Ripe, juicy berries are among the best gifts of the summer months. With a little planting and pruning, berry shrubs offer sweet and succulent fruit for jams, pies, or eating right off the branch. Most edible berries are excellent for our health, loaded with immune-boosting vitamins and antioxidants, while the shrubs grace our gardens with spring blossoms, summer shade, and vivid fall color. Take advantage of their early-spring planting window now to reap the rewards this summer!
These are one of the first berries to ripen and, depending on the variety, can continue fruiting all summer or produce a generous second harvest late in the season. The most common varieties bear red berries, but they also come in yellow, purple, or black. Some have thorns, like the heritage variety, while others have smooth canes. All require pruning, which is a small price to pay for their abundant yields.
Ready for eating by June, this North American native berry is similar to a blueberry but darker in color with a unique flavor. Able to grow as high as 6 feet, they can provide privacy screening to the landscape in addition to pretty white blossoms and bright yellow fall foliage. The serviceberry is especially important to many native tribes of the plains, who claim that those who eat it will live a long life.
This easy-growing shrub can grow from 6 to 10 feet high. Remove the papery husks to reveal yellow, red, or purple berries with a tangy, juicy flavor! Thriving as far north as the Arctic circle, they do well through our Chicago winters. Surprisingly, the Gooseberry used to be far more popular than it is now. In 19th century England, entire clubs and societies were dedicated to these unusual berries. In the 20th century, its popularity went into decline, but perhaps today, the Gooseberry is ready for a revival!
Currants make excellent sauces, wine, preserves, and are particularly good in jams. Growing in smaller shrubs in either full sun or partial shade, the dark berries are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin B, copper, manganese, and calcium, among others. You might feel healthier just by looking at the deep, rich color of the black currant!
Ready for picking in midsummer, this sun-loving shrub can reach 3 feet tall and spread 4 feet wide. Their juicy, plump berries are ideal for picking. You may find yourself gorging until your lips and teeth turn purple! Fortunately, they’re proven to reduce the risk of cancer, keep your brain young, rejuvenate your skin and provide rare vitamin K—so snack away!
The many varieties of Blueberries range in height and style, but all provide an abundance of delicious fruit. Some varieties, like Jelly Bean, flush brilliant scarlet in the fall, while others turn deep purple. Most require acidic soil and grow with little maintenance. Like many berries shrubs, they will attract fruit-loving birds into your garden.
To give these berries the best chance to blossom and fruit, you’ll need to settle them in the ground in early spring while they are still dormant. It’s usually best to plant them as soon as the soil is workable. This allows them to flourish undisturbed during the growing months. Within every species, each variety has specific needs to consider when planting. If you wish to taste fresh berries this summer, check out our plant guide or feel free to contact us. Our garden centers would be happy to give you instructions for planting shrubs and reaping a fruitful summer harvest!
Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.