Honeyberry Varieties: Choosing the Best Plant for Your Garden

Discover the ideal honeyberry variety for your garden with our ultimate guide, covering various types, unique characteristics, climate compatibility, and specific purposes to help you make the perfect choice.

Honeyberry Varieties: Choosing the Best Plant for Your Garden

Understanding Honeyberry Plants

Origin and Native Habitat

Lonicera caerulea, commonly recognized as honeyberry plants, are sought-after edible plants that boast deciduous shrubs yielding sweet, tangy berries reminiscent of elongated blueberries. These resilient plants flourish in diverse climates, producing nutrient-dense fruit abundant in antioxidants and vitamins, establishing them as a top choice for health-conscious gardeners seeking versatile edible plants.

General Plant Characteristics

Honeyberry plants are deciduous shrubs that typically grow to a height of 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 meters) with a similar spread. They have an attractive, bushy growth habit with arching branches and oval, green leaves. The plants produce small, tubular flowers in early spring, which are followed by elongated, oval-shaped berries that resemble elongated blueberries.

Honeyberries are known for their unique flavor, often described as a blend of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, with a slight tartness. These berries are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, making them a nutritious and delicious addition to any garden.

Honeyberry plants are self-incompatible, meaning that they require cross-pollination from another variety to produce fruit. Planting two or more compatible varieties close to each other ensures successful pollination and a bountiful harvest. These plants are also relatively low-maintenance, with few pests and diseases affecting them, making them an excellent choice for both beginner and experienced gardeners.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Honeyberry Variety

Climate and Hardiness Zones

Honeyberries are remarkably cold-hardy plants, making them an excellent choice for gardens in cooler climates. Most varieties are well-suited for USDA hardiness zones 2-7, with some even tolerating the chill of zone 1. However, honeyberries also require a certain number of chilling hours to set fruit, typically between 800 and 1,200 hours. If you live in a warmer climate, choose a variety with lower chilling requirements to ensure successful fruit production. Also, consider varieties that are heat-tolerant if your summers tend to be hot and dry.

Honeyberry Variety Chilling Hour Requirements
Honeyberry Variety Chilling Hour Requirement
Borealis 1000-1200 hours
Tundra 800-1000 hours
Indigo Gem 1500-2000 hours
Honey Bee 800-1000 hours
Aurora 1200-1500 hours
Cinderella 1000-1200 hours
Blue Velvet 800-1000 hours
Blue Moon 800-1000 hours
Berry Blue 1000-1200 hours

Size and Growth Habit

Honeyberry plants come in various sizes and growth habits. Some varieties are more compact and better suited for small gardens or container growing, while others are larger and more vigorous, requiring more space. When selecting a honeyberry variety, consider your available garden space and whether you prefer a more upright or spreading growth habit. Keep in mind that different varieties may have slightly different pruning requirements based on their growth habits.

Pollination Requirements

Honeyberries are self-incompatible, which means they need cross-pollination from another variety to produce fruit. When choosing honeyberry varieties for your garden, it's crucial to select at least two compatible varieties for successful pollination. Ensure that the varieties you choose bloom around the same time to increase the chances of effective pollination. Consult your local nursery or horticulturist for advice on the best pollinator pairs.

Honeyberry Pollinator Compatibility Chart
Variety Best Pollinator Pairs
Borealis Tundra, Honey Bee
Tundra Borealis, Indigo Gem
Indigo Gem Honey Bee, Tundra
Honey Bee Indigo Gem, Aurora
Aurora Honey Bee, Indigo Gem
Cinderella Blue Moon, Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet Blue Moon, Cinderella
Blue Moon Blue Velvet, Cinderella
Berry Blue Blue Velvet, Blue Moon

Fruit Characteristics

Different honeyberry varieties produce fruit with varying characteristics, including flavor, size, color, and harvest time. Some varieties produce sweeter berries, while others have a more pronounced tartness. Berry size can also vary, with some types yielding larger fruit than others.

Additionally, the color of the berries can range from deep blue to dark purple, and the harvest time can differ by a few weeks, depending on the variety. Consider your preferences and intended use for the fruit when selecting a honeyberry variety, whether you plan to eat them fresh, make preserves, or use them in baking and desserts.

