May 6, 2010 at 8:28 a.m.

Raising lingonberries is easy

Raising lingonberries is easy
Raising lingonberries is easy

The Chisago County Master Gardeners have been offering bare root plants for several years and our varieties remain quite consistent. Last year we added lingonberries and we found out that there was a lack of knowledge not only from those who bought the plants, but also from the Master Gardeners.

The common English name for this particular species is cowberry, known in Sweden as lingon or lingenberry. It is a member of the Heath family and is known around the world by a variety of names. This includes alpine, moss, rock, mountain, red whortle, fox, and partridge, all with the last name cranberries. The term lingonberry took hold in the United States about 50 years ago.

Lingonberries are fully hardy in this area and relatively easy to grow as long as you follow a few simple rules. They are related to the blueberry and cranberry family so they are acid-loving plants that need a pH below 5.8. They need adequate drainage and full sun, although they are somewhat tolerant to a semi-shady area. They do best in a sandy soil so if you have a clay soil as I do, mix in peatmoss to make it a more acid soil. If you fertilize, do so sparingly in the early spring with an acid fertilizer.

A full sized lingonberry plant will grow to eighteen inches tall so they should be spaced from one to two feet apart to form an excellent ground cover with small dark green glossy leaves. The new growth in spring is tinged with red and orange. It eventually forms a dense mat that will choke out weeds. They also can be used effectively spotted throughout a rock garden. It takes two years before you will get an adequate harvest in late fall.

Few diseases and pests affect them and along with enjoying them in preserves, sauces, syrup, jelly, and wine, one can enjoy their foliage.


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