February 2018

Blueberry shrubs add striking color to the fall landscape

Pink Champagne blueberry. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

We think of tall trees and ornamental shrubs when it comes to fall color. Red maple, dogwood, ninebark and oakleaf hydrangeas take front and center in their seasonal display.

But food, too, can be showy in fall, starting with the blueberry shrub (Vaccinium). I bought one two years ago solely because of the deep red leaves this time of year. After the leaves fall, red stems color the winter landscape.

The blueberry, of course, is a power food, known as a healthful fruit loaded with antioxidants. There are two types of commonly grown blueberries  —  highbush (V. corymbosum) and lowbush (V. angustifolium).

Although blueberry is a native Indiana species, it struggles a bit here in the central part of the state. That’s because our soil and water are alkaline and blueberries, like cranberries, rhododendrons and hollies, prefer an acidic environment.

To grow blueberries here, prepare a portion of the bed in full sun where you can acidify the soil with peat moss or sulfur. Many gardeners grow blueberries in boxes (about 2 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide), filled with soil enriched with peat or mixed with sulfur. These products acidify the soil. For exact measurements, download Ohio State University’s “Growing Blueberries in the Home Garden”

I opted instead to use an acidic fertilizer, such as Espoma Holly-Tone or Organic Traditions Soil Acidifier, but any high quality natural acid fertilizer would work. Always read and follow the label directions.

Some types of blueberries require more than one plant for good pollination and fruit production. However, there some newer varieties that are self-pollinating, such as Northsky, a dwarf shrub that gets about 3 feet tall and wide. There also are two new pink blueberries on the market, Pink Lemonade and Pink Champagne, both self-pollinating. But instead of blue fruit, the berries are pink and still nutritious.

1 comment to Blueberry shrubs add striking color to the fall landscape

  • I’d love to grow some blueberries. I tried a few years ago and the rabbits ate the tiny shrubs done to nothing. I should try again, maybe in the larger containers.