The lingonberry is also known in Germany under the names croonsberry, cranberry and reef berry. The evergreen, hardy dwarf shrub with a stature height between 10 cm and 40 cm is popular in the ornamental garden as underplanting of tall trees. In addition to the beautiful flowers of the small shrub, it is above all the small, red, slightly sour fruits that contribute to the cranberry bush being a welcome guest in the hobby garden.

Plant cranberries in the bed

The best possible time to plant the cranberries is autumn, preferably in September or October. If you don’t want to plant before winter, you can alternatively plant the young plants in the ground in early spring when the frost has pulled out.

  • The ideal location is sunny or partial shade.
  • Soil quality is moist, humic and slightly acidic.
  • Lingonberries do not tolerate calcareous potting soil.
  • PH value is between 5 and 6.
  • Loosen heavy soil with bark humus or a sand-gravel mixture.
  • Lower the pH value that is too high by adding peat or bog soil.
  • Enrich potting soil with compost or horn shavings.
  • The planting hole is twice larger than the root ball.
  • A drainage made of gravel or pottery shards prevents waterlogging.
  • The planting distance is 35 cm to 40 cm.
  • Growing in rows makes harvesting easier.
  • Proximity to rhododendrons promotes crop yield.
  • Do not water too tightly.

Experienced gardening enthusiasts plant the young lingonberries a little deeper than before to stimulate the increased formation of new shoots. Since the low pH value is a basic requirement for a successful cultivation of the croonberry, this is determined beforehand with the help of a test kit that is available at the garden center.

Plants in the tub and flower box

Thanks to the decorative habit of the lingonberry, more and more gardening enthusiasts are deciding to cultivate them in pots and flower boxes. In this case, a mixture of rhododendron soil, compost and sand is suitable as a substrate. If you like, you can add a handful of horn shavings. Since cranberry bushes do not tolerate waterlogging, the planter has a drainage system made of gravel, perlite or crushed pottery shards above the drainage hole for excess water. Although cranberries are hardy, there is a risk in the planter that the root ball will freeze through in the event of severe frost. Therefore, winter protection is advisable by placing the bucket on a wooden or styrofoam block and wrapping it with protective film. A layer of straw or brushwood prevents it from freezing through from above.

Care instructions

In the first two years, the lingonberry bushes do not yet bear fruit. The first harvest is usually carried out in the third year from September. From then on it will even be possible to harvest twice every year, namely in June / July and in October. So that the berry harvest is always productive, the following tips and advice on care should be heeded:

  • Always water with rainwater.
  • Alternatively, use boiled tap water.
  • Avoid waterlogging.
  • Fertilize once a year with compost and horn meal.
  • Do not use fertilizers containing chlorine.
  • Regular weeding is essential.
  • Do not use a weed killer.
  • Mulching with sawdust, lawn clippings or pine needles.
  • If necessary, prune slightly after flowering.
  • Cut out old wood every year.
  • Water thoroughly before winter.
  • Winter protection is not required.

Thinning out after flowering ensures that the sun can reach all parts of the shrub so that the cranberries are red and juicy. Extensive pruning of the dwarf shrub is only advisable if it is aging. Since lingonberries are hardy down to -20 ° Celsius, winter protection is not required. Only when the temperatures drop below this mark are they covered with straw or brushwood.


If gardening enthusiasts want to multiply their cranberry bushes, there are various methods to choose from:

A strong shoot is lowered to the ground, where it is lightly covered with earth in a channel previously drawn with a spade. So that the lowering device does not jump up again, it is weighted down with stones or fixed with staples (U-shaped nails). The rooting is forced by lightly scratching the shoot in several places with a sharp knife or a razor blade. At the end, the tip of the shoot still has to look out of the earth. As with planting, autumn is the best time for the measure for propagation by lowering. Experience has shown that by next spring such a strong root system has formed on the shoot that it can be separated from the mother plant.

Another very promising method of propagation is with the help of cuttings. In the course of summer, during the growth phase, several strong, non-flowering shoots with a length of 10 cm to 15 cm are cut off from the lingonberry bush. All leaves are removed from the lower half of the shoots. An old horticultural saying goes that ‘stolen’ cuttings are best rooted. The reason for this is more likely that the stolen shoots are usually transported in the jacket pocket for a while, which causes the interfaces to dry out. Experienced gardening enthusiasts therefore place the shoots in the shade for about 2 hours before continuing with the propagation. The cuttings are put into small pots with potting soil and kept in a warm place, where the substrate is permanently kept slightly moist. By September or October they will have developed such a stable root system that they can be planted in their final location.

