Ever since I discovered the Haskap berry about 5-6 years ago, I thought it was very cool and a plant that I just had to add to my garden. The berry looks like a long, funny misshapen blueberry. The berries can sometimes reach 1″ long.
“Lonicera kamtschatica” is the Latin name but Haskap is it’s name in the language of the native Ainu people of Hokkaido, Japan. The name means “berry of long life and good vision”. The Ainu people are the indigenous people of Japan and Russia.
Haskap has more vitamin C than blueberries and more antioxidants than wild blueberry, red raspberry, red currant, cranberry and strawberry. (Source)
The Haspkap berry needs a male and female plant together in order to produce berries. This is the same for kiwi, both male and female plants are needed to produce fruit.
I originally bought a male and female plant and I tried to have them living in containers, but I was never able to keep up on the watering, they’re very thirsty plants. While we were at the Kleenex box house (with the hot hot backyard) one of the two plants got repeatedly sun scalded and died.
I didn’t know what I had left, was the remaining plant male or female? I didn’t even know what variety it is, but I didn’t have the heart to toss the remaining one out. I kept it alive but it certainly was not thriving.
Fast forward a couple of years and I see fresh plant stock in the store, so I pick up two more plants, a male and a female. The female is the variety “Borealis” and the male is the variety “Berry Blue”.
Now I have three Haskap’s, but not sure if I have two boys and a girl or two girls and a boy. The Borealis will pollinate the Berry Blue and the Berry Blue will pollinate every variety except itself. So, between the three of them I should get a really good crop this summer.
Please see this pollination chart from University of Saskatchewan. It’ll help you choose the plants that are best suited to be together. The Haskap is an early pollinator so they need early blooming flowers and weeds nearby like dandelions, Dicentra and clover to attract the bees and other pollinators.
This area shown here (above, left) is the chosen spot that currently has two blueberry plants in it. The two new Haskap’s have been living in a large container together over the winter and they seemed very happy and their roots were spreading nicely, but I know that the watering problem is going to recur this summer.
So I decided to relocate two of my blueberry plants to make space for all three Haskap to be planted in the ground. I think they are much more suited to being in the ground, whereas the blueberries are fine growing in big containers.
The Haskap berry plant needs a lot of water, a lot. This is partly due to it’s fast growing nature and the large size of the berries, they require a lot of water to grow and plump up. This is one case where I think a container is not ideal for this particular plant.
The plants need to be watered consistently for the first two or three years until they become established and then after that they won’t need it anymore, the roots will have grown deep enough to reach water on their own.
I have a series of pictures here to illustrate what I did in my backyard with these plants. However, the day before I did this garden project, I received a new phone but my case hasn’t arrived yet. Amazon has priority shipping going on right now so my case is going to take a while to get here.
I thought I was being so smart and I had my phone wrapped in Saran wrap to keep the dirt and mud off of it. I began the project and took lots of pictures. I forgot that the Saran wrap was covering my camera too! The pictures for this project have a slight haze to them and aren’t perfectly clear. That’s why. I thought the pictures were hazy because it was a bright sunny day!
The area that I chose for this is one of the areas that was buried in a foot of debris from the last twenty years of neglect when I moved in. The garden seemed to thank me for the love and attention. I was so eager to clean it up, that I forgot to take pictures of it beforehand.
Digging Up Blueberries
The blueberry plants are usually easy to dig up, they tend to pop right out. This is because it takes a while for the root system to truly spread out and anchor it down and I only planted these ones last summer.
Once the blueberries were out, I turned the soil just a bit so that the soil around the root ball is soft which will allow the new roots to go through the soil easily. At this point I used some “Shake ‘n Feed” to give it a boost.
Sprinkle this in the hole where the soil has been turned and softened up, then mix the fertilizer in with the loose soil a bit. This stops the fertilizer from coming in to direct contact with the tiny exposed roots which will burn them.
I put the new male in the back corner area and the new female in the front with the older neglected plant which is sitting kind of in the middle before two more blueberry plants on the right hand side.
