Choose the Right Blueberry Bush
Some people call them blueberry trees, but
blueberry plants grow as bushes. Variations of wild North American
natives can grow in a wide variety of climates and conditions.
When you grow blueberries, begin by choosing the
right plant. Consider its chill hours, the number of hours it takes for
plants to stay in cold dormancy below 45 degrees F; how cold/heat
tolerant it is; how you want to use the berries (fresh, baking,
landscaping, etc.); and how many days it takes to set and mature fruit.
Although most people grow blueberries for the
fruits, the bushes are terrific landscape plants with outstanding red
fall leaf color.
Here are the four basic types of blueberry shrubs,
with many choices within each type:
Vaccinium corymbosum plants grow 4 to 12 feet tall
and wide, depending on the type. Many cultivated varieties accent
specific traits, such as how many days the fruits need to mature, size
of the fruits, and size of the mature bush. They're generally less
cold-hardy than lowbush blueberries but are more heat-tolerant.
Northern highbush blueberry plants grow best in
colder climates and need 800 to 1,000 chill hours. There are more than
100 named varieties, including 'Aurora', 'Bluecrop', 'Bluetta',
'Bluegold', 'Bluejay', 'Blueray', 'Chandler', 'Darrow', 'Draper',
'Duke', 'Elliott', 'Earliblue', 'Hardyblue', 'Jersey', 'Legacy',
'Liberty', 'Northland', 'Patriot', 'Reka', 'Rubel', 'Spartan', and
Southern highbush blueberry plants include breeding
from a blueberry species native to the southeast United States. They
need 150 to 800 chill hours to set fruits. Named varieties include
'Emerald', 'Jewel', 'Jubilee', 'Misty', 'Southmoon', 'Oneal',
'Sharpblue', 'Star', and 'Sunshine Blue'.
Vaccinium angustifolium species are native in the
northeastern United States. As their name implies, they're a short
groundcover plant that grows from underground rhizomes. They reach 6
inches to 2 feet tall and need 1,000 to 1,200 chill hours. Their petite
size makes them a good choice for containers. Named varieties include
'Brunswick', 'Burgundy', 'Ruby Carpet', and 'Top Hat'..
Vaccinium corymbosum x V. angustifolium plants are
exactly what they sound like: a cross of highbush and lowbush
blueberries. They're also called high-low blueberries. Half-high
blueberries are extremely cold-hardy and grow about 4 feet tall. They
need 1,000 to 1,200 chill hours. Named varieties include 'Bluegold',
'Chippewa', 'Northblue', 'Northcountry', 'Northsky', and 'Polaris'.
Vaccinium ashei plants are popular selections for
Southern gardens as they need few chill hours. They get their name
because the early fruits are whitish-pink, like the color of a rabbit's
eye. They're the largest and most vigorous of blueberry types, growing
15 feet tall and 10 feet wide or larger. Rabbiteye blueberries are more
heat- and drought-tolerant than other types and adapt to more soil pH
ranges. Named varieties include 'Brightwell', 'Briteblue', 'Climax',
'Delite', 'Garden Blue', 'Premier', 'Sharpblue', 'Tifblue', and