The Rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum) is a species of blueberry native to the Southeastern United States, from North Carolina south to Florida and west to Texas. The Rabbiteye blueberry is a deciduous shrub. The leaves are spirally arranged, narrow, and start out red-bronze in the spring only to develop into a dark-green. The flowers of the Rabbiteye blueberry are white, and bell-shaped. The fruit is a berry, which is dark blue to black, and has a thin wax coating.
Seasonal information: Rabbiteye blueberries are grown as an ornamental plant for its fall colors, typically bright orange or red. It is also a highly regarded “super food”, containing beneficial vitamins and nutrients.
Location: When selecting a site to plant your Rabbiteye blueberry bush, make sure the site has full sun and drains well. The plant grows best in moist soil, not in soggy soil. Blueberry plants require acidic, well-draining soil. When planted in soils with a pH higher than 5.5, blueberry plants do not absorb nutrients adequately and become more susceptible to disease. Blueberry plants contract moisture-related diseases when exposed to humid conditions or standing water.
Planting instructions: Dig a hole with the shovel that is about twice the size of the root ball of the bush. Make sure the hole is the same depth as the container it comes in. When planting more than one blueberry bush, dig holes that are at least five feet apart in rows that are 10 feet apart.
Amend the soil from the hole with peat moss. Make sure to thoroughly mix the peat moss with the soil from the hole. Place the Rabbiteye blueberry bush in the hole. Cover the roots with soil-peat moss mix.
Watering: Your blueberry bushes will need to be watered regularly to make certain that the root system becomes well established. The soil surrounding your tree should be moist, but never saturated. Light green leaves can be a sign of over watering, while drooping leaves can be a sign of both over or under watering.
Fertilization: You do not need to fertilize the Rabbiteye blueberry bush at the time of planting. Fertilize the Rabbiteye blueberry bush twice a year, once in the spring and once after harvest.
Weed Control: Hand-pull weeds near the blueberry shrubs. You can damage the shallow root system with garden tools.
Pests and Disease: Rabbiteye blueberries grow best in acidic soil and are subject to few pests and diseases. The Rabbiteye blueberries are not self-fertile, so two compatible varieties should be planted next to each other to maintain growth and fruiting. If maintained with mulching, the berries can handle temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Rabbiteye blueberries can mature to the height of three to six feet with a width of up to three feet. The plant has few insect or disease problems; however, birds and squirrels are prone to eating them.
Pruning: Rabbiteye blueberries require only minimal pruning. Lower limbs can be thinned out to keep the fruit from touching the soil, and excessively vigorous upright shoots can be thinned out several feet from the ground to keep the center of the bush open, and to keep the bearing surface within reach. Spindly, weak, or dead branches should be thinned out annually during the dormant season.
Pollination: Rabbiteye blueberries are not self-fertile and must have two or more varieties to pollinate each other. Honeybees are inefficient pollinators, and carpenter bees frequently cut the corollas to rob nectar without pollinating the flowers. Rabbiteye blueberries do best when pollinated by buzz pollination by bees, such as the native southeastern blueberry bee.