The LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Super Plant program is introducing an edible plant for fall 2014 — rabbiteye blueberries.
“Several gardeners have asked about adding information on good vegetable and fruit plants to the Louisiana Super Plant program,” AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings says. “In response, we’ve selected rabbiteye blueberries.”
Rabbiteye blueberries got their name from their pinkish immature fruits that resemble the eye of a New Zealand White rabbit. Native to Louisiana and the rest of the South, rabbiteye blueberries will fit into any almost any home landscape.
Blueberries require acidic soil with a recommend pH of 4.5 to 5.5, which is similar to what’s needed for azaleas, camellias and gardenias. The soil also needs to be loose, well-drained and high in organic matter.
“Blueberries can be adapted to container culture if your native soil is incompatible,” Owings says.
You need to plant more than one variety of rabbiteye blueberries for cross-pollination, AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill says. The plants are self-sterile — they won’t pollinate themselves — and cross-pollination is necessary for fruit set. But any varieties that bloom at the same time will cross-pollinate.
Blueberries produce fruit at an early age, typically from mid-May to early July. To spread out the harvest season, it’s a good idea to select early, mid- and late-season varieties. Varieties that ripen earliest include Austin, Brightwell, Climax, Premier and Woodard. Midseason varieties are Bluebelle, Briteblue, Chaucer, Powderblue and Tifblue. The latest-ripening varieties are Baldwin, Centurion, Choice and Delite.
Fall or winter planting works best because it gives the plants an opportunity to become established before the stressful heat of summer. Because they’re a Super Plant, rabbiteye blueberries should be readily available this fall and winter.
The standard spacing for rabbiteye blueberries is 6 feet between plants. If they’re being planted to create a privacy screen or hedge, space them 4 feet apart. If you want individual specimen plants, use a spacing of 8 to 10 feet between the bushes.
Blueberries need full sun to yield the best fruit. This typically means eight hours of sun daily. In addition, it’s a good idea to mulch blueberries with pine straw in order to control weeds, conserve soil moisture and create a good environment for the root system.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.