Vaccinium - Growing Guide

Vaccinium Care Guide

GROWING VACCINIUM

Blueberry

The vaccinium species and varieties which we grow can perhaps be divided between those which are deciduous, and are grown primarily as a fruit crop, and those which are evergreen ornamental garden shrubs which may also have edible berries.

V. corymbosum and a cultivated/improved fruiting variety called V. corymbosum ‘Blue Suede’ are definitely grown as fruit crops. The bushes grow to around 4-5ft with a similar spread. The long green leaves turn yellow or red in autumn. These plants flower in spring and early summer with terminal racemes of cylindrical white flowers which are followed, in early autumn, by ripe blue-black juicy and edible berries – ‘blueberries’. If named varieties of blueberry are grown to produce a crop the plants need to be grown in a netted cage to keep the birds away. Cropped varieties require hard pruning most years as the flowers and fruit appear most prolifically on young new growth. They are not too fussy about soil conditions, but the soil needs to be well drained.

V. cylindraceum is an upright growing semi-evergreen shrub with glossy lance-shaped leaves. The reference books say that this species will grow to 8ft in height, but we have not found this to be the case in the garden here. However, this is most definitely a very attractive shrub which flowers with us in mid to late summer. It has large hanging racemes of cylindrical, red-tinged green flowers as you can see in the pictures below. We have only occasionally seen a few subsequent blue-black edible berries, but the flowers alone are quite enough to make you want to grow this species.

V. ovatum, the box blueberry, is a bushy shrub growing with us to 8-10ft in height with a smaller spread. It has arching shoots which readily layer themselves where they touch the ground to create a dense clump with rooted shoots that can be moved and planted elsewhere. It has glossy, ovate, leathery leaves which are easily recognisable and reddish or bronzy new growth. The flowers appear with us in May or June in nodding racemes of urn shaped pink flushed white flowers. Black berries follow which have never looked very attractive to us but are said to be edible.

We do not as yet grow cranberries (V. macrocarpa) or bilberries (V. myrtillus).

All species can readily be grown from their seeds set in a cold frame in the autumn or they can be propagated from greenwood cuttings on deciduous species in early summer. Late summer is the time for semi-ripe new growth cuttings on evergreen varieties.

 

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