Blueberry Basics

May 12, 2008 | By | Comments (9)

Blueberry
Q:Do I need two or more blueberry trees to produce healthy fruit? In the magazine this month it said to plant a blueberry plant in a container beside your back door. Do have to plant more than one? Thank you, Katie Skelton

A:At last! An easy question! The Grump likes easy questions!

Whether or not you need at least two blueberry bushes to get fruit depends on the type of blueberry bushes you have. The two main types of blueberries are highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and rabbiteye blueberries (V. ashei).

Highbush is the best type for people living in areas with cold winters (USDA Zone 6 and colder — for Southern Living readers, only the Upper South and cooler parts of the Middle South.) Single bushes will produce fruit. However, you’ll get more fruit if you plant two different highbush selections for cross-pollination. Good selections include ‘Bluecrop’ (midseason), ‘Bluejay’ (early midseason), ”Darrow’ (late), and ‘Herbert’ (late)

Rabbiteye is better adapted to the South’s warmer areas (USDA Zone 7 and warmer — for SL readers, the Lower and Coastal South and milder parts of the Middle South.) To get fruit with rabbiteyes, you definitely need to plant at least two different selections. Recommended selections include ‘Brightwell’ (midseason), ‘Climax’ (early), ‘Delite’ (midseason to late), and ‘Tiflblue’ (midseason to late).

Plant two or more different types has another advantage. You can space out the ripening over a long period, extending the harvest — provided, of course, that swarms of lousy, screeching, freeloading birds don’t beat you to the fruit before you have the chance to sample a single berry.

As you can tell, Katie, I have bird issues.

Grumpy

COMMENTS

  1. Libby Newton

    Can you give some tips on pruning bluberry bushes? I think it is to be done in the winter, but how much should i prune?

    January 25, 2009 at 4:45 pm
  2. Grumpy Gardener

    The Grump is happy to oblige. You are correct — winter is a good time to prune, mainly because the branches are bare and you can easily see the twigs.
    Blueberry bushes don’t need a lot of pruning. The main reasons you do it are to remove dead wood and to thin out the plants. Thinning permits sunlight to reach the inner leaves, resulting in tastier fruit. It also reduces the potential crop, which usually makes the remaining berries bigger and sweeter.
    First, let’s remove dead wood. It’s easy to tell which branches are dead right now. Live, healthy twigs are greenish with a red blush and red buds. Dead twigs are usually gray with no buds and are so brittle they snap easily. Bend a branch to test it. If it snaps right away, it’s dead. Prune off all of the dead stuff.
    Thinning takes a little more care. You don’t want to overdo it or you’ll cut off most of the flower buds and get very little fruit. Begin by thinning crowded branches and twigs — those that are laying on top of each other or occupying the same space. Also remove crossing or rubbing branches. Your goal is a shrub made up of tiers of well-spaced branches that a bird could fly through. Prune back to outward-facing buds.
    Hope that helps. Grumpy

    January 25, 2009 at 5:18 pm
  3. STEVE

    Question:
    I have a bluejay and a premier variety blueberry bush planted about 8 feet apart, will these to varieties cross-pollinate and produce fruit?

    March 26, 2009 at 3:39 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener

    That’s an interesting question. ‘Blue Jay’ is a selection of Northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), the one that Northerners grow, while ‘Premier’ is a selection of rabbiteye blueberry (V. ashei), the type that Southerners grow. I suppose they could cross-pollinate, since hybrids between the two exist. But I doubt you can grow both types well, as rabbiteye is much more tolerant of long, hot summers and highbush takes colder winters. If you live in the North, I’d add ‘Bluecrop’ or “Earliblue.’ If you live in the South, add ‘Tifblue’ or ‘Climax.’

    March 26, 2009 at 4:02 pm
  5. Steve

    My Climax blue berry bush has bloomed and the petals are falling off, it that normal. How long will it take the blueberries to grow and start turning blue? I live in Georgia. Also my Bluejay plant has jus now bloomed and most of the blooms are still closed.

    April 13, 2009 at 3:14 pm
  6. Grumpy Gardener

    If the flowers were pollinated, you’ll soon know if you’ll be getting any berries. Small round berries will start forming where the flowers were. They’ll turn blue when they ripen in June.

    April 16, 2009 at 9:08 am
  7. rexine broussard

    what type of pests or disease i have to look for?

    July 8, 2010 at 5:23 pm
  8. Beth

    When, how, and with what do you fertilize blueberries? Thanks.

    March 3, 2012 at 5:44 pm
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