Saturday, October 21, 2006

Blueberries for Central Florida

My criteria are simple: Under 400 chill hours and readily available at either Just Fruits and Exotics or Johnson's Nursery, two reliable mail-order retailers that deal with fruit for southern latitudes. According to what I've read, the more varieties of each species that you have, the better the pollination and fruit production. Many source recommend planting two varieties in the same hole.

Native to the south, rabbiteyes lengthen out the picking season into August. At least two varieties are needed for cross pollination. Most of these need a minimum of 350 chill hours, making them marginal for the area. I'm going to give them a shot, though.

From IFAS: To increase cross-pollination and fruit set, mix two or more of the following cultivars from the appropriate group: 'Sharpblue'/'Misty'/'Flordablue'/'Avonblue'; 'Beckyblue'/'Climax'/'Bonita';'Tifblue'/'Climax'/ 'Powderblue'/'Woodard'/'Brightwell'

Southern Highbush
A new breed of early ripening blueberry, Southern Highbush (also called Tetraploids) are a cross between Rabbiteye and Northern Highbush blueberries. Everything is different about these guys: the plants are smaller, the leaves look different (thicker and more crinkly) and they ripen early and bear more heavily than Rabbiteyes. These beauties need a soil high in organic matter for best production. Most of these need 300 or fewer chill hours. (Descriptions are from here.)
  • Misty: Appears to be more susceptible to infection and death by blueberry stem blight than most other southern highbush cultivars. 'Misty' tends to produce very heavy crops, even as young plants. Over-fruiting predisposes blueberry plants to stem blight.
  • Gulf Coast: 1987 USDA release, very early harvest season (same as Sharpblue), 200-300 chill hours, medium-sized fruit, pedicels tend to remain attached to fruit at picking, otherwise a very good cultivar.
  • Sharpblue: UF release, the most commonly grown southern highbush cultivar, very early harvest (50% of fruit ripe by late April or early May in Gainesville), very early flowering, 150 chill hours, moderately productive, medium-sized fruit of high quality if handled carefully, susceptible to several fungal leaf spot diseases, although plantings containing only a few plants tend to escape serious leaf disease problems.
  • Windsor: is vigorous, with stout stems and a semi-spreading growth habit. Windsor appears to be best adapted to north-central Florida but has been grown successfully as far south as Hardee County.
The best reference I've run across on the web for blueberries is here, at the Home Orchard Society. Useful information, like the fact that blueberry roots never go deeper than eighteen inches and sound advice for dealing with the pH issue (blueberries require very acid soil).


Jacquie said...

Great Blog!
Hi there. My parents live in Port Orange. I wanted to give my Mom a blueberry bush for mother's day. Do you have a nursery you recommend in the Central area. I live in Miami and use Pine Island Nursery for down there.

Thanks you,


My new blog is Homegrown - Miami
but you can email me at

Anonymous said...

I live in New Smyrna Beach and I just looked at some Sharpblue blueberries at an old furniture store/variety store. They have some nice healthy plants at $18. They are located on W. Canal Street. The building is under new construction and the roof is off, but they are still open. It's a funky place, but they have some nice blue berry plants, avocado trees, and Cherry trees. Their number for directions is 386-426-8489

Anonymous said...


I also live in NSB - well, some of the time, but beginning to be there more and more. This is TOTALLY off the topic, but I'm interested in starting a "chat room" or somehting like that - for people that are coming in from MCO - or the Orlando area - to NSB. The DOTS is a hassle (but nice in an emergency) and I don't always need ar car once I'm there. My husband and I are both in eduacation and will be there Mar 16- 23. Maybe we could meed at the coffee shop and discuss this.Maybe you have some ideas to share.. BTW - I'm also interested in gardening and will eventually have a garden in my badk yard !