TREES & plants

Highbush blueberry

Leaves and immature fruit of highbush blueberry.

Highbush blueberry is an acid-loving, medium-sized shrub for extremely wet sites. Clusters of white urn-shaped spring flowers, edible blue fruit, and reddish fall color add year-round appeal.
"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."

Botanical name: 
Vaccinium corymbosum
All Common Names: 
Highbush blueberry; Swamp blueberry
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Landscape Uses: 
  • Foundation, 
  • Hedge, 
  • Massing, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
Mature Height: 
6 to 12 feet high
Mature Width: 
8 to 12 feet wide
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Wet soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Requires
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Intolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Season of Interest: 
  • Early summer, 
  • Mid summer, 
  • Late summer, 
  • Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Multi-stemmed, 
  • Round, 
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Highbush blueberries can reach 6 to 15 feet high.
Some plants are self-fertile but planting 2 plants ensures better fruit set. May take 4 to 8 years to produce fruits.
Best in sunny, acid  (pH 4.5 -5.5) , well-drained but moist soils with lots of organic matter. Will not produce in too alkaline soil.
Keep soil evenly moist, do not let dry out. Mulch to conserve moisture and moderate soil temperatures.
Prune plants when they reach 5 feet tall, then annually remove old wood and thin crowded branches.

Disease, pests, and problems

Chlorosis in high pH soils, stem cankers,  virus, and plum curculio

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 8
Maine to Minnesota, upper North America, including Illinois

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Birds and other wildlife are attracted to the fruit. Can be a nuisance.

Bark color and texture 

Thin, yellow-green  to reddish stems in winter. Young stems are hairy.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, simple to elliptical, 1 to 3 inches long on short petioles.
Leaf sizes can be variable even on same plant. Dark green above, paler beneath. 
Fall color is brilliant red.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Short, terminal clusters of white, urn-shaped flowers in late April to mid-May

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Green berry matures to a dark purple, covered with a whitish bloom. Fruit ripens in July and is edible.

Cultivars and their differences 

Several cultivars available and should be selected by climate location.

Vaccinium corymbosum or Highbush blueberry