Rabbiteye blueberries up north? Which varieties to choose?

HighlanderNorthApril 2, 2012

I sold my home and moved in 2009, so I lost my 7 highbush blueberries(and black, orange, purple and red raspberries, blackberries, peach tree, plums, currants, gooseberries, strawberries, hardy kiwis, etc).

I'm not yet ready to replace all those plants, but last fall(November) I was in Lowes, and they had slashed the price of their remaining blueberry plants to 25% of their original cost. But......Most of them were small and not well taken care of, except for 1 plant. It was fairly large and healthy. So I bought it.

ALL garden centers up here sell highbush varieties, so I assumed it was a highbush variety But it only listed about 7 compatible pollinating blueberry varieties that will pollinate it. I had never heard of ANY of the listed pollinators, and no other stores around here carry any of them.

So last night, I go online to find one or 2 of these other varieties(Tifblue, Premier, Climax, Brightwell, Beckyblue, Misty, Woodard, Homebell).

It was then that I discovered that my plant(Powderblue) is actually a Rabbiteye, not a highbush.

Ironically, my Uncle, who is a workaholic, decided to retire and buy a 38 acre organic blueberry farm in N. central Florida in 2003, and he and my aunt spend like 10-14 hour days working that farm. Originally all the existing crops there were rabbiteyes, but he has since planted some highbush too.

I cant get ahold of him right now, so I cant get any info from him about rabbiteyes, so I came ere.

My Powderblue rabbiteye bush was about 4' tall when I bought it, but about a month ago I pulled it out of its pot and since it was badly pot bound, I removed a lot of feeder roots when I loosened the root before planting in a bigger pot. I also pruned the height down to 2.5 feet(because someone told me to prune the top if I prune the roots back to even things out)

It survived winter here, but our winter was very warm. So thats question #1: Will rabbiteyes survive Northern DE winters?

I thought the whole point of compatible pollinators was that they needed to bloom at the same time, or else they wont pollinate each other, but the listed pollinators seem to be early, mid and late season producers, so they shouldnt bloom at the same time. So question 2 is: How can these varieties pollinate each other if they produce and bloom at different times? Or do they actually bloom at the same time, but produce berries at different times and rates?

Question 3: If you had to choose 2 of the compatible pollinating varieties I listed above, which would you choose, and which have the best traits like, best productivity, not too tall but bushy, good size berries, best able to survive northern winters, etc?

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Ive read that Tiftblue are the most cold tolerant of the Rabbiteyes. I would check out Just Fruits and Exotics for Rabbiteye. They have a good selection and list the chill hours for each. I would definatly go with the highest chill hour Rabbiteyes for your location and be able to protect them from freezing in spring.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 7:36PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Bloom date is not correlated to fruit maturity date. They should all bloom near enough together to give at least some cross pollination.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 7:45PM
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Fruitnut is right there will be some cross pollination but if the chill hours are too far apart they might not pollinate sufficiently. Im experiencing this right now with Powderblue. Its blooming much later than my other rabbiteyes. Its in full bloom right now and the only other rabbiteye that has flowers is Brightwell but its only a dozen or so flowers. We will see how well Powderblue gets pollinated. I do have some other rabbiteyes that will flower closer to Powderblue next spring but they were just planted in Feb and all the flowers were removed.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 8:00PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

In high chilling areas like DE bloom of most fruits is much more compressed than in marginal chill areas like south TX. This results in much better overlap of bloom. I don't have first hand experience here. But I know how things operate in low and high chilling areas.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:45PM
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Good point Fruitnut. That makes alot of sense after thinking about it for a minute. By the time its warm enough to break dormancy, even for a low chill fruit, they should all have reached there chill hours.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:52PM
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Since that is the case with blooming you could get any variety of Rabbiteye. Just be sure to protect them from freeze once they start to break. Brightwell is a must as is Tiftblue. I would also suggest Powderblue. There is a new variety called Titon that is the newest Rabbiteye variety out there. Also some newer varieties are Austin, Alapaha, Vernon, and OCHLOCKONEE. These are suppost to have better attributes than the older standard varieties.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 11:00PM
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