Pollination of blueberries

Kim_jOctober 15, 2013

Hi!

I recently purchased a Highbush blueberry plant and it is going crazy with flowers - but only just now have I read that I need to have two plants to get a good amount of fruit. Some of the flowers have just started to fall off, but there doesn't seem to be any fruit growth happening (its only a couple of days though). I have a couple of questions:
- Do I really need multiple plants?
- Can I have two Highbush's or do I need to get another one like Rabbiteye?
- Bees are few and far between now (might get lucky to see one a week), can I pollinate them myself with a paintbrush or something?

Thank you everyone :)

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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Hi Kim,

Where do you live? In the US it is fall so not our normal bloom time though we do get some fall blooms from some varieties.

BB are mostly self fruitful but you will get larger and more berries if you have a pollinator. You would want a different named variety of Highbush.

You could pollinate them yourself if you want to but probably not needed.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 7:25AM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Hello Kim,
I was wondering what your location is,because my Blueberry plants are preparing to go to sleep for the Winter,but saw it is Australia,which is different.Is it your Spring there?
What age and size is your plant?Like the first part of your post states,two plants are better than one and it's better that both be Highbush (Southern?).If the plant is young,taking the flowers off will probably be the best thing to do,so more growth can happen.If there is fruiting,it's okay to leave a little.It might be a lot of work to use a paintbrush. Brady

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 7:34AM
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lsoh

Kim,

You indicated that you have a highbush blueberry. Blueberries can be confusing. As you know, there are highbush blueberries and rabbiteye blueberries. Highbush blueberries are further divided between northern highbush and southern highbush. Each of those are further divided into varieties.

The choice between northern highbush and southern highbush would be determined by your garden climate. Northern highbush grow in colder climates, southern highbush grow in warmer climates. (At least that's how they are labeled in the USA.) Compare your gardening zone with the suggested gardening zone of the variety you are considering.

I started with two different varieties of northern highbush because the information I read indicated a single variety wouldn't produce well. Therefore, I have no personal experience trying to grow just one, so I don't know about that. And my climate doesn't support southern highbush, so I don't know about that. But I have 4 northern highbush varieties and they all bloom at the same time. This matches the information I read that pretty much all northern highbush varieties pollinate all other northern highbush varieties. .

What varietiy of blueberry do you have?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 8:32AM
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Kim_j

Hi everyone - thanks so much for the replies!

I live in QLD, Australia, close to the Gold Coast - it is Spring here :)

I am completely new to gardening - so all this stuff is kind of alien to me, but I kept the identification tags of my plants and this seems to be a Vaccinium corymbosum (that is the most detailed infromation on the tag)- I googled it and that seems to be a northern, is that right? The plant itself is potted (we are moving next year and are keeping all our plants potted at the moment) about 2ft high/wide with thick barky stems - so I'm guessing here, but would that make the plant a couple of years old?

Should I start looking for a Southern Highbush or stick with another Northern? How do you tell the difference between the varieties of Northern? The nurseries in my area are generally pretty unhelpful.

Would the lack of bees be a problem? We live near alot of sugar cane farms and I am wondering if the pesticides used on the cane has contributed to the complete lack of bees in are area (I'm allergic to them - so it hasn't really bothered me up until now). It is rather windy here at times, there is generally always a nice breeze - if two plants are close enough together will that do the pollination job?

Thanks for your time :)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 5:28PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Hello again Kim,
Southern Highbush could also be in the Vaccinium Corymbosum species category,although it is a hybrid.When I think of Australia,heat comes to mind and not a lot of cold,but that's just me.So,it's more likely to be a Southern in my opinion.
Is there a common name on the tag? Brady

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 6:29PM
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Kim_j

Hi Brady,

The only thing that it says on the tag is the scientific name, and Highbush Bluebery - im guessing that what you are after ;).

Kim

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 9:14PM
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ericwi

To encourage & support the local bee population, it helps to plant flowers, and it helps if there are blooming flowers throughout the growing season. Here in Wisconsin, I grow some native prairie plants like milkweed, goldenrod, silphium, and aster. We have both bumblebees and honeybees, but the bumblebees are the first to emerge in the spring, and they do most of the blueberry pollination, when daytime temperatures are in the 60's and low 70's. The honeybees are more prevalent when it gets warmer, late spring and into the summer.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 9:24PM
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lsoh

google also leads me to believe that you have a northern highbush. So, you would get the best result if you planted a different variety of northern highbush. Unfortunately, you don't know what variety of northern highbush you already have. So select a variety of northern highbush that appeals to you and hope that it's a different variety. (Don't just buy another blueberry from the same source. It would probably be the same variety.) Or, if you have room, plant 2 more northern highbush varieties. By default, one of the new plants would have to be a different variety than the one you already have.

Unfortunately, poor or incorrect labeling is common. This spring our local Walmart was selling "southern highbush" blueberries. 2 problems. 1) No variety was listed and so the buyer wouldn't know what variety to avoid when buying a pollinating plant. 2) "southern highbush" is not likely to survive here. They should have been selling "northern highbush".

So, how to determine a variety you want? Different varieties have different characteristics. Some varieties produce sweet, large berries great for fresh eating. Some varieties produce small berries, better for cooking. Some varieties produce early in the season. Some varieties produce late in the season. You might want to use the web to find a few varieties that interest you. Here's 2 links that might give you a place to start:
http://www.fallcreeknursery.com/nursery/variety/nursery_northern-highbush
http://www.daytonnursery.com/blueberries%20_web.pdf

Next, where to get varieties that you want from a good nursery that identifies varieties? Generally, if the nursery doesn't label varieties, probably best to keep looking. Many fruit growers buy most of their plants from mail order nurseries to find the best varieties. Unfortunately, I can't point you to any good mail order nurseries outside of the USA. Also note that here, we generally have to order no later than February for spring (May) planting. The nurseries sell out. They hold your plants until time to plant. Might search the web to see what you can find in your country.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 10:03PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Kim,
What are your average low temperatures during the Winter and about how many days and or nights are between 0 and 7 C (32 and 44 F)? Brady

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 11:56PM
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Kim_j

Thank you everyone for the great advice - I am heading off on a trip to half a dozen different nurseries now with all this information to find the right plants - I will probably know more about the plants than they do!

You are all wonderful :)

Kim

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 12:03AM
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Kim_j

Sorry Brady - we must of both been writing our messages at the same time :). Last winter I think that there were only a few scattered days where it dropped below 5ðC and it never gets down to less than 2ðC - at least for as long as I can remember. I would have to say that the average low temperature would be about 7ðC.
Cheers
Kim

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 6:49AM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Kim,
The reason why I ask about your temperatures is that plants need a certain amount of chill hours during dormancy or they don't do well.In the case of Blueberries,they may not fruit.
Most Northern Highbush need about 800-1000 hours between 0-7C and the Southern ones,150-800.So the Southern Highbush are ideal for areas where it doesn't get a lot of cold days. Brady

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 10:31AM
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roflwtime(7a)

Bradybb,

According to getchill.net, it looks like kim got 34ish chill hours this year. That's depressing.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 1:03PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Yeah,that's pretty low ROFLwTIME.But it looks they do grow them in Australia,even Northern Highbush in some areas.Rabbiteyes might be another possible choice,especially if it's humid.
Kim needs to find plants to suit the climate. Brady

Here is a link that might be useful: Australian Blueberries

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 1:37PM
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