Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Moving and Propagating Cranberry Plants

Before we moved out of our Massachusetts home earlier this year, I'd attempted to dig up my two cranberry shrubs (vines) to take with us. I'd purchased them when we'd first moved in and they'd grown tremendously over the past two years. Cranberries are definitely worth growing in the home garden in my opinion because even if they don't fruit well, the foliage alone is quite attractive, particularly in late summer when the leaves turn several stunning shades of red and burgundy. To my dismay, despite the fact that the ground was completely frost free due to the unusually warm winter we'd had this year, the soil was nonetheless so compact that I could not dig them up with my trusty garden fork without destroying the fine roots. I could have used a spade but because I was moving them into pots, I didn't want a huge block of soil to contend with. As a result, I was resigned to leaving them behind.

Over the past two months, the ground did in fact freeze solid. Now that it has thawed completely, I was curious to try this again. When I stuck the fork into the ground this time around, I relieved to find that the soil was not nearly as compact as it was before. Why the change? My guess is that when the ground froze, the water expanded, lifting and aerating the soil in the process. In the end, I was able to shake off much of the dirt from the roots and haul these two monsters back to Vermont.

I have to say, dividing cranberry shrubs is not an easy task. The low lying branches root easily when in contact with the ground so the plant grows like a carpet. You can sever the rooted stems from the mother plant and propagate your cranberries that way. Cranberry shrubs also send out runners, which root readily as well. The downside is that they also weave their way through the branches so what you are dealt with is a tangled mess when you attempt to divide your plants.

It took a lot of time and effort but in the end, I ended up with enough cranberry plants of varying sizes to fill a small patch, which I won't be doing any time soon unfortunately. My only other piece of advice is to handle the mother plant with great care as the older stems are extremely fragile at the base and easily break off. I lost a ton of branches in the process.

I'm glad I won't have to buy new cranberry plants.  It amazes me how expensive young fruit trees and shrubs can be these days.  In this case, another plant saved is another dollar earned.


  1. It's awesome that you have your own cranberry bush! I was looking to get lingonberry but it's very pricey to buy and to ship for some reason. Maybe next year :)

  2. very interesting...I never thought about growing cranberries

  3. Good for you. When I moved, I divided as many perennials as I could from my old garden. So glad to see another gardener use the same garden tubs as I did. Cheers!

  4. Ooo, thanks for the info. I have a "secret garden" area planned for behind the garage and I want to put cranberries back there.

  5. Nice cranberry plants. You may need it add some sand to the soil. I like to find my in the wild. I am sure there are some in Vermont. They like to grow by lakes. Here are some I picked last year. Makes great cranberry juice:


  6. I have a patch of cranberries and a few newere starts growing under the blueberry bushes (hoping it will createa nice ground cover under them. They really are quite delicate so your success in digging them up and potting them is a testament to your patience and care.

  7. Great job transplanting your cranberry plants - Its a shame that more people don't know how to grow their own food now adays. I admire your persistence and care!

  8. Wowie! I wonder if cranberries are possible in Northern California. (I rather suspect that they aren't...)

  9. I planted a Mountain Cranberry plant in my fruit garden yesterday...but I've NO idea if it'll grow in the north of England. I've also planted a couple of blueberry bushes, but I'm more hopeful about them as a local friend has some too and they produced fruit last year!
    Nice to catch up on your posts again Thomas :)

  10. Your cranberry plants look great. Excellent job.

  11. Hope you left some plants for incoming occupants, especially if they purchased the house and garden as seen.

    1. There will always be bits of cranberry plants leftover to grow. Relax. Don't be mean. :)