Lowbush Blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) are low-growing wild shrubs native to North America. This species will provide interest in your garden throughout the year.
In the spring you'll see white flowers with a pink tinge growing in clusters. During the summer the small, sweet, edible berries begin to ripen. In the fall, the dainty foliage turns shades of vibrant red, providing a much-needed splash of color at that time of year.
In the wild, these bushes are usually found in forest glades or meadows with sandy soils. Sometimes they even grow along the edges of boggy wetlands.
They aren't very often cultivated specifically for their berries on a large scale. Instead, it's much more commonly their larger relative, the Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), that is found on supermarket shelves.
If the conditions are right, this shrub will make a pretty and low-maintenance ground cover option for areas without much footfall or for along border edges.
|Botanical Name||Vaccinium angustifolium|
|Common Name||Lowbush Blueberry, Late Sweet Blueberry|
|Plant Type||Decicuous shrub|
|Mature Size||Up to 24 inches|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun/ partial shade|
|Soil Type||Loamy, sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Preference for an acidic soil|
|Flower Color||White, with a pink tinge|
|Hardiness Zones||2 to 7|
|Native Area||Northeastern United States|
How to Grow Lowbush Blueberry
Providing your Lowbush Blueberry is planted in a site that has the right conditions, they're regarded as pretty low maintenance. They're just rather picky about soil conditions.
These bushes prefer full sun or partial shade. If you have a very shady garden, this won't be the shrub to opt for as it won't produce many flowers or berries.
Using a thin layer of organic mulch to cover the ground around young shrubs can help to protect the roots and rhizomes. This isn't a shrub that does well with root disturbance, particularly when it's just maturing. The mulch will also help preserve soil moisture in drier regions.
The amount of water your Lowbush Blueberry bush will need depends on the region you're located in. It prefers evenly moist conditions, especially during the growing season. Be careful not to overwater, though. Standing water can cause damage to the root system.
Temperature and Humidity
These shrubs don't do well in regions that are hit by a lot of strong winds, but they can cope with a wide variety of temperatures.
They can do well in sunny regions, and are also fairly hardy. Lowbush Blueberries have been known to survive even when temperatures hit as low as -40°c. Although, in these types of conditions, mulching would be recommended.
If you plan to feed your Lowbush Blueberry bush, make sure you select a fertilizer designed for acid-loving species. A slow-release, soluble, ammonium nitrogen granular variety that is marketed for plants like rhododendrons or azaleas will be a good option. Choosing an organic variety is not only better for the environment, but it's also even more slow-releasing, and you won't have to apply as often.
Propagating Lowbush Blueberry
It's possible to propagate Lowbush Blueberry from half-ripe wood cuttings, but it's a slow process, and it isn't always successful.
Because this shrub produces long underground stems called rhizomes, in well-established plants, propagation from these can produce good results. This should be done in early spring before the new buds establish. Take a piece around six inches long and make sure it has several buds. Once planted and waiting for the cutting to establish, it should be kept warm and moist.
If you want to ensure your Lowbush Blueberry continues to yield a decent harvest and has a healthy bloom, pruning the shrub after harvesting every other year is recommended. If you just have one or two shrubs, pruning to remove old sections of growth or those that are not as healthy will be the main requirement.
If you're using the shrub as a ground-covering across a wider space, it can be mowed to the ground in late fall once the leaves have fallen. It's essential that pruning only happens during the shrubs dormant period. Be aware that mowing will mean you won't see any harvest the following season, so you may want to only prune some of the plants one year, and the others the following. That way, at least you will still get a berry harvest annually.
Make sure that you remove the flowers from your shrub the first year after they bloom as this will encourage healthy root and plant growth going forward.
Rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants, wild blueberries are becoming more widely available commercially. Why wouldn't you want to harvest the berries growing on your shrub to take advantage of their health benefits and delicious flavor.
Be careful during the first few years of harvesting. If you're using a raking technique to gather up the ripe berries, this can be too harsh for the young plant. The rhizomes don't like to be dislodged during those early years.
Growing From Seeds
Growing from seeds can produce good results, but be aware that you shouldn't expect to see any flowering for at least the first couple of years after planting.
Because this shrub doesn't like root disturbance, especially as it's growing, it's best to sow the seeds in pots. These can then be planted out to their permanent position once the seedlings are established.
If you're using stored seeds, they will likely need a few months of cold stratifications first. They can then be sown late winter, ideally positioned in a greenhouse for the first year.