When Are Blueberries in Season? A Guide By Hardiness Zone
Not sure when blueberries are in season based on where you live? Blueberries season a bit differently depending on your hardiness zone. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen walks through everything you need to know about blueberry seasonality across all USDA hardiness zones!
Blueberries are a wonderful addition to a sunny garden plot. They are fruit-bearing woody shrubs that are relatively easy to grow. Given ideal conditions and proper care, they will reward you with an abundance of sweet fruits for many years in the future!
If you have never grown fruiting shrubs or trees before, blueberries are a great place to start. Blueberries are low-maintenance, vigorous plants that are also attractive in the garden. You may have to share some with the birds, but a healthy cluster of plants should produce plenty of berries for everyone.
Blueberry plants are readily available commercially and there are cultivars that are adapted to many different climates. Find out which varieties are best suited for your climate, as well as when they will be in season. Let’s dig in!
Blueberries can be grown in most climates, in containers, gardens, and in edible landscapes. They are easy to grow, produce an abundance of fruit, and are attractive shrubs. If that all sounds appealing, especially if you enjoy eating them, you should definitely consider adding these plants to your yard.
But wait! Before you run to the nearest nursery and grab a truckload of new shrubs, there are several general things you need to consider before planting. It may take some extra time and preparation to get your site ready for blueberries, but the extra work will be well worth the effort.
Be sure to select an ideal site and prepare it appropriately before purchasing plants. Provide your plants with the best start that you can so they can adapt quickly to their new home. With a little planning and regular maintenance, your plants should grow well and be a rewarding addition to your yard.
The following are some blueberry basics to think about while planning to add these plants to your garden:
- Blueberries thrive in full sun.
- They can take 2-3 years to regularly produce fruit.
- Plant more than one variety, if possible.
- Blueberries need acidic soil; between pH 4 and 5 is ideal.
- Soil should be well-drained but moist.
- Water regularly during times of drought.
- Fertilize with compost, and avoid over-fertilization.
- They tend to be fairly resistant to pests and diseases.
- The best seasons to plant are early spring or fall.
- Don’t expect, or even encourage your plants to fruit for the first few years.
- Prune off flower buds the first two years to encourage healthy establishment.
- Give each plant plenty of space to grow.
- Prune your plants each year during winter dormancy.
- Flowers appear in spring and attract numerous pollinators.
- Harvest fruits in summer.
- Blueberries generally have attractive red foliage in fall.
There are several varieties, each with unique characteristics. Lowbush, highbush, and rabbiteye are the most common types of blueberry, and there are several cultivars within each of these classes.
Some plants are better suited for warmer climates, while others grow best in cooler climates. Be sure to select varieties that will grow best in your climate zone.
Each variety has its own unique set of characteristics, and some of these may be subtle. Different cultivars will vary in the timing of flowering and fruiting. There will be differences in the size of the plant at maturity.
Other differences may be slight variations in fruit size, fruiting abundance, and firmness and longevity of fruits. And of course, there is a range of tolerance to heat, cold, or drought.
Three Most Common Types of Blueberry
These tend to be smaller plants, more similar to the native blueberries found in the wild. There are some varieties available commercially, and these may be better suited for container gardening than highbush varieties.
These tend to be the tallest of all varieties. They are self-fertile, have larger berries, and be quite disease-resistant. Highbush varieties also tend to be the most commonly available commercially.
These plants can also grow quite tall. Rabbiteye varieties are generally better adapted to warmer climates. They may have tougher skins than Highbush and Lowbush varieties. The fruits of these plants will turn from green to pink to blue.
Most blueberry plants are self-fertile, meaning a single plant is capable of bearing fruit without cross-pollination with another plant. A few varieties require another blueberry of a different variety for successful pollination and fruiting.
Even the varieties that are self-fertile, however, will have greater fruiting success if cross-pollinated with another variety. Berries on cross-pollinated plants tend to be both larger and more abundant. It is therefore recommended that you plant more than one variety for the best fruit yield.
Fruit Ripening by USDA Hardiness Zone
Berries ripen in summer, but each variety has slightly different timing. That means if you plant two or three different varieties, you will extend your harvest seasons more than if you have just one variety. Some ripen a little earlier in the season, and some ripen a little later, with differences ranging from a few days to several weeks.
Some varieties are better adapted to more southern climates, while others are better adapted to more northern climates. You will, of course, need to select varieties that are best suited to your climate.
Your climate zone will be the biggest factor to determine the timing of fruit ripening. All varieties flower early in the spring and fruits typically ripen a couple of months after flowering.
Figure 1. A general guide to ripening by USDA climate zone. The exact timing will vary. Ripening will be affected by the varieties planted and local climate conditions.
If you live in Zones 3 or 4, you already know it’s cold and your choices for growing fruits are limited. With a short growing season, you will need to select cold-hardy varieties. The good news is that there are some varieties that will tolerate and even thrive in cold climates.
You may need to add some extra mulch around the roots to protect them from extreme winter weather. You can expect blueberries grown in Zones 3 and 4 to ripen in July and August.
There are many varieties well-suited for growing in Zones 5 and 6. You should have some great options here, and should definitely try to grow a few different varieties if you have a space for them. You could easily grow your plants in a garden or in large containers.
Beware of heavy clay soils; as most varieties prefer moist but well-drained soil. You can expect blueberries grown in Zones 5 and 6 to ripen in June and July.
You should have plenty of choices in Zones 7 and 8. Select plants that are suitable for moderately warm climates. Be sure to prepare your site well before planting to ensure your soil is well-drained, but also remember to keep them watered during times of drought.
You can expect blueberries grown in Zones 7 and 8 to ripen in June, July, and perhaps even into the first part of August.
Zones 9 and 10 are warm with a long growing season. Be sure to select southern varieties best suited for warmer climates. Keep an eye on soil moisture and keep them watered during times of drought.
You can expect blueberries grown in Zone 9 to ripen in April, May, and June. In Zone 10, berries may start to ripen as early as March, and extend into April and May.
If you are interested in growing your own blueberries, you should be able to find varieties suitable for your climate zone. Regardless of which zone you live in, there are many options to choose from. Try growing more than one variety to both lengthen your harvest season but also increase your berry crop.
A well-maintained plant in ideal conditions will continue to grow vigorously and produce an abundance of fruit for many years. So you can look forward to your own fresh, sweet, delicious fruits every summer!
For the greatest possible success with these fruiting shrubs, don’t purchase and plant them until you have selected the best spot and prepared the soil. A well-established and well-maintained plant will be healthy, vibrant, and prolific.