The cranberries belong to the genus of blueberries, which in turn belong to the heather family. They are mostly treated as a separate subgenus, but sometimes as a separate class – Oxycoccus – separated. The berries of these plants are edible and very healthy. They have a sweet and sour, sometimes slightly bland taste and can be used in a variety of ways. The cranberry is an evergreen, thin-stemmed shrub typically found in bogs and bog forests. The small, leathery leaves of this heather family are oblong or ovate, pointed, and shiny dark green with a whitish underside. The pink flowers grow on thread-like stalks at the ends of the shoots from May to August. The berries, which are also red, grow up to one centimeter in size.

Types of cranberries

  • Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos)
  • Großfrüchtige Moosbeere (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
  • Kleinfrüchtige Moosbeere (Vaccinium microcarpum)
  • Southern cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum)

The common cranberry is circumpolar to about 71 degrees north latitude. It is common in the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Japan, North America and northern Russia. In the Alps it grows up to 1,500 meters above sea level. The common cranberry is not subject to any legal protection worldwide. In Germany, however, it is considered endangered (category 3). The stock development is currently stated as constant. In Germany, their area share is between ten and 33 percent.

The high moors of eastern North America are considered to be the original home of the large-fruited cranberry, better known under the name cranberry. This plant thrives best in acidic soil. She is extremely frugal, but at the same time very happy to grow. A single cranberry plant can bear up to 100 fruits.

The small-fruited cranberry can be found in the swamps of Finland. The locations of this strain are usually drier than those of its larger relatives. It grows in broken pine forests with dwarf shrubs and on peat moss hummocks. This cranberry species owes its relative obscurity to its tiny berries, which are hardly worth picking.

Also known as arando, bearberry, or dingleberry, southern cranberry is native to the southeastern United States. It thrives in woods and in partially shaded areas. Above all, it is native to mountain regions, which is where the name “Southern Mountain Cranberry” comes from.
Of the varieties mentioned, the large-fruited cranberry is the most popular in the garden.


When the Pilgrim Fathers landed on the North American coast—in New England—in 1620, they were starving. They were only saved when the indigenous people who lived in the area showed them how to feed on the native plants and wildlife. The Pilgrim Fathers gave their current name to the cranberry, whose blossom reminded them of the head of a crane. Initially, the fruit was called “Crane Berry”. Later this was shortened to cranberry.

Selection of the species of large-fruited cranberry, originally only native to North America, have been cultivated in selected locations since 1720. The main growing areas include the US New England states, Oregon, Wisconsin and Washington, but also the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec.

location and plants

The cranberry thrives best in sunny to partially shaded locations on acidic (pH 4.0 to 5.0), moderately moist soil, which may be nutrient-poor. It even resents nutrient-rich soil and responds with few flowers and berries. The evergreen ground cover is suitable, for example, as an underplant for rhododendrons, for heather gardens or as an embankment plant.
The plants form shoots up to two meters long. Therefore, six to eight plants per square meter are enough to create a stately cranberry meadow. If the subsoil is well prepared, runners lying on the ground will quickly take root. Fine bark mulch ensures constant moisture and at the same time keeps weeds away. A light brushwood cover protects against the winter sun and drying winds in the cold season.

If the cranberry is in partial shade, it also likes it in a flower box or in a traffic light. Acidic substrate such as rhododendron soil is suitable for planting.

Before planting, the soil is first loosened and some compost is added. The planting hole should not be too small. If several shrubs are to be planted, a planting distance of one meter is recommended. Before planting the cranberry in the ground, it is advisable to remove damaged roots. The plants spread by creeping tendrils on the ground. The growth height is 30 to 40 centimeters depending on the species. Significantly larger plants were probably over-fertilized.

watering and fertilizing

  • best watered with rainwater
  • alternatively, demineralize the water using a cartridge filter
  • Keep soil evenly moist
  • may dry out between waterings, but not dry out
  • tolerates waterlogging for a short time
  • permanent waterlogging leads to rot

Fertilizer should only be used sparingly, otherwise the cranberries will not bloom and will not bear fruit. It is best to use lime and chloride-free fertilizer for this.

