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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - July 07, 2008

From: Watertown, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Edible Plants, Shrubs
Title: Planting native blueberry bushes in Tennessee
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have long wished to have wild blueberry bushes at my home. They are native to mountainous regions of my state, but I don't know whether or not it is reasonable to expect to be able to grow them where I live. I have considered constructing some planters for the project, but know that my soil won't get the job done. How can I acquire or prepare the soil I have to be just right?

ANSWER:

To begin with, you are very wise to choose plants native to your area, where they will be accustomed to the environment, and therefore need less water, fertilizer and maintenance. We found three blueberries that are native to Tennessee: Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry) Vaccinium fuscatum (black highbush blueberry), and Vaccinium pallidum (Blue Ridge blueberry). We would suppose that this last would be the most likely to grow wild in Tennessee, but the care and planting of all of them will be pretty similar. Please see this Botany.com website on Vaccinium, which is the genus  name for blueberries. Blueberries seem to naturally grow in wooded areas. Fallen leaves will create a more acidic soil, which this plant needs. If they are planted in a more alkaline soil, such as we have in Texas, they will tend to get chlorosis because the alkalinity of the soil prevents the roots from accessing trace elements that they need from the soil, like iron and manganese. Read the above website thoroughly, as it gives very good instructions on what kind of soil you need to grow the plants you want. If you buy blueberry plants, they will most probably be hybridized, with more than one species as parents. If you want to plant the "real" natives, go to our list of Native Plant Suppliers, put your town and city in the Enter Search Location box and you will get a list of seed companies, nurseries and landscape professionals who work mostly with native plants. It would probably be preferable to purchase the plants than to try to transplant them-first because if they're on private land and you don't have permission, digging up plants is illegal, and second because you have a better chance of survival from potted plants that have been grown for nurseries than from digging up roots and moving them.

Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry) - more information and pictures

Vaccinium fuscatum (black highbush blueberry) - more information and pictures

Vaccinium pallidum (Blue Ridge blueberry) - more information and pictures

 

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