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Vaccinium Shrubs and Subshrubs

Many Feature Edible Fruits


The Vaccinium genus contains shrubs and subshrubs like blueberries and cranberries. They belong to the Ericaceae family, which also includes rhododendrons, Scotch heather (Calluna vulgaris), manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.) and mountain laurel (Kalmia spp.)

As with many of the fruits with berry in their names, these plants do not actually feature true berries in the botanical sense. They have a type called an epigynous berry where the ovary forms under the other flower parts.

Most of these plants require soil and water that is acidic. In other areas, you can attempt to grow these plants but it will be difficult. For example, we find it hard to grow blueberries successfully here in Utah since both our soil and water are alkaline. You would need to make your soil acidic and keep doing so for as long as the plant is alive.

1. Bilberries

  • Latin Name: Vaccinium myrtillus
  • Other Common Names: Whortleberries, whiniberries, huckleberries, European blueberries
  • Native to: Europe, western Asia, western North America, Greenland
  • Height: 4-18" tall

Bilberries are smaller than blueberries. They are used in desserts, sauces, jams and drinks. Bilberries are full of healthy flavonoids.

2. Blueberry Types and Suggested Recipes

There are five main types of blueberries available to the home grower: half-high, lowbush, Northern highbush, Southern highbush and rabbiteye. Choose a variety that grows well in your zone and is the desired height. Some are as short as 6" and others are 10' or more tall.

Suggested Recipes:

3. Cranberries

  • Latin Name: Vaccinium macrocarpon
  • Other Common Names: American cranberry, large cranberry
  • Native to: North America
  • USDA Zones: 3-7
  • Height: Up to 1' tall

Cranberries are naturally found growing in bogs and marshes. They require a constant supply of water for proper growth.

The growing area is usually flooded at harvest time and a harvester runs through the plants. Since the cranberries float in water, they can be easily collected from the surface. Some choose to harvest while the plant is dry, but it must be completely so before the fruit is removed.

Recipes to Try Include:

4. Half-High Blueberries

  • Latin Name: Vaccinium corymbosum x Vaccinium angustifolium
  • Other Common Names:
  • Native to: North America
  • USDA Zones: Half-high : Zones 3-7
  • Height: 1.5-4' tall

5. Huckleberries

  • Latin Name: Several species in Vaccinium may share this name
  • Native to: North America
  • USDA Zones: Depends on species
  • Height: Depends on species

Idaho has chosen the huckleberry as its state fruit. They can be used to make desserts and jams.

Recipes to Try Include:

6. Lingonberries

  • Latin Name: Vaccinium vitis-idaea
  • Other Common Names: Cowberry, mountain cranberry, foxberry
  • Native to: Northern Hemisphere
  • USDA Zones: Zones 2-6
  • Height: 2-8" tall

Every time I go to Ikea and eat in the cafe, I drink some delicious lingonberry juice. The fruit of this subshrub has a taste similar to the cranberry.

Recipes to Try Include:

7. Lowbush Blueberries

  • Latin Name: Vaccinium angustifolium
  • Native to: North America
  • USDA Zones: Zones 3-6
  • Height: 6-18" tall

8. Northern Highbush Blueberries

  • Latin Name: Vaccinium corymbosum
  • Other Common Names: Swamp blueberry, swamp huckleberry, blue huckleberry, high blueberry and tall huckleberry
  • Native to: North America
  • USDA Zones: Zones 4-7
  • Height: 6-8' tall

9. Rabbiteye Blueberries

  • Latin Name: Vaccinium virgatum
  • Other Common Names:
  • Native to: Southeastern United States
  • USDA Zones: Zones 7-9
  • Height: 10'+ tall

10. Southern Highbush Blueberries

  • Latin Name: Vaccinium corymbosum crossed with another Vaccinium species from the Southern United States
  • Native to: North America
  • USDA Zones: Zones 7-10
  • Height: 6-8' tall

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