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Vaccinium virgatum

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Vaccinium ashei
Phonetic Spelling
vak-SIN-ee-um vir-GA-tum
Description

Blueberries are one of the few plants that offer both beauty and tasty fruit throughout most of the year. They also add grace to the landscape and provide dazzling color in the fall. Why not plant them in your home landscape? Blueberries are spectacular in the fall with brilliant yellow and red foliage that lights up the landscape. The common name Rabbiteye comes from the fact that the fruit is pink before it turns blue like the color of a white rabbit's eye. 

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 holliesazaleasrhododendrons, 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. The plants' feeder roots are very close to the surface and do not have root hairs; therefore, good soil moisture management and heavy mulches are needed. Deep sandy soils cannot be used unless they are drip irrigated. Plants will not tolerate heavy clay soils with poor aeration and drainage.

Both the highbush and rabbiteye types grow well in North Carolina and especially well in swamps, but also drier areas. In comparison to Highbush, rabbiteye is more widely adapted to various soil types (can tolerate higher pH) and has a lower chilling requirement so they will bloom earlier than highbush. They require at least three other shrubs to be planted for proper cross-pollination. Plant different cultivars to extend the berry picking season. This plant is significantly rare in North Carolina.

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 canker, 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).  Because they bloom so early blossoms can be subject to late winter frosts.

Quick ID

  • Pendulous axillary clusters of urceolate flowers
  • White to pinkish flowers appear with unfolding foliage
  • Edible, globose, blue-black berries mid to late summer

 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

More information on Vaccinium.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Sun and Shade Demo Garden, Buncombe County Children's Secret Garden- Wilson Botanical Gardens Collector’s Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Brightwell'
    Early to mid-season, deep blue medium sized berries
  • 'Centurion'
    Mid season producer
  • 'Climax'
    Early season producer
  • 'Powderblue'
    Late season producer
  • 'Premier'
    Early to mid season producer
  • 'Tifblue'
    Mid season producer
'Brightwell', 'Centurion', 'Climax', 'Powderblue', 'Premier', 'Tifblue'
Tags:
#deciduous#fall color#acidic soil#wildlife plant#hedges#cpp#edible landscaping#edible fruits#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#butterfly larvae#audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Brightwell'
    Early to mid-season, deep blue medium sized berries
  • 'Centurion'
    Mid season producer
  • 'Climax'
    Early season producer
  • 'Powderblue'
    Late season producer
  • 'Premier'
    Early to mid season producer
  • 'Tifblue'
    Mid season producer
'Brightwell', 'Centurion', 'Climax', 'Powderblue', 'Premier', 'Tifblue'
Tags:
#deciduous#fall color#acidic soil#wildlife plant#hedges#cpp#edible landscaping#edible fruits#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#butterfly larvae#audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Vaccinium
    Species:
    virgatum
    Family:
    Ericaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    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.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    Blueberries are nutritional stars, providing a powerhouse boost of antioxidants and nutrients without adding many calories.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Blue
    Pink
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Fruit is an edible globose berry, blue-black, edible, <1 inch diameter that grows between May and June. Females cannot produce fruit on their own.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Urn
    Flower Petals:
    fused petals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Clusters of attractive, bell-shaped, white and occasionally pink flowers in early spring (March-April)
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are alternate, simple, broadly elliptic to broadly obovate, acute, cuneate, serrate, dark green to blue-green, glandular and pubescent to glabrate above, lighter hues below.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Light Brown
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Bark Description:
    Old growth is brown and exfoliating.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Bud Terminal:
    Only 1 terminal bud, larger than side buds
    Stem Description:
    Green to reddish stems
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees