If you want a special berry plant to add to your garden, consider growing cloudberries. These small, delicate plants produce delicious berries that are considered a rare delicacy.
They don’t take up much space, but each plant only produces one precious berry, so you can see why they’re so highly prized.
Cloudberries don’t lend themselves easily to growing in a garden, but it’s possible, so long as you live in the right location. Ready to learn more?
What Are Cloudberries?
Cloudberries (Rubus chamaemorus), sometimes called bakeapple berries, are typically found in the alpine and arctic tundra regions in boggy, peaty areas. They get that name because they taste somewhat like baked apples.
In the United States, growing cloudberries is possible in areas such as Alaska, Minnesota, New York, and New Hampshire, Maine as well as across Canada.
They also grow across Scandinavia, Britain, Russia, and northern Germany. They’re considered endangered in many parts of the world.
Cloudberries belong to the Rubus species along with other brambles, such as blackberries, boysenberries, and raspberries. These plants grow on straight, branchless stocks with leaves that have five to seven lobes.
Unlike other brambles, cloudberries are relatively small. Most only reach 25 centimeters high (about nine inches) at full maturity, making them easy to grow in small spaces. Due to their small size, these plants aren’t grown for ornamental or privacy purposes, like some other brambles.
Flowers appear on the cloudberry plants from June to August; these flowers are white or white with reddish tips. After pollination, the flowers develop into raspberry-sized berries that start as pale red and ripen to amber in the early fall.
It’s important to note that there are male and female cloudberry plants, so you need one of each for pollination purposes.
Planting Cloudberries in Your Garden
Cloudberries are a bit tricky to grow. They spend a lot of time in the wild, covered by snow and spreading underground. Here is what you need to know to plant them and get them to produce.
Pick the Right Spot and Amend the Soil
One of the most important things to remember about growing cloudberries is that they love and crave acidic soil. In the wild, these berries grow in sphagnum peat moss bogs and other regions with acidic soil.
Make sure you test your soil before planting cloudberries. The ideal pH range is between 3.5 and 4.5, so plan to spread compost and peat moss wherever you plant these berries.
If you need an extra boost to get your soil into the right range, elemental sulfur can help.
Cloudberries require full sunlight to properly grow. Pick a spot that provides at least six to eight hours of sun per day. But they can’t handle heat. If you live somewhere with warm summers, try another berry instead.
Some gardeners have success planting cloudberries in half whiskey barrels filled with peat moss. That way you can better control the growing medium.
Another option is to dig a trench that is one to two inches deep and create layers with soil and peat moss. The top layer should be soil and peat or a substrate. Since these plants spread by rhizomes under the ground, the trenches provide a way for them to grow.
The area must be saturated with water and checked frequently in the days after planting. Keep the soil moist at all times.
Plant cloudberries close to each other, mimicking nature. Plant them eight inches apart; this is a sufficient spacing.
Finding a Source for Cloudberries
The hardest part is finding a way to plant cloudberries; these plants aren’t sold in most nurseries. In fact, any cloudberries sold in the few stores throughout the world are picked by hand in the wild; you won’t find cloudberry farms.
Norway developed two female and two male cultivars in the early 2000s that are slowly making their way to the United States. Limited nurseries sell them.
If you’re lucky enough to find wild plants, you can dig them up or take cuttings of the rhizomes (make sure this is legal in your area). You can take cuttings in May or August.
The rhizomes can spread over 30 feet from the parent plant, and if you dig these up with the roots attached, you have a good chance of growing a new plant.
Starting cloudberries by seeds is generally not recommended. Not only is it very time-consuming and tricky, but you cannot determine the sex of the plant before flowering.
Flowering only happens after four to five seasons, so you might end up with no males or not enough female plants. Seeds also require cold stratification for several months to germinate.
Caring for Cloudberries
Since cloudberries are a wild plant, you’ll only need to do little to no maintenance so long as you nail the right planting conditions. That means you don’t have much to do in ways of caring for cloudberries.
