also have the wonderful honeysuckle fragrance that permeates the air, especially at night.

The fruits are used for jams, jellies, juices, and wine. They are great for eating fresh and melt in your mouth with their rich, unique berry flavor. They also make a unique sweet sauce for ice cream and cakes. To preserve them, they can be frozen but will burst through their skins when they defrost – good for winemakers, not so good for eating fresh. Honeyberries are also pickled and dried.

One reason honeyberries are grown is their health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and vitamin B, as well as iron, calcium, phosphorous, and especially magnesium.

These shrubs are not self-pollinating and require another variety to help pollinate the flowers. Before planting, ensure you have enough space for at least two shrubs.

These extremely hardy shrubs can fruit for up to 30 years or more once you have them planted and look after them with some annual care.


Close-up of a young Honeyberry bush planted in a sunny garden. A Honeyberry seedling is placed in a dug hole in the soil. Nearby stands a large garden shovel with a long wooden handle.
For optimal growth, space bushes generously, ensuring good sunlight

Ensure plenty of space between bushes, at least five feet, to account for their mature size. Choose a position with full sun or partial shade. They will grow to around six feet high when mature, but there are also compact varieties that are perfect for container growing and smaller gardens.

The best time to plant honeyberry bushes is spring, so they have time to acclimate to their soil and surroundings before the following season. Soak plants in water 30 minutes before planting to help release their roots from the nursery container. Dig a hole at least twice the width of the rootball. This will allow the roots to spread and secure the plant in the soil.

Add plenty of compost to the soil and mix well before using it to plant the shrub in the hole and backfilling. Press down to release air pockets, make a basin around the plant, and water well. Add a layer of organic mulch around the plant, making sure to keep the mulch off the plant’s stems.

How to Grow

Once you have a honeyberry shrub, you have one for a lifetime. Easy to grow and look after, honeyberry shrubs are a good addition to an edible garden and are ornamental, too.


Close-up of Lonicera caerulea illuminated by sunlight in a garden. This bush has thin branches covered with oval dark green leaves and clusters of berries. The berries are oval, oblong in shape and dark blue in color with a powdery coating.
Honeyberry bushes thrive in full sun or partial shade.

Plant in full sun for more berries, but some varieties will do okay in partial shade.


Close-up of honeysuckle branches with leaves and berries covered with water drops. The leaves are oval, dark green, slightly velvety. The berries are oval-shaped, with a slightly uneven surface, dark blue in color and with a powdery coating.
During the first year, keep the soil evenly moist.

In the first season, these shrubs prefer evenly moist soil. After that, they can survive with just rainwater and are relatively drought-tolerant. Watch for very dry and hot weather and give them supplementary water. When watering, water deeply to promote deeper root growth. Plants in containers need regular watering.


Close-up shot of a growing young Honeyberry bush in a sunny garden with moist, brown soil. The young Honeyberry shrub boasts delicate, lance-shaped leaves tinged with a vibrant green hue, contrasting against its slender, arching branches. The plant produces petite, bell-shaped flowers of creamy white color, growing in clusters.
For optimal growth, plant honeyberries in fertile, well-draining soil.

Honeyberries will need fertile, rich soil that is well-draining. Add plenty of compost when planting. Their preferred pH level is between 5.0 and 7.0.


Close-up ripe and juicy honeysuckle berries nestle amidst lush, ovate leaves. The berries, plump and glistening, are dark blue in color with a powdery coating. Surrounding them, the leaves display a verdant tapestry of glossy greens.
Withstanding frigid temperatures, it’s a resilient and robust plant.

This cold-hardy plant can take temperatures up to -40°F (-40°C). The flowers are also frost-hardy and can withstand temperatures down to 20°F (-7°C). These plants need at least 800 – 1200 chill hours to set fruit at temperatures under 45°F (7°C).


Close-up of a male gardener holding granular fertilizer in his hands in a sunny garden. The man's hands are wearing yellow gloves. Granular fertilizers are grayish-cream in color.
Nourish with organic fertilizer in spring.

Feed them a balanced organic fertilizer in spring and top up or replace the mulch around the plants. However, be cautious when fertilizing, as the shallow roots will burn with too much fertilizer around them.


The bushes flower late spring or early summer, providing a nectar source for bees. However, because they are often grown in colder climates, it may be necessary to help the shrubs pollinate by using a paintbrush and hand-pollinating the flowers. This will ensure a good crop of fruit come spring.


A young male gardener trims bushes in a sunny garden. The man is wearing a black tracksuit, a black cap and orange and black gloves. He trims the bushes with large pruning shears with long black handles.
Winter pruning promotes bushiness and healthier fruit production.

Prune honeyberry bushes in winter when dormant and before they start sprouting new growth. This should be just after you have harvested the last of the fruits.

