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Common Types Of Blueberries: Best Varieties Of Blueberry For Gardens
Nutritious and delicious, blueberries are a super food you can grow yourself. Before planting your berries though, it’s helpful to learn about the different types of blueberry plants available and which blueberry varieties are suited to your region.
Types of Blueberry Plants
There are five major varieties of blueberry grown in the United States: lowbush, northern highbush, southern highbush, rabbiteye and half-high. Of these, northern highbush blueberry varieties are the most common types of blueberries cultivated throughout the world.
Highbush blueberry varieties are more disease resistant than other blueberry varieties. The highbush cultivars are self-fertile; however, cross pollination by another cultivar ensures the production of larger berries. Choose another blueberry of the same type to ensure the highest yield and size. Rabbiteye and Lowbush are not self-fertile. The rabbiteye blueberries need a different rabbiteye cultivar to pollinate and the lowbush varieties can be pollinated by either another lowbush or a highbush cultivar.
Blueberry Bush Varieties
Lowbush blueberry varieties are, as their name suggests, shorter, truer bushes than their highbush counterparts, growing under 1 ½ feet generally. For a bountiful fruit yield, plant more than one cultivar. These types of blueberry bushes need little pruning, although it is recommended to cut the plants back to the ground every 2-3 years. Top Hat is a dwarf, lowbush variety and is used for ornamental landscaping as well as container gardening. Ruby carpet is another lowbush that grows in USDA zones 3-7.
Northern highbush blueberry bush varieties are native to the eastern and northeastern United States. They grow to between 5-9 feet in height. They require the most consistent pruning of the blueberry varieties. A list of highbush cultivars includes:
All range in their recommended USDA hardiness zones.
Southern highbush blueberry bush varieties are hybrids of V. corymbosum and a Floridian native, V. darrowii, that can grow between 6-8 feet in height. This variety of blueberry was created to allow for berry production in areas of mild winters, as they require less chilling time to break bud and flower. The bushes blossom in the late winter, so frost will damage production. Therefore, southern highbush varieties are best suited to areas with very mild winters. Some southern highbush cultivars are:
- Golf Coast
- Sunshine Blue
Rabbiteye blueberries are native to the southeastern United States and grow between 6-10 feet in height. They were created to thrive in areas with long, hot summers. They are more susceptible to winter cold damage than northern highbush blueberries. Many of the older cultivars of this type have thicker skins, more obvious seeds and stone cells. Recommended cultivars include:
- These are the the types of berries I have. Read further down for the different varieties I have.
Half-high blueberries are a cross between northern highbush and lowbush berries and will tolerate temperatures of 35-45 degrees F. (1 to 7 C.). A medium sized blueberry, the plants grow 3-4 feet tall. They do well container grown. They need less pruning than highbush varieties. Amongst the half-high varieties you will find:
Prince- Rabbiteye Blueberry
Fruit begins ripening with mid-season low chilling high-bush types, it is the earliest Rabbiteye to harvest.
Yields have been consistent and are high; 10 to 12 pounds per plant.
Quality of the fruits are excellent. The fruits medium sized are firm and have small dry scars; typical of new Rabbiteye types. Flavor of the fruits have low acidity, mildly sweet.
Mechanical harvesting has not been trialed, since the medium sized fruits are of fine quality without scars, there is a good chance this could be conducive for mechanical harvest. This is an excellent berry for the hand harvest or U-Pick.
The plants are very upright in stature The growth is moderate, unlike most Rabbiteyes. Plants are easily pruned due to the form of the plant.
Flowering occurs with other low chilling high-bush types, so spring frost protection is recommended for frosty areas.
Plants have been field tested by growers and ARS test plots to obtain all of the facts. Hardiness Zones 9-7
Hundreds of acres are planted with Tifblue. Many newer varieties have some Tifblue parentage, as it’s one of the most popular standards for breeders. The plants are tall, vigorous, and upright. Berry Plants are large, very firm, highly flavored, and hold well on the bush. Ripens late-June through July. 550-600 chill hours.
Ochlockonee produces heavy quantities of late ripening, large fruit (even larger than Tifblue!). A vigorous, upright grower Ochlockonee flowers late so it escapes late spring freezes. Developed at the University of Georgia and released in 2002 , it was named for the Ochlockonee river in southern Georgia. Ripens in July. 550-600 chill hours.
