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How to Care for American Cranberrybush

By Ellie Kuykendall ; Updated September 21, 2017
American Cranberrybush

The American cranberrybush does not grow the tart berries used for making juice or cranberry sauce; however, the berries are edible when processed into jam or jelly. This shrub is more like a tree and has leggy branches that grow as high as 13 feet. Some cultivated varieties grow compact and rounded up to five feet tall. The leaves look somewhat like maple leaves. American cranberrybush grows best and is cold hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 8.

Water your young plants occasionally to help them grow strong roots. Once established, water the bushes when your state has drought conditions. These plants are very hardy and do not need copious amounts of water to survive and thrive. It's best to water your plants in the early morning or late in the afternoon in time for the leaves to dry before night. Deep watering is better than short watering. You can accomplish this by using soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Mulching helps to keep moisture in and allows you to water less frequently.

Fertilize your young plant during the first growing season with a fertilizer containing phosphorous; these fertilizers have a p as the second number on the bag. Use an all-purpose fertilizer for established plants at the beginning of the growing season in the second year.

Watch for insects such as the dogwood and peach borer; they are the only major pests for the American cranberrybush. Dogwood borers eat the main trunk and branches; peach borers feed on the main trunk close to the soil. Control these insects by using a residual pesticide that you buy at your local home improvement store garden center or nursery.

Prevent diseases such as dieback/canker, gray mold, verticillium wilt and wood rots and decays by using your pruning shears to cut off any infected leaves and branches; then destroy them. Read the labels to choose the right fungicides designed to deal with these illnesses.

Use pruning shears to prune the plant to the height and shape you want when your compact American cranberrybush plant is one year old. Pruning helps get rid of dead leaves and branches. It is not necessary to prune the standard variety of the American cranberrybush you want to grow tall unless it gets a disease.


Things You Will Need

  • Water
  • Soaker hose or drip irrigation system
  • Fertilizer with phosphorous
  • Residual pesticide
  • Fungicide
  • Pruning shears
  • Netting


  • Protect your American cranberry bush from birds by putting netting on it once the fruits have set.


  • Always use gloves and goggles when applying pesticides or fungicides. Keep children away from the spraying area. Wash your hands thoroughly after using these products and store them in a locked area where children cannot get to them.

About the Author


Ellie Kuykendall has been writing and editing professionally since 1997. Her travel and insurance articles have appeared in national magazines. She's contributed to four books and is currently writing her own book. She received a bachelor's degree from University of San Francisco.