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last updated Dec 6, 2011
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Honeyberry

Honeyberry’s are edible forms of the honeysuckle Lonicera caerulea. Also know as blue honeysuckle or edible honeysuckle.

The fruits are very similar to blueberries in taste and looks, and can be eaten raw or used in jams and jellies. Like blueberries they are high in antioxidants and vitamin C and make an interesting addition to your fruit collection.

Cultivation notes Back to top

Honeyberry is relatively a new introduction into the UK. They are native to Siberia, northern China and northern Japan where they were widely harvested. Ideally honeyberries should be planted in pairs or groups, as this will increase the rate of pollination and fruit production. Some suppliers sell them in pairs.

Soil and site selection

  • Plant in spring when there is no risk of frost, this allows the plant to get establish over the following summer
  • A well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter is ideal; however most soils are suitable
  • They do not mind acidic or alkaline soil which makes them a great alternative for people who struggle to grow blueberries
  • Grow on a site in full sun to help increase fruit yield as the sun will ripen the wood
  • A yearly application of a balanced fertilizer such as blood, fish and bone in the spring is all they need. Too much feed will produce lots of lush green growth and not many flowers and fruit
  • A mulch of well-composted organic matter will help retain moisture and improve soil conditions mulching

Pruning and training Back to top

Young plants only need dead material removed for the first three years while they get established. For more established honeyberries, pruning should be done in early to mid-summer after harvesting;

  1. Remove straggly weak and damaged growth
  2. Thin out any overcrowded shoots by removing several down to the base to encourage new strong shoots to replace the old
  3. Also remove the tips of young shoots as this encourages more flowering laterals

Pollination and harvesting

It may be worth considering pollination by hand to increase yield of fruit. They flower late winter to very early spring when there is little pollinating insect activity. Hand pollination can be done by lightly brushing over the flowers with a small, soft paint brush.

The fruit is harvested about late-spring early-summer. The berries turns blue and develops a whitish bloom when ripe; however check to make sure that the flesh is purple-red as green under-ripe fruits can be very sour. A mature plant can produce about 6kg of fruit. It can take up to two years before you will get a crop.

Propagation Back to top

Seed

Honeyberry is easily propagated by seed; the pulp around the seed needs to be removed before they are sown in moist, warm conditions during the summer. There is no need for any cold stratification of the seed.

Cuttings

Using cuttings as your method of propagation gives you the ability to selected material from your tastiest shrub and the sex of the cutting. Semi-ripe cutting can be taken during summer from none-fruiting stems. Hardwood cuttings can be taken in late-autumn winter.

Cultivar Selection Back to top

Lonicera caerulea
L. caerulea var. kamtschatica
L. caerulea var. edulis
L. kamchatika

There is little written on the differences between the forms of honeyberry (it is such a new crop) at this stage and taste can be quite variable.

Problems Back to top

They are very hardy and do not generally suffer from any pest and disease.

Hazard: All honeysuckles have berries but not all of them are edible. In fact, many are potentially harmful. So check labelling and make sure you are growing the correct type. 

Quick facts

Common name Honeyberry, blue honeysuckle 
Botanical name Lonicera caerulea, L. kamchatika
Group Fruit
Flowering time Late winter to very early spring
Planting time Spring
Height and spread 1.2m (4ft)
Aspect Full sun
Hardiness Very hardy down to -40°C
Difficulty Easy
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