How to Plant a Highbush Cranberry


Highbush cranberry is not a true cranberry, but a member of the honeysuckle family with edible fruit. It is also known as Viburnum trilobum, and commonly as American cranberry bush. This shrub resembles the cranberry in appearance and taste. It is native in the north temperate regions of North America. It grows about 3 feet per year to a height of 15 feet and up to 10 feet wide. Highbush cranberries can be planted in full sun or partial shade. They are very winter hardy and tolerate frost well. They grow best in well-drained, moist soil.

Step 1

Eliminate the brush, weeds and sod that will compete for resources from the planting area. Dig the soil up to the depth of 24 inches and 4 feet in diameter. This will loosen the soil so the highbush cranberry has the best growing conditions.

Step 2

Remove the packaging from the rootball with a sharp knife and the wire, tags and string wrapped around the shrub with pliers. Leaving these items on the branches will cut into the bark of the shrub as it grows.

Step 3

Soak the roots in a large bucket of water. Keep the roots wet until the shrub is planted, but do not leave them submerged in standing water more than 30 minutes.

Step 4

Dig a hole in the center of the prepared area that is the same depth as the rootball and at least 2 feet wide. Scrape the sides of the hole with the edge of your shovel to keep the soil loose. Compact soil is hard for new roots to grow through.

Step 5

Place the highbush cranberry shrub in the hole and fill it halfway with soil. Fill the hole to the top with water. Fill the hole the rest of the way with soil and gently firm the soil around the shrub. Water the planting area well.

Step 6

Spread a 4- to 6-inch layer of mulch around the base of the shrub in a 4 foot circle. Use shredded bark or wood chips to help preserve soil moisture and keep weed growth down.

Tips and Warnings

  • Highbush cranberries are subject to Viburnum Leaf Beetles attacks. Both the larvae and adult beetles feed on the leaves and can completely defoliate a shrub. An occasional infestation will not cause lasting harm, but if the shrub is attacked year after year, it can kill the shrub.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Sharp knife
  • Pliers
  • Large bucket
  • Water
  • Mulch


  • The University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Highbush Cranberry
  • Cornell University: Minor Fruits -- Highbush Cranberries
  • University of Missouri Extension: Planning Tree Windbreaks in Missouri
Keywords: highbush cranberry, Viburnum trilobum, American cranberry bush

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.