Blueberries: incredible edible ornamentals

Blueberry SCBG

Northern highbush blueberry, SC Botanic Garden, Clemson

The genus Vaccinium includes more than 150 species of evergreen, semievergreen, or deciduous ground covers, shrubs and trees; however, very few of the species are cultivated in our gardens.  The most widely cultivated plants are those bred and selected for their edible fruits: northern highbush (V. corymbosum), rabbiteye (V. ashei), southern highbush (hybrids derived from crosses between northern and native southern species, mainly Darrow’s evergreen blueberry [V. darrowi]), and lowbush blueberry (V. angustifolium).

Rabbiteye cultivars are best suited for most of South Carolina.  You will need at least two cultivars to ensure adequate cross-pollination.  Dozens of early, mid- and late-season fruiting cultivars are available. For the Midlands and Piedmont of SC, good choices include Alapaha, Vernon, Premier, Brightwell, Powderblue, Ochlockonee, Centurion.  For Coastal SC, both rabbiteye and southern highbush cultivars could be used.  Good choices there include Rebel, Star, Camellia, Palmetto, Emerald, Windsor, Farthing, Sweetcrisp, and Suziblue.

Consult your local Cooperative Extension office for a list of recommended blueberry cultivars for your region (e.g., North  Carolina and Georgia). Also, see the Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium for additional information on growing small fruits in the Southeast.

Blueberries are not beautiful for only their fruits.  These edible shrubs have dark blue-green leaves, white to pink bell-shaped flowers, stunning fall color that can include mixtures of orange, red, and yellow, and colorful, red, yellow, and green stems in winter. Tuck blueberries into your landscape with other acid-loving plants–ericaceous plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, and pieris. Their multi-season attributes will make your borders, hedges, and perennial plantings pop.

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