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V. angustifolium – Lowbush Blueberry Small tart berries in summer are good for baking. Lovely orange and red fall color before leaves drop revealing bright green and red winter stems. Small white or pink bell flowers in spring. Portland Nursery offers ‘Burgundy’ and ‘Brunswick’ varieties. Both are self-fertile.
Grows 6”-24” tall x 24” wide, Hardy Z3, -40f
V. ashei – Rabbiteye or Southern Blueberry Similar to Highbush Blueberries, but better suited to growing conditions in the southern U.S. Sweet medium-size berries in mid-summer season. Pink bell flowers in spring and evergreen leaves with a blue cast that turn purple during winter make this an excellent selection for ornamental use.
Portland Nursery offers two varieties:
‘Misty’ grows to 6’ tall, 4’ wide
‘Sunshine Blue’ is self-fertile & grows to 3-4’ tall & wide
Hardy Z7, 0-10f.
V. corymbosum – Highbush Blueberry This is our commercial blueberry. Numerous cultivars are available, offering variety in flavor and size of fruit. Blueberries are tall multi-stemmed shrubs with deciduous leaves that turn bright yellow, orange and red before falling in autumn. Hardy Z3, -40f
V. macrocarpum – American Cranberry This is the source for all things Cranberry, including juice and sauce. Small pinkish flowers in spring, narrow evergreen leaves turn purple in winter and round red berries ripen in Sept-Oct. It grows slowly as a groundcover in sphagnum bogs in the wild, but can thrive in garden soil where there is added organic matter, so long as the roots stay cool and moist. Cranberries are nice additions to container plantings. Grows to 2-6” tall, spread is indefinite. Hardy Z2, -50f
V. moupinense – Himalayan Blueberry Darling little evergreen shrub, grown for ornamental use, but with edible fruit. Small glossy round leaves with some red color during winter months, small red flowers aren’t really noticeable & red-black fruit. Fruit is better suited for wildlife than human consumption. This is a nice plant for borders or container plantings. Thrives in sun/part shade and moist, not waterlogged soil.
Grows 1-3’ tall and wide. Hardy Z5, -20f
V. nummularia – Coin Whortleberry Pink bell flowers in spring, black berries in fall, evergreen leaves and groundcover habit. Thrives in sun/part shade and moist, not waterlogged soil. Grows to 12” tall, 3’ wide. Hardy Z7, 0-10f
V. vitis-idea – Lingonberry White bell flowers in spring, small bright red round berries in summer and glossy round evergreen leaves. Groundcover habit, spreads slowly by underground runners. Thrives in sun/part shade and moist well-drained soil. Nice selection for an edible container plant.
Grows 6-12” tall, 3’ wide. Hardy Z5, -20f
Vaccinium vitis idea ‘Minus’, Dwarf Lingonberry is the commercial variety. This plant is hard to find in the NW, but we stock it at Portland Nursery whenever we can find it. One cultivated variety is more commonly available.
‘Red Pearl’ spreads faster than other varieties but produces less fruit. Grows to 16” tall and 36” wide, though it will take its time getting there. Hardy Z2 -50f
NW Native Vaccinium – These are excellent Northwest Native selections. Follow this link to read more on our Native plant picks page for Vaccinium.
V. membranaceum – Blue Huckleberry
V. ovatum – Evergreen Huckleberry
V. parviflorum – Red Huckleberry
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Genus: Vaccinium – vac-SIN-ee-um
Common: Blueberry, Huckleberry, Cranberry, Lingonberry, Whortleberry
Origin: 450 species from the Arctic to tropical mountains, some from southern Africa
Characteristics: Evergreen or deciduous alternately arranged leaves often display bright fall color, particularly deciduous species. Small tubular white pink or red flowers, and fruit is a seeded berry.
Size: Some small trees are included in the species, but are not grown in the NW. Those included in our discussion are shrubs or groundcovers, ranging in height between 6 inches and 8 feet tall.
Culture: Vaccinium thrive in acidic soil with a pH of 4.5-5.5 which is commonly found in Portland and on the rainy side of the Cascade Mountains. Most would appreciate better soil drainage than is typical in Portland, so adding compost and pumice to the bed when planting will help. Fertilize with cottonseed meal or another acidic fertilizer to support fruiting.
Water enough to keep evenly moist while plants are getting established and rooting into a new location. Back off watering once plants are established, except for in extremely hot summer events.
Over watered plants and waterlogged soil both cause roots to decay and cause plant death.
Light: Plants grown for fruit production need at least 6 hours of sun a day. Several Vaccinium species such as V. ovatum and V. parviflora, will grow well under lower light conditions, but it will inhibit fruit production.
Problems: Vaccinium grown for fruit, Blueberries for example, are often a target for berry-loving birds. Bird netting, scare-away tape or fake predatory critters are commonly used to protect the fruit.
Vaccinium are susceptible to several fungal diseases that tend to be problematic for farmers but not as much for home gardeners. If your plants have worrisome symptoms, please bring samples into Portland Nursery for diagnosis, or follow this link to the Oregon State Extension Service for further research.