ABOUT BLUEBERRIES: Vaccinium spp.

ERICACEAE

Relatives: Rhododendron, Camellia, Heather, Heath

Blueberries are of the species of Vaccinium that are commercially grown and harvested just for their fruits. If the United States really wanted to lay claim to their 'own' fruit, the Blueberry just might fill the bill. It is truly an North American plant that has been grown and eaten by Native Americans for thousands of years. European settlers and visitors added Blueberries into everything they ate and drank- even letting them dry on the bush for eating through the winter. These are very healthy fruits that are full of good stuff for all of us, and are worth adding to the home garden. When shopping at the Grocery store, it almost seems you can get Blueberries year 'round.

DESCRIPTION

The shrubs are full of stems and can be low growing or erect in habit. Blueberries are long lived and begin fruiting very early in their lives.
Leaves: Can be Evergreen or Deciduous, depending on cultivar and the actual age of the plant. Leaves are not very large and start life almost purple and change to a darker green when they mature. If the leaf edges are serrated, it is not remarkable. They do tend to be on the leathery side in texture, though.
Flowers: Blueberry flowers are very pretty and are creamy white with often a hint of pink. They appear in the spring. pollination is by insects, and planting more than one variety can increase quantity and quality. Here in our area of North Carolina, there are enough wild Blueberries to get some natural cross pollination, but the wild berries are inherently smaller and less juicy.
Fruit: Small berries that start out light green in color, then gradually change to pink as they mature, and finally to a dark smokey blue when fully ripe.

CULTIVATION

Almost hassle free when mature, they are easy to tend and care for.
Location: Simply put, they grow best in full sun; some protection from full sun in the hottest areas of the south might help the fruit, but here in North Carolina that has never been a real problem.
Temperature: Blueberries are very winter hardy in North Carolina and can take freezing temperatures well. Unlike most of our fruits that sit outside all winter in pots, we don't bother covering the Blueberry plants. I remember one very late frost that got to not only the Blueberry flowers but also nipped all our Crape Myrtles for that summer. But all came back strong the next spring and if anything, the Crape flowers and Blueberry fruits were the best ever!
BLUEBERRY RIPENING CHART: PLANT TWO OR MORE VARIETIES IN SAME GROUP (BLOOM TIME) TO INSURE PROPER POLLINATION
GROUP 1: CLIMAX, TITAN, BRIGHTWELL, PREMIER
GROUP 2: BRIGHTWELL, PREMIER, YADKIN, TIFBLUE, SOUTHLAND, ONSLOW, CENTURION, IRA
GROUP 3: SOUTHLAND, ONSLOW, CENTURION, IRA, POWDER BLUE, OCHLOCKONEE

Chilling: Chilling refers to the number of hours, 45 degrees F and under, during the dormancy period. All fruit and nut trees need a specific amount of chilling hours before they will produce fruit. The amount varies with each variety and the hours need not be continuous. For example as listed: (500 hours).
Soil/water/nutrients: Blueberries will do quite well in most any soil type but they don't like clay soils because of the habit of clay to keep water; this rots the Blueberry roots. (If you have a high clay content soil, try planting your Blueberries in raised beds). They like moisture, especially while setting fruit, BUT NOT TOO MUCH. They enjoy a fairly acidic pH, and loads of well composed organic material. HINT: find an old saw mill and get as much of the well rotted sawdust as you can get your hands on to incorporate into your Blueberry beds. Planting your Blueberries near pine trees will help keep your soil a tad on the acidic side. They don't do well in competition from grass and weeds, so mulch well and take care on weeding as they have shallow roots. Pruning: Bushes need to be pruned to allow light and air to penetrate to the berries, and failure to prune at all will eventually result in major declines to fruit production. Light pruning for shape can be done about anytime, but hold off on any heavy pruning until plants are dormant in the winter.
Pests and diseases: The home gardener is unlikely to experience any problems with Blueberry plants bought from us, but we wanted you to be aware of possible problems. Root rot and occasional stem-rot are your major problems around here. Birds are also fond of Blueberries, as are neighbors, small children, and old people. Plant enough bushes for everyone.

CULTIVARS

There are Northern High and Low Bush varieties, Rabbit-eye Blueberries, Half-High Blueberries, and Southern High Bush Blueberries. Rabbit Ridge Nursery offers the following Blueberry Cultivars, all of which are proven winners for our Climatic Zone and are all sold mature enough for immediate fruiting. To insure proper politicization, plant two different cultivars that have adjacency bloom seasons....for example, plant one EM and one E or M, or one E and one EM.

E means an Early Season bloomer
EM means an Early to Mid Season bloomer
M means a Mid Season bloomer
ML means a Mid to Late Season bloomer
L means a Late Season bloomer

(Click on Blueberry Variety to link to that Blueberry)