Differences Between Blueberry Bushes

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.)

Best Selling Blueberry Bushes

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 distribution map range courtesy of USDA

Highbush

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 distribution map
Southern highbush distribution map

Rabbiteye

Tifblue Blueberry – rabbiteye variety flourishes in the southern states 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 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.
Variety Zones chill hours ripening season bush height Pollenizer Notes
Northern High Bush Types            
Bluecrop 4-7 800 mid 4-6′ none required, but another var increases production med to large berries; machine harvest; most planted mid-season var.
Bluegold 4-7 800 mid 3-5′ none required, but another var increases production med to large berries;
Blueray 3-7 800 early to mid 5-6′ none required, but another var increases production large and abundant berries; excellent flavor
Duke 4-7 900 early 4-6′ none required, but another var increases production high yield; very sweet berries; said to be best early season var.
Elliott 5-8 300-800 very late 5-7′ none required, but another var increases production large berries but can be tart
Jersey 4-7 800 late 5-7′ none required, but another var increases production small to medium size berries; said to have the best flavor berries
Patriot 3-7 950 early to mid 3-6′ none required, but another var increases production very large berries; very cold hardy; excellent fall color
Earliblue 4-9 700-1000 early 6-8′ none required, but another var increases production medium yield
             
Southern High Bush Types            
Misty 5-9 300-500 early 4-6′ Sharpblue recommended medium size berries
O’Neal 5-9 400 early 4-6′ none required, but another var increases production large size berries
Sharpblue 7-10 200-300 early 5-6′ Misty recommended main crop in Florida
Jewel 6-10 300-400 early 6-8′ none required, but another var increases production largest berries of the southern highbush varieties
Gulf Coast 7-10 200-350 mid 5-6′ none required, but another var increases production medium size berries;
Georgia Gem 7-9 350-400 mid 4-6′ none required, but another var increases production medium size berries;
Reveille 6-9 500-600 early to mid 5-6′ none required, but another var increases production medium size berries; high yields; machine harvest
             
Rabbiteye Types            
Brightwell 6-9 350-400 mid 6-10′ Climax, Premier mediumm size, abundant berries
Climax 7-9 450-500 early 6-15′ Powderblue, Brightwell, Tifblue large berries
Powderblue 7-9 550-600 mid to late 6-15′ Climax, Brightwell, Tifblue one of our favorites here at the nursery
Premier 6-9 550 early 6-10′ Climax, Brightwell, Tifblue large berries; excellent flavor
Tifblue 6-9 550-650 mid to late 6-15′ Climax, Brightwell, Powderblue excellent flavor; main commercial berry in South
Beckyblue 6-9 350 early 6-15′ Climax, Premier large berries; excellent flavor
Ochlockonee 7-9 550-650 very late 6-12′ Brightwell, Powderblue  
Woodard 7-9 300-350 early 5-8′ Brightwell, Climax, Premier Very popular and productive variety
Centurion 6-9 350-400 late 6-12′ Premier, Climax  
Pink Lemonade 4-9 300-350 mid to late 4-5′ none required, but another var increases production medium 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!