Blueberry Varieties for Michigan (E1456)
A guide to blueberry varieties in Michigan.
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The traditional range for highbush blueberry production is south of a line extending from Muskegon to the lower end of Saginaw Bay. Commercial production is difficult north of this line because of the combination of a shorter growing season (highbush varieties generally need more than 160 frost-free days) and increasingly severe winter temperatures (-20 to -25 degrees F will injure most highbush varieties). Acceptable highbush production can be accomplished in northern Michigan, however, in those zones moderated by the effects of the Great Lakes (USDA hardiness zones 5 to 6; Figure 1). Most areas above this line are in zones 4 to 5, and “half-high” types are the best choice in these areas. Use only half-high varieties in zone 3. Half-high varieties are hybrids of highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium). They are low in stature (2 to 4 feet tall) and tolerate more severe winter conditions than most highbush varieties.
Blueberries require specific soil conditions for good growth and production. Optimum soils are sandy, high in organic matter and very acidic (optimum pH 4.5 to 5.0). Native “blueberry soils” generally have a shallow water table (2 to 3 feet depth), which supplies uniform moisture during the growing season. Flooded soils are undesirable, and some varieties like Bluecrop and Duke are readily damaged by high moisture levels. Blueberries can be grown on upland soils — those with low organic content and a deep water table — but plants require more inputs and generally grow more slowly. Consult Extension bulletin E-564, “Hints on Growing Blueberries,” for complete information on blueberry culture.