Deciding on the best variety of blueberry to grow is a two-step process for Tennesseans. The first step is to determine which type of blueberry bush-- northern highbush, rabbiteye or southern highbush--to grow, and which type is best grown in your area. Once this choice has been made, the next step is to choose a couple of cultivars that are known to grow and produce well in Tennessee. More than one variety of blueberry bush is usually required since southern highbush and rabbiteye are not self-pollinating.
Northern Highbush Blueberries
Northern highbush blueberries require cooler temperatures and consistent watering or rainfall. They are best grown in the higher elevations such as those found in the Appalachian Mountains. If grown in the lower ranges, frequent irrigation will be required.
The best early season varieties for Tennessee include Duke, Bluetta, Collins and Patriot. Midseason varieties good for Tennessee include Blueray, Berkeley, Bluecrop, Bluejay and Spartan. Late season varieties that are good include Herbert, Jersey, Darrow, Elliott and Earliblue.
Rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei) are a good choice for those living in the lower elevations of southern Tennessee. They are more drought and heat tolerant then northern highbush, but also more susceptible to frosts. Rabbiteye produces a smaller, sweeter berry then highbush. For best results, the University of Tennessee suggests mulching around rabbiteye bushes in order to maintain a consistent moisture level.
Early season varieties that are good for Tennessee include Garden Blue, Austin, Brighwell, Premier and Woodward. Early-mid season varieties that are good include Climax, Southland and Tifblue. Midseason varieties that are suitable include Bluebelle, Brightblue (Briteblue), Chaucer and Powderblue.
Southern Highbush Blueberries
The southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum x Vaccinium darrowi) is a relatively new hybrid, which means that not a lot of information is available about the overall productivity of its varieties. According to Felder Rushing and Walter Reeve, in their book "The Tennessee Fruit and Vegetable Book," it is hardy to USDA Zones 7a and warmer, which means it should only be grown in areas of southern Tennessee. Since it flowers and fruits earlier than both the highbush or rabbiteye varieties, it is more susceptible to frost.
Rushing and Reeve state that Cape Fear, Legacy and O'Neal are good choices for early season blueberries, while Blue Ridge and Summit are good choices for midseason blueberries.