In general there are three types of blueberry plants that are cultivated throughout the world: southern highbush, rabbit eye and northern highbush. Southern highbush and rabbit eye varieties are suited to warmer climates and northern highbush types to cold, temperate areas.
Variety selection is critical when considering which blueberries to grow in your area. Keep in mind that warmer climate varieties will grow in cold climates but the fruit may be damaged by the late winter frosts. Alternatively cold climate varieties will not set fruit reliably in warmer climates and the plants will suffer in the long hot summers. Blueberry varieties will cross-pollinate within group types and improved fruit set and an extended harvest season can be obtained by planting 3 or 4 varieties in the garden.
Southern highbush have the lowest chilling requirement. They originate from the Florida area in the USA and are hybrid varieties largely derived from Vaccinium darrowii x Vaccinium corymbosum. They are suited to the warmer subtropical climates of Australia and perform well in coastal and warmer inland regions from Sydney to far North QLD. Large commercial plantings in Coffs Harbour and northern NSW wales primarily consist on southern highbush varieties. The plants are generally semi-deciduous or evergreen depending on the climate. In warmer climates fruit usually begins to ripen on the bushes in winter and continues throughout spring.
Rabbit eye varieties are low chill varieties but are also adaptable to moderately cool climates. They are derived from the Vaccinium ashei species and are referred to as rabbit eyes because the immature pink fruit is similar to the pink eye of a rabbit. Once fully ripe the fruit is similar in colour to the other types. Rabbit eye varieties are generally very vigorous hardy varieties that produce later in the season than the southern highbush types. The plants are generally semi-deciduous or evergreen depending on the climate. In warmer climates fruit is usually begins to ripen on the bushes in spring and continues throughout summer.
Northern Highbush varieties are cold climate blueberries that require very cold winters to set fruit. They are derived from Vaccinium corymbosum that originates in the Great lakes region of northern America. The plants are fully deciduous and very frost hardy. The bulk of commercial blueberrys grown in Victoria and other colder regions of Australia are northen highbush varieties. In cooler climates these varieties general ripen around December and continue through to April.
- Biloxi (southern highbush) early to mid season ripening with large sweet fruit, often has a second crop later in the season. For improved fruit set plant with Misty or Sharp Blue.
- Gulf Coast (southern highbush) productive, hardy shrub. Early season ripening with medium to large sweet fruit. Self fertile.
- Misty (southern highbush) early season ripening with medium to large sweet fruit. Excellent flavor. For improved fruit set plant with Biloxi or Sharp Blue.
- Sharp Blue (southern highbush) early season ripening with medium to large sweet fruit. For improved fruit set plant with Misty or Biloxi.
- Sunshine Blue (southern highbush) semi dwarf productive, attractive shrub with bright pink flowers. Early season ripening with medium to large sweet fruit. Self fertile.
- Legacy (southern highbush) very hardy, vigorous shrub. Fruit is sweet and medium in size. Mid season ripening. For improved fruit set plant with Gulf Coast, Misty or Biloxi.
- Brightwell/ Britewell (rabbit eye) vigorous upright shrub. Early season to mid season ripening with medium to large sweet fruit. For improved fruit set plant with Powder Blue.
- Powder Blue (rabbit eye) very hardy, late season variety. Fruit is light blue and medium in size. For improved fruit set plant with Brightwell.
- Maru (rabbit eye) is a proven heavy cropping variety suitable for warmer areas. Early season ripening with medium to large sweet fruit. For improved fruit set plant with Rahi.
- Rahi (rabbit eye) is a vigorous upright shrub with outstanding fruit quality. Late season ripening with Loose clusters of firm, very light blue fruit. Very good storage life. For improved fruit set plant with Maru.