Growing Blueberries in Your Jacksonville Backyard

Blueberry growing in Duval CountyThe blueberry bushes planted at the Duval County Extension office are chock full of berries just about to ripen.  I can hardly wait until I am able to snack on some as I work.  If you also love these sweet little berries, you should incorporate a couple shrubs into your landscape too.  However, with blueberries, it takes a little planning and thought before your shovel hits the dirt to be successful. 

The two most important considerations for growing blueberries are variety selection and soil condition.   


In Florida, we can grow two types of blueberries- rabbiteye blueberries and southern highbush blueberries. There are some differences to note between these two kinds. 

Southern highbush blueberries

While these are the first to ripen every year but are more difficult to grow. Because they flower early, they are more susceptible to a late frost.  Also, they are more prone to root rot and less tolerable of adverse soil conditions. However, the southern highbush is better for smaller spaces.

Rabbiteye blueberries

The rabbiteye can reach a maximum height of 12 feet, southern highbush stay smaller.  Give rabbiteye a 7’x7’ growing area, but highbush can go in a 4’x4’ area.  

Plant more than one

Once you decide on rabbiteye or southern highbush, you need to choose at least two different varieties of the same type to plant because blueberries require cross-pollination to bear a lot of fruit.



Not all varieties of blueberries do well in Florida, especially in Jacksonville’s USDA Zone 9a.  This is because we have a low number of chill hours during the winter. Chill hours are the number of hours a deciduous plant requires to break dormancy in the spring.  If the plant doesn’t get enough chill hours, it will have poor bud break, fewer flowers, and less fruit.

Temperatures between 32 and 45 degrees accumulate chilling hours. Below 32 degrees does not count. Time spent above 45 degrees only counts as partial chill hours.

The number of chill hours we get varies each year. has a chill hour map on their website. This winter, Baker County had 383 chill hours.  Baker County was the closest site to Duval where Agroclimate kept records. In the past, blueberry varieties required 300 to 500 hours to set fruit. But, thanks to the blueberry breeding program at the University of Florida, we now have varieties that fruit on as few as 150 chill hours.

This means variety selection is crucial for success.

Rabbiteye varieties bred for Florida include ‘Brightwell’, ‘Powderblue’, ‘Tifblue’, and ‘Woodard’.  Southern highbush varieties for Florida include ‘Emerald’, ‘Star’, ‘Windsor’, ‘Springhigh’, ‘Sweetcrop’, and ‘Farthing’.   


The second most important thing to consider before planting is the soil.  Blueberries like a well-drained soil with a pH of 4 to 5.5 and 2-3% organic matter.  Well-drained soil is what we have.  However, in most Florida yards the pH is going to be too high and the organic matter too low.  To help overcome a high soil pH, you can incorporate granulated Sulphur into the soil a few months before planting. 

Add peat moss to the planting hole to help lower the pH and raise the organic matter content and then mulch with pine bark or pine straw.  Many commercial growers build up raised beds of pine bark or pine fines on top of the native soil and plant directly into that.  To save on costs, some growers will mix the pine bark with the native soil and create beds with the mix. 

growing varieties in containers for jacksonville flContainersOther growers have abandoned planting into the soil altogether and grow in containers.  For homeowners, container planting is a great idea.  This way you can control soil conditions.  The containers need to have

  • drainage holes 
  • at least 24” high 
  • at least 24-30” wide

You can fill the pots with a mix of pine bark or pine fines and compost, which is what the commercial growers do.  Or you can purchase bags of growing media specifically for growing blueberries and other acid-loving plants.  If you can’t find this media at the store, order it online. Southern highbush might be your best choice in a container because of their smaller size. Their pickiness with soil conditions can be overcome by growing in a container, and if you use casters, you could roll the whole thing into the garage if we get a late frost while they are in bloom.  

Stick with it!

No matter what type of blueberry you plant and how you plant it, you should pick all the flowers off the plant the first year and wait until the third year before you really expect to see much fruit.

In the meantime, find a U-Pick farm and support our local growers.  Go to to find a farm near you.  

PS –>DID YOU KNOW?  Blueberries are native to Florida!

Darrow’s Blueberry: A lovely native plant for your edible FL Landscape

In the meantime, find a U-Pick farm and support our local growers.  Go to to find a farm near you.  





Posted: May 22, 2023

Category: Crops, Fruits & Vegetables, Home Landscapes
Tags: Blueberries For Florida, Blueberries In 9a, Blueberry Growing In Jacksonville Fl, Native Blueberries, Rabbiteye Blueberries, Southern Highbush Blueberries

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