- Common Name(s):
- Highbush blueberry
- 'O'Neal', 'Sampson', 'Legacy'
- Edible Plants, Native Plants, Shrubs
Highbush blueberry is in the Ericaceae family. It is an upright multistemed, slow growing deciduous shrub with brilliant red fall foliage. Its bark is gray/brown to reddish/brown and very shreddy. It makes an excellent hedge if planted en masse. It is planted for its delicious edible fruit. Although blueberries are self-fertile, planting multiple that bloom at the same time will lead to larger berries and a higher yeild. Extend your harvest by planting early, mid, and late season blueberry varieties which will make the fruit season run from June to mid-September. When planting and the year after, remove all flowers so the shrub can focus on root and shoot growth. The third year after planting you can prune in the late winter to remove dead wood and maintain the shape of the shrub. Blueberries require a lower soil pH than many other small fruit crops and other plants. Therefore, consider grouping them with other acid-loving plants such as hollies, azaelas, rhododendrons, and camellias. Before planting, take a soil test. The ideal pH for blueberries is between 4.0 and 5.0 or 5.5, depending on the cultivar. Little annual attention is required, except for occasional pruning.
Both the highbush and rabbiteye types grow well in North Carolina. Highbush typically have larger fruit and better fruit quality than rabbiteyes, but are not as widely adapted to various soil types. Dr. Jim Ballington, NC State University horticulture professor, has developed a series of Southern highbush blueberries that retain the high fruit quality of standard highbush but demonstrate greater adaptation to a wider range of soil types. Cultivars ‘O’Neal,’ ‘Sampson,’ and ‘Legacy’ are good choices.
Regions: Piemont, Coastal plains
Seasons of Interest:
Foliage: Fall, red Bloom: Early spring, spring, May Fruit: Late Summer, berry edible
Wildlife Value: Flowers attract butterflies and bees. It is a host plant for the Brown Elfin butterfly. Its fruit attracts songbirds, small mammals, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, black bears and squirrels. Members of the genus Vaccinium support the following specialized bees: Andrena (Conandrena) bradleyi, Andrena (Andrena) carolina, Panurginus atramontensis, Habropoda laboriosa, Colletes productus, Colletes validus, and Osmia (Melanosmia) virga.
Insects Diseases and Other Plant Problems: Spotted wing drosophila may attack the fruit. Potential but infrequent disease problems include stem blight, root rot, anthracnose, cane cankers, mildew and botrytis. Mummy berry is a fungal disease that causes the berries to shrivel and drop. Birds relish the fruit, so cover shrubs with netting as the fruit ripens. These plants are frequently damaged by deer. If the soil pH is too high it will cause chlorosis (yellowing of leaves).
- 6-12 ft.
- The Highbush blueberry has alternate leaves with a smooth or toothed margin and fuzzy underside.
- In the spring the Highush blueberry shows small white bell shaped flowers that mature in clusters. This shrub produces a dark blue berry that matures in mid to late summer.
- The Highbush blueberry is best grown in acidic (pH of 4.8 to 5.2), organically rich, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Its shallow, fibrous roots need constant moisture and good drainage. This plant appreciates a good organic mulch. Although blueberries are self-fertile, cross-pollination produces the best fruit crop (larger berries and larger yields). Therefore, it is best to plant more than one variety that will bloom at the same time. In addition, blueberry season can be extended by planting early, mid-season and late varieties which will collectively ripen from early June to the end of the summer. Best to remove flowers from plants in the year of planting and in the following year so as to prevent fruit set and to encourage new vegetative growth. Prune as needed in late winter beginning in the third year after planting.
- Sun to partial shade; moist well-drained soil
- White flowers in early spring; blue black fruit
- The fruit of the Highbush blueberry is edible.
- 6-8 ft.
NCCES plant id: 566