In the first few years, honeyberry bushes will not require much pruning except to remove damaged growth. After that, an annual light pruning will make the shrubs bushier. First, cut away any crossing branches and weak growth. Second, reduce the growth by a third, cutting the branches back to an outward-facing bud. Open up the bush and keep it compact and in good shape. Any pruned branches will then thicken up and boost the plant to perform better the following season.

While pruning back the tree, take some hardwood cuttings to propagate more plants.


Close-up of a woman's hand harvesting honeysuckle berries in the garden. Honeyberry berries are a visual delight, adorning the branches in clusters of elongated, oblong shapes. The berries are dark blue in color with a powdery bloom.
Wait until the berries turn deep blue for optimal harvest.

When the fruits are a deep blue color, they are ready to harvest. Wait until the fruit is ready before harvesting, as they will not ripen off once picked.


Close-up of a gardener holding a potted cutting in the garden. The young cutting has a vertical thin Hardwood stem and young oval green leaves. The soil is black and wet.
Prepare pots with well-draining soil and take hardwood cuttings.

Hardwood cuttings are the best way to propagate a honeyberry.

Prepare pots with a potting medium mixed with coarse sand and ensure plenty of drainage. Take cuttings from a healthy branch about a pencil thickness and cut the base near a bud at a 45° angle. Each cutting should be around 8 inches long with no leaves or other growth.

Dip the ends of the cuttings into hormone rooting powder and pop them into pre-made holes in the pots. You can plant about four to five in one pot. Keep the pots well watered and place them in a sheltered position away from cold, in a cold frame or greenhouse until the next season, when they will have sprouted and formed a good set of roots and can be planted. They will take about 12 months to grow into good-sized plants to grow on in the garden.

Growing from Seed

Close-up of a plastic tray with a young sprout. This sprout consists of a thin stem and tiny oval green cotyledons.
Sow cleaned seeds in moist soil during summer for growth.

It is possible to grow honeyberries from seed. Remove all the flesh from around the seeds and sow in moist seedling or germinating mix in summer. Be patient. Your seeds will sprout in three to six weeks.

Close-up of Lonicera caerulea 'Blue Velvet' in a sunny garden against a blue sky. Lonicera caerulea 'Blue Velvet' captivates with its elegant presence, boasting slender branches adorned with oval-shaped leaves in a rich shade of verdant green. The plant produces clusters of striking, elongated berries of deep blue color.
‘Blue Velvet’ offers luscious, flavorful berries on hardy shrubs.

There are several varieties of honeyberry, each with its own characteristics. For the best results, choose the correct one for your particular area from a local grower.


A cold-hardy variety for zones 2-6 with large sweet berries that are best for fresh eating. A compatible pollinator plant would be ‘Tundra’ or ‘Honey Bee’.


A cold-hardy variety for zones 2-6. It has medium-sized fruit with a sweet but tart flavor. The best pollinators for this variety are ‘Borealis’ and ‘Indigo Gem’.

‘Honey Bee’

This variety is best in moderate climates for zones 3-7. It has medium-sized fruit with a sweet taste. The best pollinators for this variety are ‘Indigo Gem’, ‘Aurora’, and ‘Borealis’.

‘Indigo Gem’

A popular variety for moderate climates for zones 3-7 that produces an abundant crop of medium-sized sweet and tart fruit. Pollinators for this variety include ‘Honey Bee’ and ‘Tundra’.


A good variety for eating fresh with large sweet fruit. Pair this variety with ‘Honey Bee’ and ‘Indigo Gem’.


Bridging the gap between moderate and warmer climates is this variety that has medium-sized berries with a tangy flavor. The best pollinators for this variety are ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Blue Velvet’.

‘Berry Blue’

For zones 4-8, this berry has large, tart, and sweet fruit. The varieties ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Blue Moon’ are its preferred pollinators.

‘Blue Moon’

A more heat-tolerant variety for zones 4-8 with medium fruits that are flavorful. The pollinators for this variety include ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Cinderella’.

‘Blue Velvet’

A heat-tolerant variety for zones 4-8 that produces medium-sized fruit with a sweet taste. For pollination, pair with ‘Blue Moon’ or ‘Cinderella’.

Common Problems

Close-up of Honeysuckle branches covered with a net from birds in a sunny garden. Honeysuckle branches are covered with oval smooth green leaves and clusters of oval deep blue berries.
Enjoy a nearly carefree harvest, but guard against hungry visitors.

These shrubs are relatively pest and disease free. However, you, the wildlife, and the birds will probably fight to see who gets to the fruit crop first. If this is a problem in your area, cover the plants with bird netting.

Powdery mildew can be an issue in overcrowded or overly moist plants. Use your annual pruning to open up the plant, remove any damaged branches, and prevent mildew from forming on unaffected branches.

Final Thoughts

Honeyberry bushes are excellent shrubs for the garden because of their honeysuckle flowers and the glorious fruit they produce. Some may say that they are even better and easier than growing blueberries. They have some of the same (even more) health benefits and grow and survive in very cold climates. I would pick up two just because they are easy to grow, and if you have the space, why not?

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