Growing Bilberries - Straightforward?

In the past I’ve found Bilberries / whortleberries across the moors on Dartmoor. Obviously thriving in the boggy soil and in between rocks, how easy are these to grow at home?

From what I’ve seen online some suggest acid soil, whereas some eBay listings suggest alkaline soil. Not sure what I would need other than seeds to grow these.

Unfortunately I don’t get a lot of direct sunlight unless I put in wind, because I’m on the coast (Dorset), and my house isnt ideally positioned for sun.

Now in spring, were getting some sunnier conditions now and it may be an idea to plant asap.

What sort of conditions do I need, do they differ much from blueberries ?


i assume you mean Vaccinium myrtillus? with Bilberries. And Vaccinium corymbosum with blueberry.

Here we call them bosbes (forrest berry) they grown “wild” here on acidic soil. Anyone that claims alkaline soil is full of it or un-knowledgable. They grow mostly in semi shade here. Although if also seen them in almost full shade under broad leaved tree’s. and some times between higher heath growth.

-Vaccinium myrtillus grows lower compared to Vaccinium corymbosum (~50cm max height (20") vs 150cm (60")
-both like acidic soil.
Vaccinium myrtillus grows on poor soil. So don’t over fertilise
Vaccinium myrtillus mostly grows from new shoots/roots (vegatative propegation) i don’t know how long it takes from seeds but i would expect 2+ years.
Vaccinium myrtillus likes semi-full shade here. where Vaccinium corymbosum seems to do great in full sun.
Vaccinium myrtillus grows in bogs here. But also on sandy nutrient poor soils. On the dryer sandy soils i see them in more shady spots. So maybe they can tolerate more sun when watered more often. But i would not worry about giving them the sunniest spot in the garden. Just give them a nutrient poor acidic soil spot, preferably half shade.

gives an excelent discription of this wild plant. Google translate works fine. Except from the soil/enviroment graph.

voedselrijkdom. Is how nutrient rich the soil is. (1=poor, 9=nutrient rich)
zuurgraad. is how acidic the soil is)
vocht. how much moisture there is.

You can see they prefer nutrient poor acidic soil.

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i agree. they are a understory plant here in Maine as well. they also like water. the wild ones aren’t that productive and i dont think any improved cultivars are sold of them.

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There have been attempts over the years to adapt the whole huckleberry spectrum of species to average lowland urban gardening methods; there is still not a variety commonly available at nurseries here that is straightforward to grow.

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Yes it’s the Vaccinium myrtillus I’m after. Will have a look on eBay for some seeds. For nutrient poor soil I guess any soil without added nutrients will do?

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I have lots of derrberry here… perhaps a southern cousin ? Vaccinium stamineum.
They grow all along the edges of my fields.
Very pretty blossoms… berries ripen mid July into August…but they are quite bland. Birds and chipmonks love them… and i have to bag them if I get any… but chipmonks will chew thru bags to get them.

They turn reddish purple when ripe.

I have hundreds of these… wish they tasted good… but all I have tried were just blah…


maybe experiment with grafting some other Vaccinium onto them?

im personaly looking for
Vaccinium arboreum
as a rootstock for tolerance to less acid soil and it’s tendency to make a single stem.
If anyone in the EU has any, let me know :slight_smile:

Here they are simply known as “blåbær” or blueberries :blush:… When americans and other talk about blueberries, they are mostly talking about those large, bland tasting plants with translucent/white flesh. I never eat those, a waste of time :joy:

The “real” blueberries though, what you refer to as Bilberries, an absolute delicacy! :heart_eyes:… Here they grow all over the place - could probably pick a couple of kilos (4 pounds) in an hour in august, around my house. :innocent:

But, if you are looking for the absolute top of them all - the un-challenged master, it is the cloudberries. Holey moley, what a taste experience!!! :flushed::flushed::flushed:… (rubus chamaemorus)… I believe those are even more difficult to grow than the bilberries though :joy:

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hey, some of our blueberries are quite tasty. its just the shppable ones that are iffy

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Maine is known for its wild blueberries. hands down better tasting than the bigger commercial varieties, but they are small and tedious to pick a large amount… as a child the family used to spend the morning picking them beside the bears in august. i have a cultivar of lowbush blueberry called Brunswick that i grow under my highbush blues. like the wild ones they spread by rhizomes over time. berries are about the size of a pea. i mix them with my highbush ones when i pick them. very tasty. the few bilberries ive had taste very similar but are nearly black all the way through and the shape is different from blueberries. they dont grow as thick as a blueberry does.


i got some cloudberry seed from your country off ebay about 5 years ago. i could not get 1 to sprout. they are supposedly native here but ive never seen them in all my years in the woods.

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Dont they grow a bunch in Alaska @don1357 ? And perhaps in the PNW? Id heard they were very bland, but then people say that about thimble berry / flowering raspberry and i find it delectable

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They are very hard to grow. You have to recreate a bog I believe - I’ve never tried. :joy:… they fruit first time after 4-5 years :astonished:… so, you have to have dedication! The seeds you got may have been bad. I’ve bought so many seeds online and had so much trouble germinating. Then, getting from different source, and getting like 99% germination rate :joy:

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Its hard for me to imagine a Rubus lf any kind being hard to grow. Sounds like this one is pretty fickle. Google seems to indicate that they tend to grow on moorlands. Im imagining conditions not much different that cranberry and perhaps lingonberry being conducive. Perhaps part of the challenge is in growing them at scale.
Here, we have a fair bit of swamp dewberry, Rubus hispidus, that might be sort of an ecological analog. It grows in both wet and dry places actually, which is a not uncommon thing among wetland plants, Ive noticed. It makes sense of you think of their niche in terms of stress tolerance rather than preference. Id think there were a term or shorthand for this principle, though I not been able to locate it if so.

In any case, Id love to try some cloudberries sometime. I generally like to at least try almost any fruit, but The way you describe them adds significant intrigue.

Im recalling that the orange Rubus I was thinking of in Alaska and the PNW is salmonberry- Rubus spectabilis


i grew thimbleberry and salmon berry i bought from rolling rivers nursery. i didnt care for them and they weren’t very productive anyway. im not a fussy person either. maybe they need to be grown in their native soils to taste their best.