It’s pretty clear that it hasn’t enjoyed being in a container for all of it’s life. I felt that the least I could do was plant it in the ground and give it a real chance at life.
Once they are all situated vertically and with the soil pressed down firmly around the crown of the plant, then it’s time to water.
Freshly planted plants always need a shot of water to ease the transition in to their new home. Let the water run for a good number of minutes on each plant. In the image here, the plant that the hose is pointing at is the seriously neglected one. You can see that it’s much more spindly and has much less green growth on it, even though it’s a way older plant.
It just demonstrates that most plants will fight to live even if they aren’t in ideal settings. In my opinion, this guy fought hard and lived for years when it probably shouldn’t have, so I felt it deserved a proper home and some happiness.
Haskap is generally low maintenance, but it does have a few problems that can turn up. They have the same problem with birds that blueberries have. A hungry flock of birds will consider your Haskap a giant blue buffet. Use netting over your plants to keep them off and also the reflective bird scare tape will help them land somewhere else.
Sometimes moles and mice can be a problem but the main problem is powdery mildew that often turns up after the fruit has been harvested. Every plant is susceptible to this problem.
Suggestion: Combine one tablespoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon of liquid dish soap with one gallon of water, then spray the mixture liberally on the plants. I’ve also been told that regular mouthwash can also be effective at killing powdery mildew spores when sprayed on the shrub, but I haven’t tried it myself yet.
Using a slow release fertilizer can help to prevent this too because mildew prefers to form on young leaves, so if you fertilize too much then the plant will make tons of new young leaves that will invite the mildew spores.
Deer don’t seem to prefer this plant either and shouldn’t be a problem unless you have very hungry deer nearby.
The newly planted young ones leaves and new branches might be a bit limp and droopy for a few days but they will perk up again in no time once they settle in. I now have two large empty bins that will be perfect for the two displaced blueberry plants. I’ll add more pictures of the Haskap plants once they show some growth or changes that are interesting.
The blueberry replanting was simple, I just stirred up the soil a little bit in the container, then added Shake ‘n Feed for a little boost, mixed it in and then replanted and watered. They should settle in and do just fine this summer.
Below is a description of the different varieties of Haskap plant directly from Haskap.ca
- Mature about 4-5 feet tall
- Firmer skin than other varieties
- Bleeds less from the scar
- Average weight of 1.5 grams
- Mature at about 4 feet tall
- Sweeter and larger berry
- Softer skin and bleeds slightly
Indigo Series: The Indigo series varieties were initially released for testing alongside ‘Borealis’ and ‘Tundra’ with the numeric labels shown.
Indigo Gem (9-15)
- Mature 5-6 feet
- Large producer
- Smaller tangy firm berry
- Higher incidence of powdery mildew
Indigo Treat (9-91)
- Mature 4-5 feet
- Similar to Tundra but smaller berry
- Plant grows more upright
Indigo Yum (9-92) – Was released by University of Saskatchewan but difficult to propagate.
- The Haskap variety released by the University of Saskatchewan to propagators in 2012
- Selected to be a companion / pollination variety for Borealis
- Selected to be a pollinator for Borealis, Tundra and the Indigo Series
- Very fast growing, productive and starts fruiting at an early age
The University of Saskatchewan has announced the release of new Haskap selections. Larger in size and mid-to-late season, these berries can hold the potential for bountiful fruit production throughout the summer. These new varieties will be available in the following years.
Boreal Blizzard (2016)
- Berries are more than twice as heavy as ‘Tundra’ or ‘Borealis’
- Largest berry variety with strong branches and good taste
Boreal Beauty (2017)
- Very suitable for mechanical harvesting
- Berries are heavy, firm, mostly oval, and hold onto branches
- Fruit fully ripe a month after most varieties
Boreal Beast (2018)
- These are heavier than Tundra and the Indigo series but not as heavy as ‘Boreal Blizzard’ or ‘Boreal Beauty’.
- ‘Boreal Beast’ was so named to help people remember that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ belong together for cross pollination.
I’ll post updates as soon as I can when things get growing. If you have a good in-ground spot for this plant then I recommend adding two of them to your backyard fruit garden this year.