In nature, the birds are responsible for seed reproduction because they eat the berries. Propagation by hand by harvesting the seeds and sowing them is usually not done by hobby gardeners. Since cranberries are cold germs, sowing is very laborious compared to the vegetative methods:

Cold germinating plants, such as the lingonberry, need moisture and a cold stimulus for germination. The seeds can be purchased in stores or taken from the fruits yourself. During the first 4 weeks, they are pressed into potting soil and kept slightly moist at a temperature between 18 ° and 22 ° Celsius. In this phase, the hard seed coat softens, as a basic requirement for later germination. This is followed by 6 to 8 weeks at -4 ° Celsius to a maximum of + 4 ° Celsius. The seeds can spend this time in a cold frame, on the balcony or in the refrigerator, but never in the freezer. It is an advantage if the seeds are covered by snow during this time, because they also need sufficient moisture during this period. After receiving the cold stimulus, the cranberry seeds gradually get used to higher temperatures again. If everything went right so far, germination will now begin and the plants will be pricked out as soon as the first two leaflets appear.

Cranberry is not the English name for lingonberry

Overzealous people in the advertising industry caused confusion a few years ago by calling the large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) – in English cranberry – the cultivated lingonberry. The large cranberry and the lingonberry are widely related in botanical terms, but represent two different species:

  • Cranberry is a creeping shrub with runners up to 1 m long.
  • It grows in bog areas, preferably near bodies of water.
  • Lingonberry bushes also grow in sandy-stony loam.
  • The fruits are at least three times the size of cranberries.
  • The flesh of cranberries is white, that of lingonberries is red.
  • Cranberries only grow in very acidic soils with a pH value of 3 to 5.
  • The large cranberry needs significantly more water than the lingonberry.
  • It even tolerates waterlogging for a short time.
  • The taste of fresh cranberries takes getting used to because it is sour and bitter.

Due to the creeping habit, the cranberry plant is well suited as a decorative ground cover, in contrast to the tight, upright habit of the lingonberry.

Diseases and pests

The cranberry bush is susceptible to infestation by nude basidia. It is a genus of fungus with 26 species occurring in Europe. One of these species specializes in cranberries called the Common Cranberry Naked Basid (Exobasidium vaccinii). When infected, the previously lush green leaves turn bright red. In the further course, thickened pink galls form on the underside of the leaf. Effective control methods have not yet been discovered. Since the fungi spread through their spores, diseased plants must be removed immediately.

The lingonberry bush has so far proven to be quite resistant to other diseases or pests.

Popular varieties

Lingonberry ‘coral’ (Vaccinium vitis-idaea ‘coral’)

  • Growth height up to 30 cm
  • Spread 40 cm to 80 cm
  • beautiful, pure white flowers
  • Flowering period May to June
  • particularly tolerant

Preiselbeere ‚Red Pearl‘ (Vaccinium vitis-idaea ‚Red Pearl‘)

  • Fruits are less acidic
  • Height of growth 20 cm
  • Spread up to 80 cm
  • lots of small cherry-red fruits
  • Flowering from May to June

Cowberry ‘Erzgebirgsperle’ (Vaccinium vitis-idaea ‘Erzgebirgsperle’)

  • dark red, spherical fruits
  • very robust variety
  • Growth height 20 cm to 30 cm
  • richly bearing

All the varieties presented are hardy to -20 ° Celsius and are suitable for growing in beds, in flower boxes or in pots.

Protect the harvest from uninvited guests

The environmentally conscious hobby gardener designs his garden invitingly for a large flock of birds, because they also support him in combating various pests; However, his affection does not go so far that they are allowed to completely devour all of the cranberries that are lovingly grown. Seasoned gardening enthusiasts have developed some effective ways to keep the birds away from the bright red berries without scaring them enough to leave the garden forever:

  • Cover the bushes with thorny brushwood or nets.
  • Put up mock-ups of birds of prey or cats.
  • Hang up flashing CDs or lids from aluminum cans.
  • Drive in small wooden posts with movable fence stools.

Experienced gardeners advise against acoustic bird repellant methods such as ultrasound or bang devices. On the one hand, their effectiveness is doubted, on the other hand, annoyance with the neighbors is inevitable, especially when there is constant exposure.

A cranberry bush in the garden offers all the advantages that an ambitious hobby gardener appreciates. From May onwards, decorative, white flowers with a delicate pink tinge appear, followed by many small, scarlet fruits. Depending on the variety, it can even be harvested twice a year in July and October. The undemanding member of the blueberry family is also extremely hardy. With a tight, upright growth height of up to 30 cm, cranberries harmonize wonderfully with rhododendrons and azaleas as their underplanting. Once you’ve got to know the benefits of the lingonberry, you won’t want to be without the small shrub in the bed or in the planter.

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