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Growing Haskap Berries in Zone 3

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

The haskap berry grows on bushes, often found in the wild on the edge of wetlands and swamps. Haskap berries are one one of the most hardy and nutritious berries grown in Canada containing large amounts of antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium. The haskap berry is said to reduce inflammation and platelet aggregation (or clotting) making it a great addition for maintaining cardiovascular health.


Haskap berries (sometimes called honey berries or blue honeysuckles) are similar in color to a blueberry, but are smaller and have a cylindric shape. They are more tart than a blueberry or a saskatoon.


Most haskap berries sold today have originated from Asia or Russia, as those varieties are known to have larger berries than the native North American varieties.


Haskap berries in a hand grown in Calgary Alberta, zone 3.

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Growing Haskaps


Haskap bushes tend to be low maintenance, they don't sucker and are not invasive. Most varieties will grow to be from 4 to 7 feet tall. Plant haskap bushes 3 to 4 feet apart. Haskap roots do not go very deep, but do spread quite wide. For this reason they grow best where with the grass removed 1.5 feet out from the bush.


Haskap Varieties


It is important to plant two compatible haskap varieties that bloom at the same time in order for cross-pollination to happen. The most common compatible varieties for zone 3 are "aurora" and " borealis".


Aurora is said to be one of the best and sweetest tasting haskap varieties. It ripens around the end of June. It should be grown with Indigo, Honey Bee, Borealis, or Tundra for cross-pollination.


Borealis haskap bushes grow to be slightly smaller than the Aurora varieties, maturing to be around 4 feet tall. The berries of the borealis variety grow behind the large leaves, helping to hide them from the birds. (Although it still may be a challenge to get to them before the birds do.) Certain borealis varieties are able to pollinate other borealis haskap varieties. Some options for Borealis haskaps hardy in zone 3 include Boreal Beast, Boreal Beauty and Boreal Blizzard haskaps.


Haskap berry bush in Calgary Alberta grown in a zone 3 garden.

Where to Buy Haskap Bushes


Many garden centers carry haskap bushes in the spring. When shopping for haskaps make sure the label states it is hardy in your zone or zones cooler than you. (ie. In zone 3 we can also grow zone 2 plants.) For more variety selection, you might also consider ordering online from a nursery that sells hardy fruit trees such as Prairie Hardy Nursery in Alberta.


When to Plant Haskap Berry Bushes


Haskap bushes do most of their growing early in the spring, beginning 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost. If you wish to harvest berries the same year you plant haskaps, plant haskaps bushes in April, or as soon as the ground has thawed. Don't worry if the bush you are planting is still in dormancy. That is actually the best time to get it into the ground in the spring.


I love haskaps because they bloom so early! Last year mine were in bloom just after mid May. Well before my last frost. They are a much loved early food source for pollinators.


Where to Plant Haskap Berry Bushes


Haskaps are extremely tolerant of less than ideal soil quality and location. Although they can tolerate shade and wetlands, they will do best and thrive if planted in an area with full sun and well-drained, rich soil. Remove grass and weeds in a 1 meter circle and plant the haskap in the middle, mulching well after planting.


Haskap berry bush blossom growing in Calgary Alberta in a zone 3 garden.

Do Haskap Bushes Need Fertilizer?


Be careful with fertilizing haskaps berry bushes. Because of their shallow root system, fertilizer is taken up quickly. Sometimes too quickly, burning and killing the bush. The best fertilizer for haskaps is simply adding compost and and working it into the surface of the soil early in the spring.


Pruning Haskap Bushes


Prune haskap bushes to maintain their shape just after harvest or late in the fall. Thinning of the bushes can be helpful if the bush becomes so dense that light can't reach the middle. This does not normally happen until the bush is 4 or 5 years old.



When to Harvest Haskap Berries


Haskaps will be one of the first berries ready for harvest. Becuase they ripen so early in the spring, it is easy to miss the harvesting window and to have all of them taken by the birds. Haskap berries appear ripe on the outside up to ten days before they are actually fully ripened. It is important to check the middle to see if it is soft and turning purple before your full harvest. If your berries seem disappointingly sour although appearing ripe, you just need to give them more time. Soon their complex sweet, smoky flavour will develop!

Once ripe, harvest quickly in order to get them before the birds do.


Consider covering your haskap bushes with netting if you wish to keep the birds off them. We use this netting sold as deer netting.



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Sources - Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens by Sara Williams & Bob Bors;

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