Cool Climates

  1. 'Borealis': This cold-hardy variety is well-suited for zones 2-6 and produces large, sweet berries with a mild tartness. It is an excellent choice for fresh eating and requires a compatible pollinator such as 'Tundra' or 'Honey Bee'.
  2. 'Tundra': A hardy variety that thrives in zones 2-6, 'Tundra' produces medium-sized berries with a balanced sweet-tart flavor. It is an excellent pollinator for 'Borealis' and 'Indigo Gem'.
  3. 'Indigo Gem': This variety is suitable for zones 3-7 and yields abundant, small to medium-sized fruit with a rich, sweet-tart flavor. It pairs well with 'Honey Bee' or 'Tundra' for pollination.

Moderate Climates

  1. 'Honey Bee': A versatile variety suitable for zones 3-7, 'Honey Bee' produces medium-sized, sweet berries and acts as an excellent pollinator for other honeyberry varieties such as 'Indigo Gem', 'Aurora', and 'Borealis'.
  2. 'Aurora': Adaptable to zones 3-7, 'Aurora' produces large, sweet, and flavorful berries. It is a good pollinator for 'Honey Bee' and 'Indigo Gem'.
  3. 'Cinderella': This variety thrives in zones 3-7 and yields medium-sized berries with a sweet, tangy flavor. 'Cinderella' is a good pollinator for 'Blue Moon' and 'Blue Velvet'.

Warmer Climates

  1. 'Blue Velvet': Suitable for zones 4-8, 'Blue Velvet' is a heat-tolerant variety that produces medium-sized, sweet berries with a mild tartness. It pairs well with 'Blue Moon' or 'Cinderella' for pollination.
  2. 'Blue Moon': This heat-tolerant variety grows well in zones 4-8 and yields medium-sized, flavorful fruit. It is a good pollinator for 'Blue Velvet' and 'Cinderella'.
  3. 'Berry Blue': Adaptable to zones 4-8, 'Berry Blue' produces large, sweet, and tangy berries. It is an excellent pollinator for 'Blue Velvet' and 'Blue Moon'.

Honeyberry Varieties for Specific Purposes

Fresh Eating

  1. 'Blue Treasure': This variety produces large, sweet berries with a pleasant tartness, making them perfect for enjoying fresh from the bush.
  2. 'Sweet Berry': As the name suggests, 'Sweet Berry' yields large, sweet, and juicy fruit that is ideal for fresh eating.

Jams and Preserves

  1. 'Blue Mist': With medium-sized, flavorful berries that have a balance of sweetness and tartness, 'Blue Mist' is an excellent choice for making jams and preserves.
  2. 'Polar Berry': This variety yields medium to large berries with a rich, tangy flavor, perfect for creating delicious preserves.

Baking and Desserts

  1. 'Blue Heaven': Known for its large, sweet, and mildly tart berries, 'Blue Heaven' is an excellent choice for baking and dessert recipes.
  2. 'Blue Diamond': This variety produces medium-sized, sweet fruit with a subtle tartness that works well in baked goods and desserts.

Ornamental Use

  1. 'Blue Elf': A compact variety with a dense growth habit, 'Blue Elf' is an excellent choice for ornamental use in small gardens or containers.
  2. 'Blue Prince': This variety features attractive foliage and a more upright growth habit, making it an ideal choice for ornamental purposes in the landscape or as a focal point in mixed borders.
Honeyberry Varieties for Specific Purposes
Purpose Honeyberry Varieties
Fresh Eating Blue Treasure, Sweet Berry
Jams and Preserves Blue Mist, Polar Berry
Baking and Desserts Blue Heaven, Blue Diamond
Ornamental Use Blue Elf, Blue Prince

Companion Plants for Honeyberry Varieties

Benefits of Companion Planting

Companion planting is the practice of growing different plants close together to enhance their growth, health, and productivity. The benefits of companion planting include improved pollination, pest control, soil health, and overall garden aesthetics. Companion plants can attract beneficial insects that help with pollination or prey on pests, while others can deter harmful insects or provide nutrients to the soil, promoting healthier growth for honeyberries and other plants.

