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  • Are southern highbush really better...variety talk

    Can't talk blueberries very long without talking varieties. I've grown lots of SHB varieties, a few NHB, and tasted many NBH. I think the SHB are well ahead at this point on eating quality, mainly Sweetcrisp and Springhigh. I have high hopes for several of the other new SHB like Indigocrisp and Kestrel. Sweetcrisp was a real breakthrough IMO, sweeter and much crisper. The texture is as much or more the advancement as taste.

    SHB are likely ahead because of the strong breeding program in FL.

    What do you guys think? What great varieties am I missing?
    Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7

  • #2
    I only can grow Southern Highbush because of our climate. Plants with a winter chill of about 300 is the upper cut off, though I have mild success with things up to 500 chill hours. I get fruits, but not too many. Star is marginal here, though it's worth growing. O'Neal is impossible because it won't leaf in the spring.

    I agree that the UF breeding program has allowed for significant advancement in new warm weather varieties. Too bad it's almost impossible to get most of them these days.

    I'm interested in the really low chill ones they are developing. It think it might be possible to have berries much of the year. Some years I start getting berries ripening in November. Alas there aren't too many and the birds get first crack at them. I'm hoping some of the really low chill ones like Kestrel and Chickadee would make that possible. And they are supposed to taste really good.

    As for flavor, I agree about sweetcrisp. I received some fruits last year (thank you, thank you) and they were very good. And I've also had some of my own ripening very recently (just 3 or 4 every now and then). Not many, and only those on low hanging branches, but super fresh they are superb. And exceptionally good even before fully ripe so I can beat the birds. I will say that here the Sweetcrisps seem to be putting out more fruit than I thought they would. More than Star which also is 'moderate' production. I noticed their (SC) chill hours have been reduced from 300 to '200-300' hours. If this year is any indication, SC might have a very long fruiting season here.

    I'd like to try springhigh because I've read good things about it, but alas can't get it here except through Floriday Hills Nursery which seems to have a checkered reputation. I've never ordered from them, so that's hearsay.

    As for great varieties you are missing, I think you've tried more than I have, so alas I have no suggestions.
    Last edited by Gina; 02-19-2015, 03:42 PM.
    SoCal, zone 10.
    www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.


    • #3

      I've had some success forcing off season bloom by pruning. You need to wait until the plant has set fruit buds. Then prune. It might help to force growth via water and nitrogen. In your climate try pruning July-early Sept. Maybe even earlier. This also has a tendency to force "bull" clusters with huge berries.

      In Socal I've read that commercial growers are forcing off season fruit probably by pruning. Fruit that matures during cool weather will be tarter than normal for that variety. Last yr I had some mid winter Santa Fe, a very sweet low acid variety, that were exceptional sweet/tart.
      Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7


      • #4
        I usually do a very hard pruning just after harvest is finished - which for here is June-ish. Then they grow like weeds. I've heard about the tip pruning, but am not sure I have the heart to prune off any flower buds. But will consider it this year - maybe as a trial on some.

        As for 'bull' clusters, I think I know what you mean. Sort of rogue, strong clusters with big berries. My emeralds sometimes produce those.

        On Christmas day 2 years ago, I was able to pick 2 pounds of berries, mostly from emeralds. That was extremely unusual.

        Just this afternoon, after reading this thread, I checked my plants and found about a dozen ripe ones.... which never made it to the house. I think I'm going to have two distinct harvest periods this year because of the odd weather. If it continues to be warm, in about a month or so, and then perhaps a gap, and then Late April through June. Just a guess at this point.
        SoCal, zone 10.
        www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.


