Plant of the Month
Blueberry, Rabbiteye (Vaccinium ashei)
The rabbiteye blueberry is an easy to grow, edible landscape plant suitable for any full/part-sun part of your yard. Twisted, peeling stems provide interest in winter; profuse pink blossoms provide nectar for native bees, butterflies and other insects in spring; savory blue fruit is enjoyed by wildlife, humans and my dogs (!) in the early summer; and the long-lasting red foliage provides color in fall.
Rabbiteye blueberries are said to be called rabbiteye because the berries turn pink before they go blue, reminiscent of the eye color of a white rabbit. My first experience growing rabbiteyes came after I dug up two root shoots from a neighbor’s bush. Ten years later those two sticks produce several gallons of fruit each year. In fact, I typically tire of picking long before the final berries have ripened.
Rabbiteye blueberries are native to the Southeast United States and are fairly tolerant of neglect. They do best when grown in acidic soil (pH of 4.0 to 5.5). If your soil pH gets too high the bush will develop yellowing leaves indicative of iron chlorosis. Test your pH and add a soil acidifier as required. Blueberries also like rich, medium to wet, well-drained soil but I don’t typically water my established plants unless they get really dry and my berries need some pre-picking plumping. Adequate watering is recommended during the first year or two after planting for healthy root development. Although blueberries are self-fertile, cross-pollination produces the best fruit crop (larger berries and larger yields) so plant two and share with the birds. - by D. Martin
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