The plant that became “Autumn Magic” chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa “Autumn Magic”) garnered attention if it stood out among a crowd of shiny chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) seedlings. While shiny leaves and dark fruit have been anticipated, “Autumn Magic” turned up the gloss on both leaves and berries. The plant’s compact form along with autumn shade cinched the deal and earned this selection a spot in the nursery trade.
Glossy chokeberry, also called black chokeberry, is native to the northeastern U.S.. The multistemmed tree grows 3 to 12 feet tall in its normal surroundings. This variability functions to its advantage in large areas once the tree naturalizes to form layered thickets. In a garden, most men and women would rather have a more constant plant. Compact “Autumn Magic” grows 3 to 5 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide. Like its parent, the tree does produces suckers and spreads — providing erosion control — but at a more moderate rate. Remove suckers often to control spreading. Use sharp bypass pruners, and sterilize the blades using family disinfectant before and after use.
Growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, shiny black chokeberry blossoms in midspring using a flurry of two- to 2 1/2-inch, white clusters. After the flowers comes a heavy harvest of edible, purple-black fruits by late summer. Averaging 1/3 into 1/2 inch in diameter, then the fruits stay on the bush to winter when birds and states permit. The blossoms of “Autumn Magic” differ little in the species in appearance, but they produce always larger, glossier fruit. Growing in USDA zones 4 through 9, “Autumn Magic” bears fruit reliably, even in these slightly milder climates.
The “shiny” label attached to black chokeberry’s title is inspired by its own leaves, not its fruit. Spring’s medium-green leaves don’t wait for autumn to make their move. The toothed leaves develop thick and leathery, taking on a stunning glossy midsummer gleam. In autumn, they colour with light waves of orange, yellow, red and purple. “Autumn Magic” shares the species’ shiny summer leaves, but it distinguishes itself in autumn. Brilliant reddish-purple washes within the plant. The shiny black fruit gleams from the blazing leaves.
Glossy chokeberry and “Autumn Magic” chokeberry require the same basics to reach their full potential for form, leaves and fruit. They tolerate shade, but complete, direct sunlight brings out their best. Provide these chokeberries using a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sunlight — the longer the better — for greatest growth, flowering, fruit and fall color. This also accentuates the gaps “Autumn Magic” offers. Black chokeberry and its cultivars prefer moist, well-draining sites. Though they acclimate to drier areas, they do not tolerate drought. Supplement rainfall to keep the soil consistently moist to the touch two to three inches deep.