        • #5
          Hi Steve and Gina! Glad to see yall here!
          I agree with everything said so far. For me, Sweetcrisp is the GOAT! The next best thing is Springhigh and third would have to be Sunshine Blue. I know Steve hasnt want to trial Sunshine but I can assure you its a fantastic little plant. It puts out some lbs as well and I would think being smallish statured would be a benefit to you in the green house environment. Its tops in taste and a family favorite every year. The best thing about Sunshine IMO is its a late bearing variety and extends the season for me. Actually Im going to propigate several more this year to increase my end of the season harvest as its the very last one to ripen fruit. One thing about sunshine is once the fruit turn blue, you really need to leave them hanging for at least 2 weeks to really get the full taste profile. They are excellent!
          Im also growing a variety from Wills that Im excited about. I hope it turns out to be a real winner in my area.


          • #6

            I hope my bragging about Springhigh hasn't infected your thinking. Because I'll admit to still having a small doubt about identity of my Springhigh. None of the descriptions brag about Springhigh. Fall Creek says good flavor but others are outstanding according to them.

            This table rates SH an 8 which is below Kestrel, Sweetcrisp, Scintilla, and Snowchaser.

            University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension outreach is a partnership between state, federal, and county governments to provide scientific knowledge and expertise to the public. The University of Florida (UF), together with Florida A&M University (FAMU), administers the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.

            I will have fruit on Snowchaser this spring for first time.
            Last edited by fruitnut; 02-20-2015, 03:23 PM.
            Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7


            • #7
              LOL, so you think when the Fruit God him self raves about a variety its not going sway popular opinion? You may have infected me some, but it was funny how we both came to the agreement that yours was Springhigh because of the same liners I receieved from FHN. Mine were labled Springhigh and if I remember right yours were suppost to be Sweetcrisp? From the description I think we came to that conclusion about your plants between the varieties they carried and the growth and fruiting patterns of my Springhigh. Who knows, they could be completely different varieties, but I doubt it. They are very tasty no matter how you slice it or dice it. They are the first to ripen for me and my wifes absolute favorite!
              I got rid of Snowchaser this past year as well as Jewel. Now Im only growing Emerald, Springhigh, Sunshine and Sweetcrisp. I definatly narrowed down my vareities from 3 years ago. I can officially say these are the best plants for my neck of the woods.....so far! To me, Emerald isnt that out standing of a fruit, but it is good and you cant agrue with the production. Its a beast in that catagory. Hoping some of these other new FL varieties come out soon. Ive got my eye on a few of them.
              What new blues are you growing this year Steve?


              • #8
                Besides Snowchaser I'll have a small handfull of Raven and a bit of Farthing. Have plants of Scintilla. I grew both of the later two before but both died early. I've tried all of the top 10 in table post #6. Need the rest below Sweetcrisp.

                Of others I've tried Southmoon was one of best. If left to hang 4-6 weeks after turning blue it could have a sort of fermented flavor that was good.

                Santa Fe is very sweet but very soft. It also gets some kind of leaf spots that here don't hurt anything. Only foliar disease I've seen.

                First to ripen does indicate Springhigh. And mine sets without cross pollination another listed trait of SH.
                Last edited by fruitnut; 02-20-2015, 04:33 PM.
                Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7


                • #9
                  These are the varieties I've grown the past decade or so:
                  - Sunshine Blue. did not do well, didn't like it. Got rid of it. Late bearing, which was good.
                  - Ozarkblue - too high chill for my area. Never leafed out. Committed Vaccinocide.
                  - O'Neal - blooms well, but did not satisfactorily leaf out. Still have one, but will get rid of.
                  - Misty- does well here. Reliable, old-fashioned blueberry taste, but many small fruits and long season
                  - Sharpblue. does well here. Low to no chill. Bears late, but has variable sized fruits, and tends to not have good texture. I keep it because it extends the season
                  - Southmoon. One of my favorites. Pretty berries, great taste, easy to pick, but bush not as vigorous as some. Late bearing - another plus.
                  - Star. Pretty berries. Don't bear that well here. Marginal chill.
                  - Abundance- Misnamed for here. Not that many fruits, but interesting taste and texture. On probation.
                  - Emerald. Vigorous plant, prolific fruits. Pleasing but mild flavor. First to bear significant crop, and I just like it.
                  - Jewel. Prolific, taste not that great. Easy to pick. Most are given away to people who think they are the best berries ever.
                  - Biloxi. Does well in my low/no chill area. Fruits tend to be small and not easy to pick. Taste said to be excellent, I find it average.
                  - Sweetcrisp. Shows exceptional promise for my area. This might be an odd year, but it shows promise of both early and late bearing. My favorite thus far.
                  And a couple new varieties this year which are in their first vegetative growth phases. Both look very good on paper. Hoping to get first fruits next year.

