Best Breeds of Blueberries

Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. There are several different types or species of blueberry. It is important to choose the right breed for your area to achieve the best results.

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Lowbush Blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) are the most cold tolerant of all the blueberry species. They are a native fruit in the eastern part of Canada and the northeastern US. They grow as a low bush and achieve heights of 1 to 1.5 feet. In fact they are often used as a dense ground cover.

They need at least 1,000 chill hours and have been grown successfully in USDA zones 2 to 6. The berries they produce are extremely tasty. Popular cultivars include Top Hat which is used for ornamental landscaping and Ruby Carpet which produces a fiery red landscape in the fall as well as tasty berries.

Northern Highbush Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are more heat tolerant than the lowbush species. They are the main plant of the blueberry industry. They are much taller than the lowbush types, and some grow as high as 12 feet if they are not pruned back. The fruit is larger than that of lowbush plants and is of good quality.

They need at least 1,000 chill hours between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit in order for fruit to set. They grow well in zones 4 to 7.

Southern Highbush Blueberries are actually a hybrid of the northern type so the scientific name is Vaccinium corymbosum hybrid. However this hybrid is substantially different in that it only needs 150 to 600 chill hours.This low-chill requirement allows the plants to thrive as far south as Florida and other zone 10 areas. They tolerate drought better than their northern counterparts, and they thrive in acidic soils. Southern highbush blueberries typically ripen earlier in the season, usually in June.

They are self-pollinating and can produce a large harvest if several bushes are planted close to each other.

Rabbiteye Blueberries (Vaccinium ashei) are the most heat tolerant, so they grow well in zones 7 to 10. They are also the most vigorous of the different species, and some hybrids can grow to over 20 feet if they are not pruned. The name rabbiteye comes from the notion that the ripening fruit looks like a rabbit’s eye. Fruit quality is good and the berry is described as medium to very large.

Rabbiteyes are very dependent on cross-pollination.

Experts recommend that several varieties be planted to ensure that you have the best production of fruit. Popular varieties include Beckyblue, Brightwell, Centurion, Climax, Powderblue, and Tifblue.

Half-High Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum x V. angustifolium) are crosses between Lowbush and Highbush blueberries. Typically they need 1,000 to 1,200 chilling hours so they grow well in zones 3 to 7. They reach heights of 2 to 4 feet and are known for breathtaking fall colors. That makes them a good ornamental plant as well as a fruit-bearing plant.

Popular varieties include Northcountry, Northsky, Northland, Polaris, Bluegold, Friendship, and Patriot.

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