Blueberries are one of the few crop plants that originated in North America. Recently, they have become a popular option for backyard gardeners as they provide both an attractive hedge and tasty berry. Blueberry plants are typically classified into one of four major groups: northern highbush, southern highbush, rabbiteye or half-high.
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Northern Highbush Blueberries
Northern highbush tolerate low winter temperatures. They typically have a chilling requirement of 600 to 1,000 hours. Chilling hours are the number of hours between 1.67 and 7.22 degrees Celsius a blueberry needs in the winter to satisfy its dormancy requirement. Northern highbush are usually tall plants that grow into 6- to 8- foot shrubs.
Bluecrop is one of the most popular midseason cultivars due to its disease-resistance and high yield. If you want to use your blueberries for baking, plant Bluegold, Hardyblue, Jersey or Rubel. For good tasting berries, Spartan is a good early-season choice as is Darrow for late-season berries. Some of the other good northern highbush blueberries include Blueray, Duke, Elliot and Patriot.
Southern Highbush Blueberries
Southern highbush are hybrids of northern highbush and rabbiteye blueberries. As such, they tolerate heat and a wider range of soil types. They also grow and produce faster than northern highbush but are not as winter hardy. The chilling requirement of southern highbush ranges between 200 and 600 hours.
O'neal is an early season variety known for having the best taste of all the southern highbush. But Jubilee and Southmoon are also good tasting midseason options. Emerald is another early season option that produces an abundance of large berries. Other good early season producers include Misty, Star, Sharp blue, and Jewel. For a cultivar that ripens mid-late season, try Southmoon.
Rabbiteye blueberries are less winter hardy but more drought tolerant than southern highbush. They are known for their ability to grow in soils lower in organic material. Beckyblue, Climax and Premier are good early season options. Brightwell and Tifblue are a vigorous, upright plants that ripens mid to late season. Other good performing rabbiteye varieties include Garden Blue, Southland, Powder Blue and Bluebelle.
Half-high blueberries are hybrid cultivars of northern highbush and wild lowbush blueberries. They tend to grow up to three feet tall and have small to medium sized berries. One of the better tasting varieties of half-high is Polaris, an early season option. All other recommended half-high are midseason varieties. Northcountry, Chippewa, and Northsky all make excellent container plants. Northland and Patriot are extremely hardy varieties. Other good cultivars to try include Northblue and St. Cloud.
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- Virginia Cooperative Ext.; Specialty Crop Profile: Blueberries; Anthony Bratsch and Jeremy Pattison
- Iowa State University Extension; Grow
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Blueberry Varieties for Florida; J.G. Williamson and P.M. Lyrene
- Mississippi State University Extension Service: Blueberries