Highbush Cranberry Viburnum trilobum- Zone 3
Characteristics of the tree
Highbush cranberry is a medium-sized shrub in the same family as elderberry. It produces clusters of small red edible berries, with some similarities to cranberries. An excellent ornamental shrub with year-round appeal.
The small red ‘cranberries’ of the highbush cranberry are born in pendulous clusters. They measure about 9 mm in diameter, and contain a single flat seed. While they ripen initially in September, they persist all through the winter on the plant. In fact, their flavour actually improves the later they are harvested: It becomes milder, softer and sweeter throughout winter, thanks to being frozen and thawed repeatedly. The berries are also very juicy. We quite like to eat them straight off the tree, but many people will probably find them too acidic to eat many this way. They are best used for making jams, preserves or sauces, though they can also be a useful cooking ingredient. Their health benefits are significant; as they are an excellent source of vitamin C and contain extremely high levels of antioxidants.
Highbush cranberries are native across Canada and the northern United States. The shrub develops a dense rounded form, and can reach heights of 4.5 metres (15 ft) with similar spreads. It is moderately vigorous, with a growth rate of about 1 meter (3 feet) per year. The leaves are dark green with a three-lobed form, somewhat similar to maples, and turn yellow to purplish-red in fall. The shrub produces abundant flowers in the month of June. The flowers form large clusters with small yellow flowers in the center, surrounded by larger white blooms. Highbush cranberries are versatile plants that thrive in a wide variety of conditions; they will grow well in almost any soil and both full sun or partial shade. However, they will be at their very best in moist, well-drained locations, and will provide maximum yields in full sun.
Highbush cranberries are great landscaping plants. The flowers are very attractive, the leaves provide attractive colour in fall, and the red berries are a pretty sight as they remain on the bush throughout the winter. These shrubs also make great privacy hedges due to their dense growth, and attract plenty of birds as a source of both food and protection. The bark of these shrubs is used medicinally to relieve cramps. The berries have also been used historically to make dyes and ink.
Highbush cranberry is moderately vigorous and grows as a dense, rounded bush, reaching up to 4.5 metres in height. It will begin to produce fruit around 4 years after planting. The shrub will generally live for around 30 years in good conditions.
You should note that this illustration is meant only to give a general indication of what you can expect, and the growth of your tree might look somewhat different. The development of a tree depends on the soil type, irrigation, fertilisation and climatic conditions. What we show here is based on our observation of the growth of highbush cranberry in zone 4, in rather poor soil. In zone 2, growth will probably be slower, while in a rich soil it could be faster.
Our highbush cranberry shrubs are sold bare-root, without pots. They have been cultivated directly in our soil. Bare-root trees must be taken out of the ground and shipped during their period of dormancy, which is why we only ship trees in the spring. A big advantage with these kinds of trees is that they take up very little space, and can therefore be easily shipped by mail all over Canada!
This photograph shows a 1-3-foot highbush cranberry, just like one that you might receive. Depending on our availability at the time of order preparation, it might be slightly taller, (closer to 3 feet) or somewhat smaller (closer to 1 foot in height).