Most blueberry bushes cultivated in the northern and eastern United States are highbush blueberries. These produce most commercial blueberries you find in stores. They famously grow wild in New England, but thrive in warmer environments also. There are cultivars of highbush blueberry suited to almost every growing region, including maritime, southern, arid and northern climates.
Check with a local agricultural or extension resource to choose blueberries suited to your region. In the north, St. Cloud, Patriot, Bluecrop and Jersey are popular strains. In the south, some southern highbush blueberries including Gulf Coast and Jewel have been developed and grow well in areas where the winters are cold enough to promote the dormancy that is part of the blueberry’s seasonal cycle.
Lowbush blueberries grow wild in a vast range across North America, but also can be found as cultivars if you prefer the shape and size of lowbush blueberries. They grow close to the ground, in a dense, springy mat, and don’t get to be more than a foot high. This makes them desirable as a productive groundcover planting for sandy, acidic soils.
Lowbushes also are significantly more cold-hardy than all other types of blueberry bushes, making them ideal for far Northern climates. They will rebloom in the spring even after being covered with drifts of snow all winter. These are very different in growth and planting from the other types of blueberry, and do not produce large fruits, but small, dark berries that are often just called “wild” blueberries.
Midhigh, also called half-high, blueberries are a hybrid of highbush and lowbush blueberries. They are well-suited to Northern regions that have early or late frost dates that would threaten typical highbush blueberries. They usually grow between two and four feet tall, and will survive more severe winters than will highbushes.
Popular cultivars include Northblue and Chippewa in colder regions. Top Hat is a good-producing southern and maritime smaller blueberry bush that falls into the midhigh category but is actually a dwarf variety.
Rabbiteye blueberries are naturally found in some river valleys of Florida and Georgia, but might be suitable for planting in your area under the right conditions. Rabbiteyes require a long growing season, as they flower and fruit later than most highbush blueberries.
They do well in areas with long summers and are considered fairly easy to grow, as they tolerate poor soils. They are more tolerant of drought than other blueberries, and produce firm, round fruit almost identical to highbushes. Plant at least two strains of rabbiteye blueberries, as they can usually only be pollinated by other rabbiteye bushes. Powderblue and Brightwell are two popular strains for home gardeners. Earlier-ripening rabbiteyes include Beckyblue and Austin.
Want to learn more about blueberry varieties?
Check out these sources for more information on the subject.
The University of Florida explains several southern blueberry varieties and their history.
Michigan State University Extension has information on northern highbush and mid-high blueberries.
The University of Maine provides fact sheets, articles and guides on lowbush blueberries.