Vaccinium 'Blueray'
Common Name: highbush blueberry
Type: Fruit
Family: Ericaceae
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 8.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Best grown in acidic (pH of 4.8 to 5.2), organically rich, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Shallow, fibrous roots need constant moisture and good drainage. Plants appreciate a good organic mulch. Although blueberries are self-fertile, cross-pollination produces the best fruit crop (larger berries and larger yields). Therefore it is best to plant more than one variety that will bloom at the same time. Blueberry season can be extended by planting early, mid-season and late varieties which will collectively ripen fruit from late June until mid-August (USDA Zone 5). Best to remove flowers from plants in the year of planting and following year so as to prevent fruit set and encourage new vegetative growth. Prune as needed in late winter beginning in the third year after planting.

Noteworthy Characteristics

This highbush blueberry cultivar is an upright, deciduous shrub which typically grows 5-8' tall (less frequently taller), but is arguably more manageable as a fruit crop when pruned to 6' or less. Dainty, waxy, bell-shaped, white flowers appear in May. Flowers are followed by medium blue blueberries (to 1/2" diameter) which ripen in mid-season (mid to late July in USDA Zone 5). Ovate, dark green leaves (to 3.5" long) turn attractive shades of red in fall. Reddish stems have better winter color than those of most other blueberry varieties. 'Blueray' grows well in Missouri.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Birds love the fruit, so plants may need to be covered with netting as the fruit begins to ripen in order to protect the crop. Chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) may occur in high pH soils. Potential but infrequent disease problems include stem blight, root rot, anthracnose, cane cankers, mildew and botrytis.

Garden Uses

Although often planted solely for the fruit crop, this versatile shrub also has excellent ornamental value (white spring flowers, dark green summer foliage, red fall color and reddish winter stems). Very effective when planted in shrub borders or as part of less formal shrub plantings. Particularly effective in conjunction with rhododendrons and azaleas which share similar acidic soil requirements. Also makes an excellent hedge with the added benefits of summer fruit which can be harvested or left for the birds.