  1. Pollinator-attracting plants: Planting flowers such as borage, lavender, and calendula near honeyberries can help attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, improving pollination rates and fruit production.
  2. Pest-deterrent plants: Marigolds, nasturtiums, and chives can help deter pests like aphids and mites, which may target honeyberry plants.
  3. Nitrogen-fixing plants: Legumes, such as peas and beans, can fix nitrogen in the soil, providing essential nutrients to the honeyberries and other nearby plants.
  4. Ground cover plants: Low-growing plants like creeping thyme or clover can help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture, benefiting the overall health of the honeyberry plants.
  5. Structural plants: Tall or sturdy plants like sunflowers or corn can provide support and shelter to honeyberries, protecting them from strong winds or heavy rain.

Arranging Companion Plants in the Garden

When arranging companion plants in your garden, consider the following tips:

  1. Plant flowers and other pollinator-attracting plants near the edges of the honeyberry patch or interspersed between the bushes. This will encourage pollinators to visit and move between the honeyberry plants, boosting pollination rates.
  2. Place pest-deterrent plants around the perimeter of your honeyberry garden or interspersed among the bushes. This will help create a natural barrier against pests and discourage them from targeting your honeyberries.
  3. Plant nitrogen-fixing legumes nearby or between honeyberry plants, allowing them to contribute valuable nutrients to the soil.
  4. Use ground cover plants to fill in gaps between honeyberry bushes and other companion plants. This will help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.
  5. Arrange structural plants, like sunflowers or corn, around or near your honeyberry varieties to provide shelter and support against harsh weather conditions.

Caring for Your Chosen Honeyberry Variety

Planting, Watering, and Fertilizing Requirements

  1. Planting: To give your honeyberry plants the best start, choose a well-draining location with full sun to partial shade. Plant your honeyberries in early spring or fall, spacing them 4-6 feet apart to ensure proper air circulation and growth. When planting, dig a hole twice as wide and as deep as the root ball. Place the plant in the hole and fill it with a mixture of native soil and well-rotted compost to provide a nutrient-rich environment.
  2. Watering: Consistent watering is crucial, especially during the first year of establishment, to promote a strong root system. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. As your honeyberry plants mature, they will develop some drought tolerance, but it's still essential to provide consistent moisture during fruit development.
  3. Fertilizing: Honeyberry plants aren't heavy feeders and typically don't require excessive fertilization. Apply a slow-release, balanced fertilizer in early spring before new growth begins. Alternatively, you can use organic amendments like compost or well-rotted manure to enrich the soil and provide necessary nutrients.

Pruning and Training Techniques

  1. Pruning: To maintain the health and productivity of your honeyberry plants, regular pruning is essential. During the first few years, focus on removing any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. As the plant matures, prune to maintain the desired shape and size. Perform pruning during late winter or early spring when the plants are dormant.
  2. Training: Some honeyberry varieties may benefit from training to promote an open, vase-shaped structure that allows for better airflow, light penetration, and easier harvesting. Use stakes or trellises to support the branches if necessary and remove any crossing or inward-growing branches.

Pest and Disease Control

Honeyberry plants are relatively hardy and resistant to most pests and diseases. However, it's essential to monitor your plants regularly for any signs of infestation or illness. Common pests include aphids and spider mites, which can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Diseases such as powdery mildew can be prevented by ensuring proper air circulation and avoiding overhead watering. If any diseases do appear, remove affected plant parts and treat with appropriate fungicides.


Growing honeyberries can be an exciting and fruitful journey for both horticulturists and gardeners alike. By selecting the right honeyberry variety for your specific needs and providing proper planting conditions, care, and pest control, you can ensure a bountiful harvest of these delightful and unique fruits.

Honeyberries are an attractive and versatile addition to any garden, with their cold-hardiness, adaptability, and various uses. By following this comprehensive guide, you'll be well on your way to enjoying the fruits of your labor and sharing your love for honeyberries with friends, family, and fellow gardeners.