There are two types of blueberry plants that grow in Michigan: lowbush blueberry and highbush blueberry.
Wild lowbush blueberry is native to Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Maine. These plants are low growing plants that produce small, wild tasting blueberries. These are often grown for wildlife and not widely for human consumption.
Highbush varieties grow taller than lowbush, easily five to six feet tall and wide. High Chill Blueberries are the varieties that require extended cold to do well and are the ones we can grow in Michigan. Low chill are blueberries that need less cold and grow in southern states. English Gardens offers Highbush, High Chill Blueberries and one that is a cross between high and lowbush varieties.
– There are three seasons for blueberries that refer to the blooming time of the plants: early, mid and late season.
– Blueberries need to be pollinated by a different variety of blueberry that will be in bloom at the same time so the bees can transfer pollen from one to the other. This is why we talk about seasons, in order to work, you need to select blueberries that are either in the same season or an adjacent season. Like early-early, mid-mid, late-late, early-mid or mid-late.
– In order to get plants to produce a lot of berries, the soil needs to be very acidic. This is a soil pH between 4.5 and 5.5 where 7 is neutral and above 7 is alkaline.
– Plant blueberries in plenty of peat moss and organic matter.
– Fertilize with acidic fertilizers, such as Holly-tone and Mir-acid. Also use soil acidifier, garden sulfur and/or aluminum sulfate to lower the soil pH, but make sure to have plenty of good soil.
Blueberries have great fall color
– While not usually considered a landscape plant, blueberry plants have great leaf texture and exceptional fall color. The autumn hues differ from variety to variety, but generally range from orange to red. They tend to light up the fall landscape!
Here are several varieties that are offered at English Gardens:
Tophat is a dwarf blueberry plant that is a cross between high and lowbush blueberry. This is called a halfhigh. It is a midseason blueberry that is also self-pollinating. This means you could plant just this variety and get blueberries or use it as a pollinator for other early and mid-season varieties. The berries are small and have that lowbush wild flavor. The fall color is orange and yellow. Tophat is a dwarf that gets about 2 feet tall
Highbush early season varieties:
Duke is the most widely planted variety and for good reason: it is a consistent heavy producer. The berries are large and attractive, light blue firm and very good quality with a savory, sweet flavor. The fall color is orange to yellow and grows 4 to 5 feet tall.
Patriot is a plant that is lower growing than Duke. Patriot is another favorite, because of the large berries and consistent production. The berries have a delicately sweet flavor and Duke may tolerate wetter soils than most blueberry plants. Fall color is firey red with some orange and yellow hints. Patriot grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide.
Reka was developed in New Zealand; it is vigorous and fast growing. The berries are medium to large and have an excellent rich flavor with a bountiful yield. Reka has burgundy-red fall color and grows 4 to 6 feet tall.
Early to mid-season variety:
Bluejay plants grow rapidly and are easy to establish, producing long, loose clusters of light blue, medium sized berries. Fruit hangs on the plant for long periods without losing quality, good for freezing and pies. The berries are medium sized and delicately sweet. Fall color is orange with yellow highlights and yellow canes in winter. Grows 6 to 7 feet.
Bluecrop is considered one of the best commercial blueberries due to the long production period and high yield; this is also a great garden performer. The berries are large and have a classically sweet flavor. The fall color is bright red and the plant grows 4 to 6 feet tall.
Chandler is perhaps the largest berry size considered giant and can get as large as a quarter. It also has a long ripening period which means the delicious berries are often picked for up to 6 weeks. The berries have a full robust flavor. Fall color is wine red to orange and grows 5 to 7 feet tall. Chandler is a mid to late season variety.
Late season varieties:
Jersey is one of the oldest varieties available and has been widely planted. Jersey produces small to medium sized berries that are lush and sweet. The fruit is a favorite for baking. Easy to grow and tolerant of a wide range of soils. Fall color if flame orange and grows 6 to 8 feet tall.
Liberty is a new variety of blueberries that produce light colored, distinctly flavored berries. The berries are large, juicy and robust flavored. The fruit is great for fresh eating. The fall color is red with orange highlights and grows 7 to 8 feet tall.
Brazelberry blueberries is a series of ornamental berry plants with the landscape in mind. Brazelberries tend to be smaller growing and can be grown in containers during the growing season, then either planted in the ground or brought into a cold garage during the winter months. In 2016, English Gardens will have two varieties with more available in the following years.
Jelly Bean blueberry plants are prolific – producing a bumper crop of large, flavorful blueberries mid-summer with super sweet flavor like homemade blueberry jelly. Brilliant green new foliage emerges in spring, which gives way to darker greens with red hues throughout the summer and fall. In cooler climates, summer brings radiant red leaf edges to Jelly Bean™ plants along the sides and tips of its uniquely elongated leaves contrasted by the clusters of blue summer fruit. Try accenting a pathway with a mini-hedge of Jelly Bean™ or use it to set off larger shrub plantings in the landscape or in patio pots. You will absolutely love this distinctive little gem of a blueberry. The berries are medium to large and have a sweet, homemade jelly flavor. The fall color is green with red margins and only grows about 2 feet tall.
Peach Sorbet is a compact blueberry plant, with four-season showstoppers with stunning leaves ranging from peach to pink to orange to emerald green. Spring’s white, bell-shaped flowers will give way to an abundant summer crop of healthy, sweet blueberries mid-summer. In most climates, Peach Sorbet plants keep their leaves through the winter when the foliage transitions to a rich eggplant purple. Peach Sorbet plants offer gorgeous ornamental qualities that will soon become a favorite. The berries are medium sized and have a sweet tropical essence flavor, fall color is dark purple with pink highlights and grows to 2 feet tall.