blueberries - recommended varieties and culture for the northwest
Blueberries are excellent plants for the home gardener, providing not only delicious fruit, but plants that have outstanding ornamental value as well.
'Highbush' varieties grow from 5-8 feet tall at maturity; 'Halfhigh' and 'Lowbush' or dwarf varieties reach from 1-4 feet tall.
In fall and winter, the leaves and the bark of the young branches turn glowing shades of yellows and reds.
Fruiting occurs from July through October depending on variety
CHOOSING THE PLANTS
CHOOSE YOUR VARIETIES from our list according to height or fruiting time.
PLANTING 2 VARIETIES will help produce better pollination than just one variety.
SOIL PREPARATION & PLANTING
CHOOSE A LOCATION that receives full sun in well-drained, acid soils high in organic matter.
SPACE the Highbush varieties about 6 feet apart or 4 feet apart if used as a hedge. Halfhigh or lowbush types can be spaced about 3-4 feet apart.
DIG THE HOLE approximately one foot deep and incorporate planting / soil building compost or peat moss.
PLANT THE BUSH so all the roots are just buried. Do not plant deeper.
WATER DEEPLY because blueberries are not very drought tolerant
WATERING & FERTILIZATION
WATER THE PLANTS deeply to avoid heat stress and to help produce the best fruit.
FERTILIZE in mid-March with a product for acid loving plants such as rhododendron and azalea fertilizer.
PRUNING YOUNG PLANTS or newly transplanted ones is not recommended. It is best to let them become established for about 3 years before any pruning is done.
THE GOAL OF PRUNING once plants do become established is to promote the growth of strong new wood, facilitating good fruit production on 2-3 year old canes. Cut out broken canes, canes that cross each other, and a few older and less productive canes each year. Severe pruning is not necessary. To keep plants fully productive, try to have no canes over 6 years old on the bush.
DISEASE & PEST CONTROL
THE BEST DEFENSE against pests and diseases is to provide the plants with the right location, soil conditions and deep moisture. Blueberries are relatively easy care and can provide years of productive harvests and ornamental beauty.
GOOD GARDEN HYGIENE is also important. Use sharp, clean pruners to prevent damage and the spread of disease from other plants. Cleaning up dead leaves beneath the plants in the spring is also a good practice. This will help eliminate any diseases or pests which may have overwintered there.
Swansons favorite blueberry varieties
Very popular variety with large, light blue, firm and flavorful fruit that sweetens when completely ripe. Berries ready mid-July through August. Autumn foliage is yellow, orange and red. New wood is red, providing good winter color.
CHANDLER Late Midseason
Very large, sweet, firm berries. Longest ripening season (over 4 weeks in late July-August) of any blueberry variety. A new release from the USDA.
A Giant! The largest berries of any cultivar, some reaching half-dollar size. Ripening in August, light blue berries have a delightful, robust flavor. Vigorous shrub, growing up to 5-6 feet high.
This new and improved variety offers bigger yields of higher quality berries that have longer storage lives. Draper is a vigorous upright grower. The berries are sweet and delicious.
EARLIBLUE Very Early
Large light blue berries are some of the first to ripen. They are sweet, juicy and numerous. ‘Earliblue’ provides a stout upright habit, and in the fall, both the foliage and the branches take on brilliant red and burgundy colors.
Attractive, evergreen variety, often with brighter fall foliage. Berries are medium large, light blue and have a robust flavor which has been rated one of the best flavored in USDA trials. Ripens in August. Heavy producer on an upright, vigorous shrub.
Liberty is a very new variety that has shown to be one of the healthiest varieties ever. The berries are unusually high in the antioxidants, phenolic compounds, and anthocyanins nutrition experts have been raving about. As a side note, the berries are delicious, and the plant is highly ornamental!
NORTHLAND Early Midseason
Very cold-hardy, easy-to-grow plant. Medium-sized, dark blue berries with high sugar content, excellent for baking and jams. Ripens in mid-July. Very productive, compact shrub grows to 4 feet high and wide.
Large, medium blue berries with good flavor. Ripen in early July. Upright bushes have a slightly spreading habit. Autumn foliage is yellow, orange and red. The new wood is red in winter.
Reka is one of the fastest growing, most adaptable varieties available. It grows well in a number of different soil types and is more tolerant of wet, heavier ground than many other varieties. The berries are medium large, dark blue in color, and have excellent flavor.
Southern highbush varieties
These hybrids offer Northwest gardeners such characteristics as semi-evergreen foliage and more colorful bloom while producing tasty fruit. Most varieties are self-fertile but will increase in size with pollination from a second variety
Medium to large berries with sweet flavor. Beautiful white to pink flowers in the spring are followed by sky blue berries that grow in clusters and ripen over an approximate 2 week period. The lovely blue foliage turns bright yellow orange in the fall.
Medium to large sized, sky blue berries of excellent quality in summer. Bright blue-green, evergreen foliage provides a perfect contrast to the hot pink flowers in spring. One of the most attractive blueberry shrubs.
Large, sky blue berries are described by blueberry connoisseurs as having the flavor of a “true blueberry”. Upright in habit this could be used as an informal hedge. Fall and winter foliage is golden yellow making it a beautiful addition in the winter landscape.
SUNSHINE BLUE Midseason
Dime-sized berries with delicious, unique, tangy flavor for up to 9 weeks in the summer. Showy, hot pink flowers fade to white in spring. Semi-dwarf evergreen, compact habit to 3 feet high. Tolerates more alkaline soils than most varieties.
halfhigh and lowbush varieties
BRUNSWICK (Vaccinium angustifolium)
A dense groundcover, growing only 6-8 inches high. Sky blue, pea-size berries with distinctive wild blueberry flavor. Glossy dark green foliage. Clone originating from Nova Scotia.
TOPHAT Late Midseason
Pea-sized, firm, good-flavored, sweet, bright light blue berries that last for several weeks. Ripens mid-July to August. This self-fertile variety is a true lowbush type, used primarily as an ornamental. Spherical bush matures to a height of 24 inches high and 24 inches wide. Perfect for growing in containers on a deck or patio. Autumn foliage is a blazing crimson.
A newer release from the University of Minnesota. The bush is compact and slightly larger than Northblue at 3-4 feet tall and wide. The mature plant will produce 4-7 pounds of large, light blue berries of excellent flavor. Fall foliage is fiery red.
Very cold-hardy, consistent producer. Large, dark blue berries ripening late July - August. Excellent for baking and fresh eating. More open-growing shrub, 2 to 3 feet high.
NORTHCOUNTRY Early Midseason
Medium-sized berries boasting a sweet, “wild blueberry” flavor. Excellent little landscape shrub, with compact growth to 1.5 to 2 feet high and 3.5 feet wide. Dark green leaves turn scarlet in fall. Vigorous and adaptable to many soil types.
Small to medium sized, sky blue berries with a dusty bloom. Excellent wild blueberry flavor that is superior to most highbush varieties. Ripens late July into August. Low, spreading plant with dense foliage; 18-24 inches high and 24-36 inches wide. Dark red Autumn foliage.
Polaris berries are aromatic and very sweet. It makes a perfect companion to Northcountry or Chippewa. It has a nice compact habit of 3-4 feet tall and wide. The leaves turn brilliant red in the fall.