How to Plant and Grow Huckleberry

Add these native shrubs to your yard to enjoy their sweet berries without having to forage for them.

huckleberries growing on branch
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Huckleberry is a shrub in the heath family, closely related to blueberries and cranberries. There are two main types of huckleberry bushes. Huckleberries in the Gaylussacia group, or genus, grow wild in the forest underbrush in eastern North America and Canada. Their small, spring flowers form smooth, dark blue or purple-black berries held in clusters, like blueberries. The other group, Western huckleberries, is in the Vaccinium genus. Depending on the species, these shrubs grow along the Pacific Coast from central California into southeastern Alaska and have red, blue, black, or purple berries. The fruit ranges from mildly sweet to tart.

Depending on the species, huckleberries are hardy in USDA Zones 3-9. These shrubs grow between 3 and 10 feet and don't need much care once established.

Where to Plant Huckleberry

Huckleberry bushes prefer part shade with dappled light, but they adapt to anything from full sun to complete shade. Their fruit is a staple for small wildlife and birds. Huckleberries also need well-drained soil with lots of organic matter.

Use these shrubs as an understory plant in a woodland area, on slopes to stabilize the soil, or in a naturalized area where you want to attract wildlife.

How and When to Plant Huckleberry

Finding huckleberries as young plants from nurseries can be tricky. Your best bet is to seek out businesses or plant organizations that specialize in native plants or search online. Choose a variety recommended for your gardening zone.

In spring, sow huckleberry seeds indoors to have seedlings ready to set out in mid-May to June. If you prefer to take clippings from an existing plant, take them in late winter for rooted cuttings ready in early summer. Existing plants can also be divided in late fall or early winter for a new generation of plants.

Huckleberry Care Tips


Huckleberry that gets either too much or too little sun won't fruit as well as it can.

Soil and Water

Huckleberry needs sandy, acidic soil with a pH between 4.3 and 5.2. Use a DIY kit to test yours, or send a sample to a soil testing lab. If needed, amend your soil based on the results of your soil test. Huckleberries do best with regular watering.

Temperature and Humidity

Huckleberry can withstand below freezing temperatures. They need cold winter night temperatures to successfully bloom and fruit in the spring.


Feed huckleberry annually from May to early July with a 10-10-10 slow-release granular fertilizer as indicated on the product label. Don't use a weed and feed product. Weed by hand to avoid harming shallow roots. Add a layer of mulch around the plants.


Slow-growing huckleberry doesn't need much pruning. Remove dead branches and leaves in winter, and lightly trim them to keep their shape.

Pests and Problems

Pests and diseases usually leave huckleberries alone. Spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs may appear, but don't usually cause serious problems. You can knock them off your huckleberry bushes with a stream of water from your hose, pick them off by hand, or use neem oil.

How to Propagate Huckleberry

Propagate huckleberry bushes by division, seed, or cuttings. Divisions are the quickest path to mature fruiting plants. Seeds and cuttings should fruit in three to five years. It can take them a decade or more to bear heavily.

Division: Growing huckleberries by division is easy. The bushes spread by underground stems, so they don't have a central root system. In late fall or early winter, dig up a root clump big enough to fill a 3 to 5-gallon bucket. Next, backfill the container with potting soil. Water thoroughly and leave the plant in the container for one to two years, so it has time to recover. When you're ready to plant it in the ground, dig a hole twice the size of the root ball, mix in lots of organic matter, and backfill the hole. Water thoroughly and apply a layer of mulch around your plant.

Seed: If you collect seeds from wild bushes, soak them in water for 24 hours to soften them, then sow them indoors four to six weeks before your last frost. Cover them 1/4 inch deep and keep them moist until they germinate in about two weeks. Give the seedlings at least five hours of direct sun a day. Pot them up when they're 2 inches tall and move your plants into the garden in early summer.

Cuttings: If you prefer, take 4-inch cuttings in late winter to early spring. Bury them in flats of damp sand and cover them with clear plastic. When their roots are 2 inches long, move them into one-gallon pots filled with potting soil. Plant them in the garden when they're 6 inches tall, spacing them 3 feet apart.

Types of Huckleberry

Mountain Huckleberry

Mountain huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum), also known as mountain bilberry, globe huckleberry, thin-leaf huckleberry, and Montana huckleberry) produces berries that are red, blue, purple, black, and even white, and have good to excellent flavor. This is the most widely harvested western huckleberry and Idaho’s state fruit. It grows from 1 to 4 feet. Zones 5–9

Black Huckleberry

Black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) grows 3 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide. It forms dense thickets and is useful for preventing erosion on slopes. The shrub's leaves turn orange and scarlet in the fall. Use it in a woodland setting to attract wildlife with its berries. Zone 3–7

Evergreen Huckleberry

Evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), also known as box huckleberry, is an Oregon native popular in the northwest from northern California to British Columbia, Canada. This neat, upright plant grows to 8 feet tall. Zone 3– 7

Before harvesting wild huckleberries or taking cuttings from the plants, make sure you're not trespassing or violating any state or federal regulations. Only eat wild fruits you can positively identify and ensure that they are pesticide free.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What's the best way to eat huckleberries?

    Once you learn how to grow huckleberries, harvest them to make colorful jams, jellies, and syrups, or bake them into tasty crisps, cobblers, and pies. Enjoy huckleberries fresh-picked or use them as a substitute in recipes that call for blueberries. Sprinkle them over cereal or ice cream or drop them into pancake batter. For a quick treat, crush and add them to lemonade.

  • How do you preserve huckleberries?

    Carefully wash and dry the fruit. To preserve huckleberries, spread the cleaned fruits out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and place them in the freezer. Remove them when they're firm. Put them in sealed plastic bags and return them to the freezer until you need them.

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