Some Websites To Check Out
The modern blueberry is a 20th century invention. Before the 1900s, the only way to enjoy these North American natives was to find them in the wild. Then, scientists started to unlock the secrets of cultivating blueberries, and we’re glad they did! Plump, juicy berries are now easy to grow in your backyard on bushes that are resistant to most pests and diseases, and can produce for up to 20 years. A relative of rhododendron and azalea, blueberry bushes are also an attractive addition to your overall landscape, offering scarlet fall foliage and creamy white spring flowers. Learn more about why you should grow blueberries in your home garden.
There are three types of blueberries: highbush, lowbush and hybrid half-high. The most commonly planted blueberry is the highbush. Most blueberry breeding has focused on this species, so there are many varieties that range widely in cold hardiness and fruit season, size, and flavor. See more about blueberry varieties below.
- Blueberries are picky about soil. They require one that is acidic, high in organic matter, and well-drained yet moist. pH should ideally be between 4 and 5.
- Bushes should be planted in the early spring. If available, one to three-year-old plants are a good choice. Be sure to go to a reputable nursery.
- Dig holes about 20 inches deep and 18 inches wide.
- Space bushes about 5 feet apart.
- Apply fertilizer one month after planting, not at time of planting.
- Mulch to keep shallow blueberry root systems moist, which is essential. Apply a 2-4 inch layer of woodchips, saw dust or pine needles after planting.
- For the first four years after planting, there is no need to prune blueberry bushes. From then on, pruning is needed to stimulate growth of the new shoots that will bear fruit the following season.
- Drape netting over ripening blueberries, so that the birds won’t make away with the entire crop.
- Prune plants in late winter, preferably just before growth begins.
- On highbush varieties, begin with large cuts, removing wood that is more than six years old, drooping to the ground, or crowding the center of the bush. Also remove low-growing branches whose fruit will touch the ground, as well as spindly twigs.
- Prune lowbush blueberries by cutting all stems to ground level. Pruned plants will not bear the season following pruning, so prune a different half of a planting every two years (or a different third of a planting every three years).
- Do not allow the bush to produce fruit for the first couple of years. Pinch back blossoms, this will help to stimulate growth.
- Blueberries will be ready for picking in late July-mid August.
- Don’t rush to pick the berries as soon as they turn blue. Wait a couple days. When they are ready, they should fall off right into your hand.
- Be aware that full production is reached after about 6 years.
- Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to freeze. Learn how to properly freeze blueberries so you can have them all winter long.
Blueberries are partially self-fertile, so you will harvest more and larger berries by planting two or more varieties. Planting more than one variety can also extend the harvest season.
Highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum): A six-foot shrub adapted from Zone 4 to Zone 7. For withstanding cold winters, choose ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Blueray’, ‘Herbert’, ‘Jersey’, or ‘Meader’. For big berries, choose ‘Berkeley’, ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Blueray’, ‘Coville’, ‘Darrow’, or ‘Herbert’. For flavor, usually the main reason for growing your own fruit, choose ‘Blueray’, ‘Darrow’, ‘Herbert’, ‘Ivanhoe’, ‘Pioneer’, ‘Stanley’, or ‘Wareham’.
Lowbush (V. angustifolium):For the coldest climates, lowbush varieties are your best bet, adapted from Zone 3 to Zone 7. These are the blueberries you find in cans on supermarket shelves. When fresh, the fruits are sweet and covered with a waxy bloom so thick that the berries appear sky blue or gray. The creeping plants, a foot or so high, are spread by underground stems, or rhizomes. They blanket the rocky upland soils of the Northeast and adjacent portions of Canada. Lowbush blueberries make a nice ornamental fruiting ground cover. Plants sold by nurseries are usually seedlings or unnamed wild plants, rather than named varieties.
Half-High: Breeders have combined qualities of highbush and lowbush blueberries into hybrids known as half-high blueberries. University of Minnesota introductions include ‘Northcountry’, a variety that grows 18 to 24 inches high and has excellent, mild-flavored, slightly aromatic sky-blue fruits; and ‘Northblue’, which grows 20 to 30 inches high and produces an abundance of dark-blue, nickel-size, somewhat tart fruits-just right for pies. ‘Northland’ is a half-high-3 to 4 feet-from Michigan, with bland, average-quality fruit.