About The Different Types Of Blueberry Bushes

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This article provides information about the various types of blueberry bushes and how to grow them
by Brett · All Zones · Planting · 0 Comments · October 16, 2013 · 5,109 views

Due to their delicious fruit, health benefits and ease in growing, blueberries are becoming increasingly popular plants to grow in gardens and edible landscapes. Just to name a few things, the berries are high in antioxidants, have anti-aging activity, promote healthy urinary tracts, improve vision and help fight heart disease.

There are several different types of Blueberry blueberry bushes. The type you choose to grow in your garden or edible landscape will depend on your region and its climate and environment. Some blueberry types are more heat resistant and require lower winter chilling hours, while others grow better in colder climates with higher chill hours. The fruit on some varieties of blueberry will ripen early in the season while others will ripen mid or late in in the season. By planting several varieties with diffirent ripening times you can extend the blueberry harvest season.

What are chilling hours?
In order to bloom in spring and then produce fruit, blueberries and many other types of deciduous fruit plants and trees require a dormancy period during winter with a certain number of chilling hours. “Chilling” is a measure of accumulated hours of temperatures below 45°F in the dormant season. The hours a region experiences above 60 degrees are subtracted from the total hours that drop below 45 degrees.

The number of chilling hours a specific plant will require will depend on the variety of plant. For example, not all blueberry plants require the same number of chill hours. There are hundreds of varieties of blueberry plants and some will require more or less chill hours than others. Some will require as few as 100 chill hours while others will require thousands of chill hours.

See the US Chill Hours Map

Southern Highbush Blueberries

The Southern Highbush, Vaccinum corymbosum, are heat-tolerant varieties of blueberry are low chill varieties that excel in regions with higher average temperatures, such as coastal and inland valley regions of California, the Sunbelt, the Southeast region, and even as far north as Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. Most Southern Highbush varieties require between150-800 chill hours

There are many varieties of Southern Highbush all of which have been specifically hybridized for heat tolerance, low winter chill hours, soil adaptability and superior fruit. They also offer unique foliage, bloom and plant characteristics that aren’t found in the Northern Highbush varieties. Berries will be larger and more abundant if two or more varieties are planted together.

Southern highbush varieties thrive in soils with a low pH level, and tend to be more drought-tolerant than their northern highbush counterparts. They ripen a bit earlier in the year than other types of blueberries and produce impressive harvests of healthy, delicious blueberries.These upright-growing plants are perfect for use in small gardens or growing spaces. Because they are bred for heat-tolerance, the Southern Highbush may require mulch in winter for protection in the upper zones where they are listed as cold hardy.

Rabbiteye Blueberries

The rabbiteye blueberry, Vaccinium ashei, is native to the southeastern United States. It is known for its tolerance to heat and drought and grows wild in Georgia, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle.

Rabbiteye blueberry varieties produce some of the most delicious fruits grown in the South and other warmer regions throughout the US. They are one of the easiest of fruit plants to grow and are prized for their ornamental value, which lends well to use in the edible landscape. The spring flowers are attractive as are the handsome green to blue-green foliage, which turns to shades of orange and red to provide nice fall color in the landscape.

One of the most important growing requirements is their need for cross-pollination. You'll need to plant two or more varieties for pollination and abundant fruit set to occur. By selecting several varieties to plant in your garden or landscape, you can spread out the harvest season. Keep in mind that blueberries don't ripen all at once. Some varieties may have berries that mature over a 4 to 6 week period.

Rabbiteye blueberries have their own special pollinators: the carpenter bee and the blueberry bee, which almost forage exclusively in blueberry flowers during bloom time. Certain other solitary bees are effective as well for pollinating blueberries.

Northern Highbush Blueberries

Northern highbush blueberries, *Vaccinum corymbosum', are natives of North America. They are an upright bush with a relatively shallow, fibrous root system and woody canes. Fruit is borne on buds formed during the previous growing season in late summer. Highbush blueberry plants are used as hedges, shrub borders, beautiful ornamentals or for wildlife.

Northern Highbush are high chill varieties and the most widely planted blueberries throughout the Northern U.S. and Southern Canada. There are more than 100 named varieties allowing gardeners to select a combination that will produce delicious crops continuously over a 100-day period during the fruiting season. These varieties display bush shapes from short and compact to tall and open. Fall foliage colors and unique winter wood tones complement gardens and home landscapes. Northern Highbush varieties require a minimum of 800 chilling hours for good fruit set.

All Northern highbush blueberry varieties are as a rule self-fertile; however, as with southern highbush and rabbiteyes, larger and earlier ripening berries result if several cultivars are planted together for cross-pollination.

Blueberry Growing Tips

  • Sun - If you want your blueberries to produce a lot of fruit, select an open area that provides full to mostly sun with well-drained soil high in organic matter.
  • Soil pH - Soil pH is also important. Blueberries need an acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 to 5.2 for best performance. You can purchase a soil test kit at most local nursery and garden centers or you can buy a soil test kit online here. Your local Extension Service might also provide soil testing services.
  • Fertilization - You don't need to fertilize a blueberry plant at planting time. In fact, be careful not to over-fertilize blueberries at any time. I like using organic fertilizers such as cottonseed meal twice a year: when spring growth begins and again in early summer. Do not use nitrate forms of fertilizer on blueberries as this can cause root damage.
  • Watering - Water plants thoroughly at planting time and then as needed to keep soil moist, but not constantly wet. Blueberry plants will retract water from their berries during periods of drought so make sure to keep soil moist during the berry production season.
  • Pruning - Blueberry plants need less pruning than many other fruit plants however pruning is still important. Follow the link below this article to find blueberry pruning instructions.
  • Harvesting - Blueberries are easy to pick. Just wait until berries are ripe to pick, and then eat them fresh or freeze them. To freeze, spread the berries out and allow them to dry. Then store in plastic containers or freezer bags.
  • Spacing - Space blueberries according to the mature width of a specific variety. Though blueberries can be spaced closer together for hedges, allowing for a little space between plants makes for easier picking from all around the bush.



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