If you have decided to grow blueberry plants and do not know which cultivars to plant, ask yourself this question. How will the planting be used? Some growers want all of the berries to ripen at the same time so they can be harvested at the same time. However, if you will market the berries at a farmers market, roadside stand, or pick-your-own operation, you will want to extend your season. Growers can accomplish this by planting several different cultivars that bloom and ripen over an extended period.
The danger of frost is always a concern, but growers can add a few southern highbush types to go along with the rabbiteye types. Southern highbush cultivars do produce an early fruit that is very good quality. The southern highbush has been gaining in popularity in Alabama and are worth a try for growers. Plant them on a small scale, and watch how they make it through a few spring frosts before planting in high numbers.
Vaccinium ashei or the rabbiteye type is the most common blueberry found on Alabama farms and home plantings. There are several different rabbiteye blueberry cultivars that can be found at nurseries, and I would suggest planting different cultivars. Planting several cultivars can extend the picking season as well as aid in cross-pollination. The more cross-pollination, the better the quality of the fruit. If you were to plant an early cultivar and a late cultivar, they would not bloom at the same time and would not cross-pollinate well. Planting early-, mid-, and late-season cultivars would work, but planting several early, several mid, and several late season cultivars would be better.
‘Climax’, ‘Premier’, ‘Vernon’, and ‘Alapaha’ are in the early category. Climax and Premier are favorites because they are very sweet and have been proven over time. ‘Vernon’ and ‘Alapaha’ bloom after ‘Climax’, but ripen about the same time. This may be an added benefit during early spring frosts.
‘Tifblue’ has been the standard mid-season berry for a long time, and it is still a very good berry. ‘Powderblue’, ‘Ochlockonee’, and ‘Columbus’ are mid-season berries that do well and also do not crack as badly during wet weather.
It is easy to find early and mid-season blueberry plants, but late season plants are hard to find. ‘Centurion’, ‘Baldwin’, and ‘Desoto’ are three good ones that would extend the season.
‘Brightwell’, ‘Montgomery’, ‘Titan’, ‘Ira’, and ‘Yadkin’ are a few others that bloom when some of the early and mid-season plants bloom. No matter what cultivars you plant or have already planted, take care of them. This includes weed control, mulch, irrigation, and correct pruning. Although proper fertility is important, it will not help production without these other management practices. If you have any questions about blueberry cultivars or other management practices, contact your county Extension Office.