                  There are others I'd like to try, but unfortunately it's very difficult to get the newer varieties here in California. I feel very fortunate to have gotten the ones I have. That is why I also hang on to so many of the older varieties. And they are all blueberries, so that makes them automatically good.

                  Last edited by Gina; 02-20-2015, 05:30 PM.
                  SoCal, zone 10.
                  www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.


                  • #10

                    Thats what we need Gina, some descriptions from home growers. I like reading the nursery and UFL descriptions but they can be some what vague and you really cant go off of whats said until you try them your self. Springhigh is a great example of that. By the descriptions you could easily count that one out if your only going to have a few plants. IMO, that would be a mistake if you live in the South assuming that what me and Steve have are actually springhigh. I posted a similar description of the varieties I grew a few years back on GW. I will have to dig it up and post it on here. I had a different experience with Southmoon than yall for some reason. Im 80% sure it was Southmoon. Got it from a local nursery and it was from Morinova ( I think thats how you spell it?). It was a very distinct plant compaired to all my other varieties at the time. The most striking thing about the bush was its looks. Especially in the fall, it put on a real show. I looked like it was on fire and had larger leafs than most varieties. Maybe I didnt let the fruit hang long enough but it did have a very distinct off flavor. My oldest son said it had a chemcial/bleach after taste when eaten fresh off the bush. That being said, after being refridgerated for a day or two that off flavor dissappeared and it was a pretty good. Not outstanding, but good.


                    • #11
                      Well I'm definitely not a seasoned blueberry grower, in fact every one I planted in ground died (7 over multiple years). My whole family loves blueberries so I recently bought a Sunshine Blue from Tractor Supply for $5. I am definitely not wanting to plant it in ground, but would like any thoughts about putting it in a SIP. If its possible, what type of soil/amendments will it need?

                      It's already leafing out in the pkg placed in a window as its too cold right now for planting.

                      Also (if they can be grown in SIPs) what types are good for zone 8b?


                      • #12
                        Hi Jenn,
                        I havent grown a blueberry in a SIP yet. I wanted to try it but just never got around to it. I dont see why they wouldnt thrive in a SIP as they love a constant supply of moisture. As far as soil mix goes I would probably just use straight CSPM. You could try adding some perlite or pine bark fines as well. I dont see how it could hurt. If you do it, please keep us posted. I would love to hear how it turns out for you.


                        • #13
                          I've also not grown BBs in SIP but do grow all of mine in containers, My mix is almost whatever I have on hand that is both porous yet retains moisture. If you want something more 'kosher', if not what Blueboy suggested, you can try azalea mix. That's also for plants requiring low pH. Azaleas and blueberries are in the same plant family as are heathers.
                          SoCal, zone 10.
                          www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.


                          • #14
                            Thanks to both of you. I just bought a couple more yesterday so now I'm committed

                            Gonna give it another try


                            • #15
                              Hi Jenn.. what varieties did you get?

                              Just like figs and potato chips, once you start, you won't be able to stop....
                              SoCal, zone 10.
                              www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.


                              • #16
                                I am growing Sweetcrisp, Springhigh, Snowchaser, Emerald and Sunshine Blue. My fave by taste is obviously Sweetcrisp, followed by Springhigh. My Snowchaser is new to me, but I should hopefully be able to provide a report in a few weeks.