Garden Design: Garden Design with Princess Flower, Glory Bush

Bush Landscaping Ideas

Ideas / May 21, 2018

Blueberries are such an easygoing shrub, it's a wonder more people don't grow them. There are various types of blueberry bushes that grow best in different regions - from the very small wild blueberry grown in Maine, to the large rabbiteye grown in the South. Here in Minnesota we fall somewhere in between with the half-high blueberry. Many cultivars grown in the Upper Midwest were specially bred for this climate by the University of Minnesota, making them right at home in the Minnesota home garden.

Many home gardeners shy away from growing blueberries because of their need for acidic soil, which is a rarity in most gardens. This is easily overcome by building raised beds filled with an acidic growing mix, amending the soil right in the garden bed, or even growing blueberries in containers (although growing them in the ground will likely promote longer-lived plants and more berries). With soil acidity solved, blueberry plants require little more from the gardener than a bit of pruning.

Keep in mind that these plants grow slowly, so don't be surprised if they don't seem to get much bigger from year to year. It generally takes a blueberry bush about 10 years to reach mature size, but this also means they will live a long, long time. It will be 2 or 3 years before you start getting large harvests, but it is definitely worth the wait. The bushes are very attractive and will be a beautiful addition to your landscape while you wait for fruit.

Helpful hints:

  • Blueberries need full sun. The plants will grow in part shade, but will not produce much fruit.
  • Space plants at least 3 feet apart.
  • Plant two or more cultivars to ensure successful pollination and fruit set.
  • Each winter, prune out old, weak, and dead wood.
  • Blueberry plants will start to bear a few berries 2 to 3 years after planting. You'll get a larger harvest after 5 years.
  • Blueberry plants are slow growing, and will not reach mature size for 8 to 10 years.
  • Remember, blueberries require acidic soil.

Cultivars

The University of Minnesota fruit breeding program has released several blueberry cultivars over the years that are perfectly suited to our climate. The cultivars listed have been grown at U of M research farms in USDA zones 4 and 3, and recommendations are based on trial results.

Planting at least two cultivars is best, as more berries of larger size will be produced if flowers are fertilized with pollen from another cultivar. Bumblebees and other native insects are enthusiastic pollinators of blueberries; the more insects working the plants, the more fruit you will harvest.

Photo by Dave Hansen

"St. Cloud" blueberry cultivar.

"North Country" blueberry cultivar.

Blueberry cultivars recommended for northern gardens. Cultivars listed in bold are University of Minnesota releases and include date of introduction.

Cultivar Plant size
(h x w)
Hardiness Average yield (lbs/bush)1
Zone 4 Zone 3
Bluecrop 5 x 5 feet Good Fair 3 to 12
Large, mild-sweet berries ripen in mid-season.
Chippewa (1996) 4.5 x 5 feet Excellent 3 to 8
Medium-large, sky blue berries. Firm texture, sweet flavor. Ripen in mid-season.
Northblue (1983) 3 x 4 feet 3 to 9
Large, dark blue, firm berries have good fresh flavor. Ripen in mid-season.
Northcountry (1986) 2.5 x 4 feet Very good 3 to 5
Small-medium sky blue berries; sweet, mild, aromatic flavor. Ripen in early season.
Northland 4 x 4 feet
Medium sized, mild flavored berries ripen in mid-season.
Northsky (1983) 2 x 3 feet 1 to 5
Medium, sky blue berries; sweet, mild and aromatic. Ripen in mid-season.
Patriot 4.5 x 4 feet
Very large, aromatic and tart berries ripen in early season.
Pink Popcorn™ (2014)
Medium size, cream to pink color berries. Ripen early to mid-season. Self-pollinating.
Polaris (1996)
Medium sized, firm, crisp berries. Intense aromatic flavor. Ripen in early season.
St. Cloud (1990) 5 x 4 feet 2 to 7
Medium, dark blue, firm berries. Sweet flavor, crisp texture. Ripen in early season.
Superior (2009)
Medium, sweet-tart berries ripen in late season.

1Average yield based on data collected in east central Minnesota from mature plants, planted in full sun with other cultivars, and irrigated regularly. Region, weather and cultural practices may result in higher or lower yields.

Source: www.extension.umn.edu