JAPANESE BLUEBERRY TREE:
Good choice for area
April 12, 2013
By Suzanne LaBrecque/Victoria County Master Gardener Intern
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
Photo contributed by Henry Hartman/Creative Images Japanese blueberry trees are planted on the sunny side of this bed and form the backdrop to a partially-shaded, landscaped location. They provide a dark evergreen color to any setting year-round.
PHOTO BY BRYNN LEE/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Donated to the Master Gardeners as a young shrub by a local garden club about seven years ago, this Japanese blueberry tree stands today in full stature and form growing outside the gate of Victoria Educational Gardens.
PHOTO BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
A group of Japanese blueberry trees are planted in a row in full sun and complement the narrow landscape. Taken several years ago at a local hospital, this photo shows trees that continue to flourish through time with minimal pruning.
As my friend Grace Margaret and I left for one of our day-ventures last fall, she said, "Oh look, my neighbors are planting blueberry trees!" She continued, "It's a lovely tree and will grow quite large."
Later that day, as we left a local restaurant, Grace Margaret commented, "Oh, there's another blueberry tree, but this one is being grown like a shrub."
My response was "blueberry trees and shrubs? I thought blueberries grew on bushes?" Ah, time to learn more about this special tree that is also a shrub.
The Japanese blueberry tree is in the Elaeocarpaceae family and grows in USDA zones 9-11 landscapes. It is classified as an evergreen ornamental tree that likes full sun to partial shade and a well-drained soil.
Tree is actually large shrub
According to a area landscaper, the Japanese blueberry tree is actually a large shrub that began selling in Victoria about 12 years ago. Most consumers preferred them to be tree-shaped, and they are often referred to as the lollipop trees.
Trees more available than previously
In both 2010 and 2011, Victoria experienced very harsh winters, and blueberry tree trunks cracked and contracted diseases. Therefore, the supply of Japanese blueberry trees at tree farms was very limited. In 2012, Victoria had a mild winter, and more Japanese blueberry trees became available again.
Shrub preferred over tree
However, according to area nurseries, the popularity of the blueberry tree has declined and more consumers are choosing the Japanese blueberry shrub. Gardening Central suggests planting the Japanese blueberry tree as a hedge. W.R. Hemsley, who has researched and written about it for Texas landscapes, agrees that the best potential landscape use for this tree is as a large hedge for shielding views or as an evergreen backdrop for contrasting flowers or shrubs.
Adds beauty; attracts birds/butterflies
The tree and the shrub are the same plant, but they are used differently in the landscape. No matter the shape or how they are used, the Japanese blueberry tree is an attractive, fast-growing tree that grows well in the Victoria area.
An added bonus is that it attracts birds and butterflies. And as an evergreen it is a beautiful addition to most landscapes.
Once you recognize the Japanese blueberry tree, you will see them throughout Victoria. In my neighborhood I counted seven of them.
If you are thinking about adding a new tree to your landscape, you might consider the Japanese blueberry tree and plant it this coming fall. Next spring, you'll be glad you did.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
• "Japanese Blueberry Tree" by W.R. Hemsley (included in Michael A. Arnold's Landscape Plants for Texas and Environs, 2005, third edition.
WHY IS IT A GOOD CHOICE?
• Provides evergreen color as tree or shrub
• Fast grower: up to 40- to 60-feet tall; 20- to 40-foot spread
• Stands alone or allows privacy as hedge
• Requires little to no pruning
• Can be pruned to tall shrub
• Serves as backdrop to other plants
• Grows well in sun to partial shade
• Is drought-resistant; pest-resistant
• Attracts birds and butterflies