One of the most important parts of caring for cloudberries is ensuring they have enough water. These plants need to be watered regularly; the soil should be kept moist but not soggy.
One to two inches of water a week is sufficient in most cases unless the plants face an extended period of dry, hot conditions.
Remember, these plants require consistently moist soil. The soil should never dry out between waterings. In nature, cloudberries grow in bogs and other areas with high amounts of water. Chances are it’s easier to underwater cloudberries than it is to over-water them.
Fertilize in the Spring
You aren’t required to fertilize, but it does help the plants produce more berries. Try using a 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring. Your plants will be more plentiful.
Replant When Needed
Over time, these plants become root-bound, especially when grown in pots, so they need to be divided and replanted.
The good news is that you can double your production or even sell off some of your divisions, so don’t be afraid to divide away.
Prune When Needed
The only reason that cloudberry plants need to be pruned is for sanitary purposes. If your plants have diseased or dead branches, prune them in the early spring before the appearance of new growth.
Always use clean pruning shears to avoid transferring diseases.
Potential Companion Plants for Cloudberries
In the wild, cloudberries typically grow alone in fields or in sheltered areas by the woodlands. We don’t know much about possible companion plants for cloudberries.
It’s safe to assume that since these belong to the Rubus species, they can grow near other cultivars in the same family.
Pests & Diseases That Bother Cloudberries
Since these plants are primarily grown in the wild, they face few, if any, pests and diseases.
Studies show that cloudberries have little to no issues with fungal infections. In fact, experiments show that these plants have antibacterial effects that help them fight off certain types of bacteria as well.
Here are a few pests that cloudberries might encounter.
These adults infect a range of Rubus brambles including cloudberries. The adult raspberry mites measure two to three millimeters; they have eight legs and are light tan or greenish with dark spots.
An infection leads to reduced plant vigor, and the leaves might turn brown, dropping off of the plant prematurely. You’ll often find webbing on the undersides of the leaves.
One of the easiest ways to take care of raspberry mites is by releasing natural enemies, such as lady beetles and green lacewings. For the largest infestations, insecticidal soaps and oil can be used. Petroleum-based and plant-based oils work effectively.
It seems as if aphids infect all plants possible. These little pests like to hide on the underside of plants, sucking out the sap from the leaves. They leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew that attracts sooty mold and ants.
Knock aphids off of plants with a strong jet of water. Most infestations aren’t severe; try washing the leaves with insecticidal soap. In larger infestations, neem oil or insecticides can be used to get rid of them.
Our guide can help you identify and tackle this pest.
Strawberry Raspberry Weevil
These little pests love to infect any type of plant with canes. Adult weevils are eight to 12 millimeters long, reddish-brown to black.
They cause relatively little damage to the plants as adults, but the larvae feed through the root systems. The larvae damage causes stunted growth and poor yields. Serious infestations lead to the death of plants.
Using cover crops help to eliminate overwinter larvae because the roots are too small for the weevils to eat. Always handpick and destroy adults when found. You can use insecticides designed for home use, such as those containing bifenthrin or pyrethrins.
The berries ripen in late August and early September. You know you can harvest the berries when they turn a golden amber color. You must pick cloudberries by hand; they bruise easily, so be careful.
These berries are one of the only varieties of berries out there that ripen off of the plant. You can harvest before they’re fully ripe and, within days, they’ll ripen and be ready for snacking.
One of the reasons cloudberries aren’t sold commercially is that they are easy to damage and don’t transport well. Be careful how you store them so that they last as long as possible.
Don’t stack them deep in a container or you will crush the bottom ones.
Cloudberries are edible straight off the plant or baked, similar to raspberries or blackberries. Try making jams, juices, tarts, and even wines with cloudberries. They freeze well for future use as well.
Growing cloudberries is a test for your gardening skills. These plants are tricky and take time to grow properly, but your hard work is rewarded with some of the most prized berries in the world.
Cloudberries are a true delicacy, demanded all over the world.