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Differences Between Blueberry Bushes


premier blueberry sweet fruit edible bush plant

The major types of blueberries grown in the United States are lowbush (hybrids and cultivars of Vaccinium angustifolium); highbush (hybrids and cultivars of V. corymbosum),and rabbiteye (hybrids and cultivars of V. ashei). (Crosses between lowbush and highbush – called half-high – have recently been introduced as well.)

low bush blueberry plant

Lowbush varieties grow to knee height or shorter and grow wild. Berries are small and very sweet

Lowbush

The lowbush blueberry is native to Canada and the far northern US. Lowbush blueberries are recommended for USDA zones 2-6, and make up only a small portion of North American blueberry culture. In fact, lowbush blueberries are harvested from wild plants more often than not. They do not exceed 2’in height, and there are just a handful of commercial cultivars available. Some are grown as ground covers, and some in containers. Lowbush varieties must be cross-pollinated by another lowbush or highbush cultivar if they are to produce berries. The state of Maine is very well known for having w  ild lowbush plants.

lowbush variety blueberry map

Lowbush variety distribution map range courtesy of USDA

 

Highbush

highbush blueberry plants

Highbush varieties grow tall and produce more abundantly

Highbush blueberries are native to most of the eastern US, and are divided into northern and southern types. Northern highbush blueberries are recommended for Zones 4-7, and southern highbush cultivars (created by crossing V. corymbosum and V. darrowii) for zones 6-10. Check your zone here.

Highbush blueberry hybrids and cultivars (both northern and southern) tend to be more disease resistant than other blueberry varieties. Highbush cultivars are self-fertile and will produce berries without a pollenizer. (However, cross pollination by another cultivar usually increases production.) Highbush blueberry varieties are the mainstay of the commercial blueberry industry, and the most popular varieties for home gardeners.

northern highbush blueberry map

Northern highbush distribution map

Southern highbush distribution map blueberry

Southern highbush distribution map

 

Tifblue Blueberry

Tifblue Blueberry – rabbiteye variety flourishes in the southern states

Rabbiteye

The rabbiteye blueberry is native to the southeastern US, and the various rabbiteye hybrids and cultivars are recommended for zones 6 or 7 through 9. Rabbiteyes thrive in climates with long hot summers and mild winters. With recent weather patterns changing and late winter freezes happening more frequently in the southern states, some varieties have experienced early bloom times and thus crops have been affected as seen in Tifton, Georgia (where the Tifblue blueberry was created.) Read more about this phenomenon here. Rabbiteye blueberries require a different rabbiteye cultivar for cross-pollination.

rabbiteye blueberry

Rabbiteye distibution map range courtesy of USDA

 

Home gardeners choose which particular blueberry varieties to grow based on many considerations, but the most important ones should be climate zone; chill hours (the total number of hours in winter when the temperature is between 30°F and 45°F – check with your extension agent); ripening season (early, mid-, or late – an assortment insures a long harvest season); berry flavor, berry size, productivity, and bush size.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blueberry cultivars available. The table below compares a few of the more popular ones. Perfect Plants is proud to offer 5 types of Rabbiteye blueberries.

 

 

VarietyZoneschill hoursripening seasonbush heightPollenizerNotes
Northern High Bush Types
Bluecrop4-7800mid4-6′none required, but another var increases productionmed to large berries; machine harvest; most planted mid-season var.
Bluegold4-7800mid3-5′none required, but another var increases productionmed to large berries;
Blueray3-7800early to mid5-6′none required, but another var increases productionlarge and abundant berries; excellent flavor
Duke4-7900early4-6′none required, but another var increases productionhigh yield; very sweet berries; said to be best early season var.
Elliott5-8300-800very late5-7′none required, but another var increases productionlarge berries but can be tart
Jersey4-7800late5-7′none required, but another var increases productionsmall to medium size berries; said to have the best flavor berries
Patriot3-7950early to mid3-6′none required, but another var increases productionvery large berries; very cold hardy; excellent fall color
Earliblue4-9700-1000early6-8′none required, but another var increases productionmedium yield
Southern High Bush Types
Misty5-9300-500early4-6′Sharpblue recommendedmedium size berries
O’Neal5-9400early4-6′none required, but another var increases productionlarge size berries
Sharpblue7-10200-300early5-6′Misty recommendedmain crop in Florida
Jewel6-10300-400early6-8′none required, but another var increases productionlargest berries of the southern highbush varieties
Gulf Coast7-10200-350mid5-6′none required, but another var increases productionmedium size berries;
Georgia Gem7-9350-400mid4-6′none required, but another var increases productionmedium size berries;
Reveille6-9500-600early to mid5-6′none required, but another var increases productionmedium size berries; high yields; machine harvest
Rabbiteye Types
Brightwell6-9350-400mid6-10′Climax, Premiermediumm size, abundant berries
Climax7-9450-500early6-15′Powderblue, Brightwell, Tifbluelarge berries
Powderblue7-9550-600mid to late6-15′Climax, Brightwell, Tifblueone of our favorites here at the nursery
Premier6-9550early6-10′Climax, Brightwell, Tifbluelarge berries; excellent flavor
Tifblue6-9550-650mid to late6-15′Climax, Brightwell, Powderblueexcellent flavor; main commercial berry in South
Beckyblue6-9350early6-15′Climax, Premierlarge berries; excellent flavor
Ochlockonee7-9550-650very late6-12′Brightwell, Powderblue
Woodard7-9300-350early5-8′Brightwell, Climax, PremierVery popular and productive variety
Centurion6-9350-400late6-12′Premier, Climax
Pink Lemonade4-9300-350mid to late4-5′none required, but another var increases productionmedium yields of pinkish berries

 

 

Perfect Plants also offers an Assortment of 3 Blueberry Plants for best cross pollination to get your blueberry garden up and running. You’ll have plenty of berries in no time with this package deal!

Want more information?

Check out our Blueberry Grow Guide for more useful information about planting and harvesting blueberries. Do you have blueberry plants and they are not producing fruit? Check out this blog post for more information and troubleshooting your blueberry bushes.

 

Happy planting!

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