Northern vs Southern Highbush vs Rabbiteye for Zone 7?

I have 4 northern highbush blueberries planted this year: patriot and chandler. Two are 2’ tall and two are between 6 and 12 inches. I kind of expected them to be high maintenance in regards to soil acidity and slow growing but I’m wondering if I made the right choice with the bush “type”.

Norther Highbush seems to be for zone 4 - 7 and Southern Highbush is for 5 - 9. I’ve been burned in the past by planting things that are on the edge of my growing zone and it seems like I may have made this mistake with my blueberries. In addition according to this UMD study they had much better performance with Rabbiteye and some Southern Highbush have exhibited much greater growth and yield than Northern Highbush.

Should I rip up the two smaller bushes (or all of them) and plant a different variety while they are still young and I haven’t invested too much time into them? I am looking for a more taller growing bush if that makes any difference.

Rabbiteye should be easy to grow in most zone 7 climates. They are more tolerant of higher soil PH, low organic matter and too much water or too little water.

Its interesting how much more fruit Brightwell produced over the 3 year study compared to other varieties and how little fruit Premier produced. Premier grows very well in my zone7B. I grow O’neil too but they are more difficult to grow.

If your area is similar to the one in Maryland study, I would replace the NHB that are not doing well with Brightwell and Legacy.


I too wonder why Brightwell is such an outlier in the study. It looks like in 2011 and 2012 its yield was 2-3X all other varieties but then in 2013 it had a substantially lower yield, but still very high when compared to all other varieties.

I know a blueberry orchard an hour or two away from me that sells 3-4’ blueberry plants. Seeing how slow blueberry bushes grow I feel like I may just go ahead and buy those to replace the two small ones I have.

Brightwell, it has always had more buds/blossoms. I have one in a 10 gallon container in zone 6b (or is it 7a now with the new USDA maps). (Kentucky). But, I don’t get much fruit because of lack of pollinators.
SunshineBlue is one I enjoy growing, simi-evergreen, and only 3 to 4 feet tall. Does fine in zone 5 to zone 10. A southern highbush or hybrid.

We started out , 25 yrs ago, with all Northern highbush cultivars, as the UofKY extension folks made the claim that rabbiteyes wouldn’t work here - I don’t recall having heard of Southern highbush types at that time.
My dad brought me little 4 rabbiteyes(variety unknown, by then) that he’d rooted from bushes in his own orchard back home at Auburn, AL.
The productivity of those rabbiteyes was so far above anything the Northern highbushes produced, there is NO WAY I’d ever bother planting a NHB variety here again. It’s rabbiteyes and SHBs for me! They produce probably 20-50X the amount of berries we ever got from a NHB, and don’t get nearly the care we gave those NHBs in the early years. .
Located in Christian Co., KY, just about 70 mi NW of Nashville TN… I’ve not even looked at the zone hardiness maps in years, to see what they now classify us as…
We’ve currently got about 30 bushes… a mixture of rabbiteye and SHB… I’ve lost track of which varieties, though I’m pretty sure that the standard REs - Delight, Woodard, Climax, Tifblue are in the mix, along with Brightwell. Have a few SHBs… OzarkBlue, Summit… maybe a couple others.


I’m in MD. I started with two rabbiteyes and two northern highbush. A decade in now, and while both did fine I’ve replaced the rabbiteye varieties with other highbushs. More a matter of taste and harvest timing than anything…

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Here in West TN my Rabbiteyes are performing exceptionally well. Large now going into their 5th year and around 7 feet tall. All my Northern and half my SHBs are dead. Haven’t lost a single Rabbiteye.

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