Overwinter, cut and propagate

A sheltered place on the wall of the house is ideal for the winter. It is watered throughout the winter, but only on days without frost.

During longer cold periods, the leaves of the evergreen trees dry out severely. To avoid this, pots and hanging baskets are placed and watered in a frost-free location for some time.

To cut

  • thin out occasionally as old sections die back after a few years
  • Pruning not absolutely necessary


  • Division of the foothills
  • Rooting of sinkers
  • Together

The seeds should preferably be sown in autumn to late winter in the cold frame. The cranberry thrives best in acidic, loose, moderately moist soil. If such a substrate is not available, it can be replaced with azalea or rhododendron soil.
Simple propagation and self-sowing can occasionally lead to naturalization and thus possibly to ecological problems.

plant neighbors

Good planting partners are rhododendrons and blueberries. These protect the shrub from the weather and keep it warm.


At least ten shrubs should be planted for a significant harvest. If you only want to use the berries for snacking, instead of raisins for Christmas stollen or dried for muesli, you can be satisfied with a plant in the window box or in the hanging basket. The berries are harvested by hand between July and October.

The bushes bear their first fruits about three years after planting. After about five years you will have full earning power. While the common cranberry has only small berries, some of the fruits of the large-fruited cranberry reach the size of gooseberries. The sour-tart, very vitamin-rich small fruits can be eaten directly as snacks or processed into jam, cake toppings or compote.

Unharvested berries remain on the branches until spring, making a beautiful winter decoration. The leaves turn dark red from November. The winter dormancy lasts until the following spring.

pests and diseases

Since no pests or diseases occur in our latitudes, the cranberry does not require chemical plant protection. It is also completely hardy. In the first few years, manual weeding of the shrubs is sometimes necessary.

Similar plants

There are around 450 different Vaccinium species worldwide that are closely related to the cranberry. However, many of these are not well known.

Vaccinium Myrtillus (Blaubeere, Waldheidelbeere)

The blueberry or wild blueberry is native to Europe. Their small fruits are very rich in minerals and vitamins. In addition, it has a high content of the antioxidant coloring agent anthocyanin. This prevents cell decay. This property makes the berries of this plant extremely valuable for the alternative preventive treatment of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

  • Shrubs 30 to 50 cm high
  • spread via runners
  • acidic, lime-poor soils
  • partially shaded locations
  • Blütezeit: Mai
  • Harvest time: July to August

Vaccinium Vitis Idaea (Kronsbeere, Preiselbeere)

In addition to the high content of tannic acids, vitamins and minerals typical of the Vaccinium representatives, the lingonberry also has an enormous content of benzoic acid and pectin. In contrast to other fruits, the benzoic acid makes the berry extremely durable. This plant has played an important role in medicine for quite some time. It is mainly used to treat rheumatic diseases, as a bladder and kidney disinfectant and to lower cholesterol levels.

  • compact evergreen shrub
  • about 40 cm high
  • thrives in sunny locations
  • acidic, well-drained soil
  • two harvests a year under good conditions (May to June, August to October)

Cranberries are very sensitive to herbicides. Therefore, pests and weeds should be controlled gently. Weeds can be removed by hand or mechanically. The bushes must not be too close together, otherwise mouse infestation can occur. As with the cranberry, neither fertilization nor special pruning is required here.

Vaccinium corymbosum (American bilberry)

Incidentally, today’s cultivated blueberries were grown from this cranberry relative, which is also the most important representative of the North American blueberry species. In contrast to the cranberry, the American blueberry can reach a height of one to four meters.

The heavily branched subshrub has smooth or slightly hairy twigs. The leaves are short-stalked, oblong-round to elliptical, tapering and 2.5 to 8 centimeters long. The leaf margin is usually bristly, but at least has fine hairs along the underside veins. The rounded, dark blue berries have a diameter of six to eight millimeters.

The American blueberry grows in moist forests and swampy meadows from Newfoundland to Minnesota, south to Florida and Louisiana.

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