A single blueberry bush can produce a huge harvest of delicious fruit. The catch is: you have to make sure the flowers get pollinated before you can pick all those beautiful blueberries!
So, are blueberry plants self-pollinating? Blueberry plants are self-pollinating, which means that their flowers have both male and female parts. These flowers can pollinate themselves, but bees will help to dramatically improve blueberry pollination. Having two or more blueberry varieties of the same type will lead to more even ripening, larger berries, and a better harvest.
Of course, self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination. Blueberries are self-pollinating, but pollinators (such as bees) are needed to help ensure the best harvest possible.
In this article, we’ll talk about self-pollination of blueberry plants and the different types of blueberries. We’ll also talk about cross pollination and how bees can help blueberry plants to produce more fruit.
Let’s get going.
Are Blueberry Plants Self-Pollinating?
Blueberry plants are self-pollinating (also known as self-fertile or self-fruitful). This means that each flower has both male and female parts.
In self-pollinating plants, the male part of the flower can release pollen onto the female part of the flower. This gives each individual flower the potential to produce a blueberry on its own, without other flowers.
However, it is important to remember that self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination.
For one thing, the male part of the flower may fail to release its pollen (especially in humid conditions). The pollen also may fail to stick to the female part of the flower (especially in dry conditions).
Usually, an outside stimulus is needed to help with pollination of self-pollinating plants. The stimulus could come from several things, such as:
- Pollinators (such as bees, which buzz the flowers or carry pollen from flower to flower).
Unfortunately, blueberry flowers will not get any help from the first two items in the list above. According to the Penn State University Extension, the anthers of a blueberry flower are shorter than the stigma.
This prevents pollination by wind or gravity. So, blueberry plants must rely mainly on pollinators to produce berries.
It is also important to remember that blueberry plants can help each other with pollination. Although a single blueberry bush can produce fruit, it will produce more fruit and larger berries when other varieties of the same type are nearby.
When two or more blueberry varieties of the same type are close together, it allows for cross pollination.
Do You Need to Cross Pollinate Blueberries?
You do not need to cross pollinate blueberries to get fruit. A single plant will be able to produce fruit on its own.
However, blueberry plants will produce more fruit with other varieties of the same type nearby. According to the Oregon State University Extension, the basic types of blueberries are:
- Northern Highbush – these blueberry bushes are hardy to the winter cold in northern regions. They can reach heights of 6 to 7 feet at maturity.
- Southern Highbush – these blueberry bushes are not as cold hardy as Northern Highbush varieties. They can reach heights of 6 feet at maturity.
- Lowbush – these bushes are sometimes called wild blueberries. They are often grown in Maine and Eastern Canada. They only grow to about 1 foot tall (hence their fitting name!)
- Rabbiteye – these blueberry bushes are native to the Southeastern U.S. They may not be able to produce fruit consistently in colder northern regions. They are also less able to self-pollinate than other blueberry types. They can reach heights of 9 feet at maturity.
- Half-High – these blueberry bushes are a hybrid. They are the result of a cross between Northern Highbush and Lowbush blueberry types. They will tolerate temperatures as low as -45 to -35 degrees Fahrenheit (-43 to -37 degrees Celsius). They can reach heights of 3 to 4 feet at maturity.
There are also hybrids of northern and southern highbush varieties available.
Cross pollination simply means that pollen from a flower on one plant is used to pollinate a flower on a different plant. Cross pollination is achieved by planting 2 or more varieties of blueberries together.
Cross pollination of blueberry plants has several benefits, including:
- More Even Ripening – the berries tend to ripen more evenly and fully.
- Larger Berries – the berries tend to grow bigger due to earlier pollination.
- More Fruit – more berries are produced due to more flowers being pollinated.
It is important to remember that you will need two different blueberry varieties of the same type to get proper cross pollination.
Also, some blueberry types do not self-pollinate as well as others. For example, according to Clemson University, rabbiteye blueberries do not self-pollinate as well as other types.
They suggest growing two or more different rabbiteye varieties together. This will allow for cross pollination and more fruit.
The same goes for dwarf blueberry plants. They will produce more fruit and larger berries after cross pollination with other varieties. (In fact, cross pollination may lead to a 20% increase in yield!)
In addition to being of the same type, the two blueberry varieties need to bloom at the same type of year. At the very least, there has to be some overlap between the time windows when each plant produces flowers.
The three main seasons (time windows) for blueberry plants are:
- Early Season – these berries ripen in May to June.
- Mid-Season – these berries ripen in July to August.
- Late Season – these berries ripen in August to September.
Online and print catalogs will often include a list of compatible blueberry varieties for cross-pollination. They may also include information on the season (early, mid, or late) for each variety.
Here are some examples of compatible blueberry varieties of each type:
- Northern Highbush –Duke and Earliblue are both early season varieties of the Northern Highbush type.
- Southern Highbush –Jewel and Jubilee are both mid-season varieties of the Southern Highbush type.
- Lowbush – Brunswick and Velvetleaf are both mid-season varieties of the Lowbush type.
- Rabbiteye – Austin and Titan are both early season varieties of the Rabbiteye type.
- Half-High – Dwarf Northsky and Dwarf Northblue are both mid season varieties of the Half-High type.
This list is not exhaustive – you can certainly find other pairings of different varieties of the same type to increase your blueberry yield.
Do You Need Two Blueberry Plants To Get Fruit?
Strictly speaking, you do not need two blueberry plants to get fruit. In theory, a single plant can pollinate itself and produce fruit.
However, it is good to have two or more blueberry varieties of the same type planted together. This will improve pollination and yield more fruit.
More berry bushes will also have more flowers, which will attract more bees to pollinate the other plants in your yard!
Do Blueberry Bushes Attract Bees?
Blueberry bushes attract bees with their abundant flowers. According to the University of Florida Extension, these flowers attract a variety of different pollinators, including:
- Bumblebees (one of the best blueberry pollinators!)
- Honeybees (not as efficient as bumblebees, but they make up for it with their numbers!)
- Southeastern Blueberry Bees (common in Florida)
- Carpenter Bees
- Native Wild Bees (depending on where you live)
All of these bees may visit your blueberry bushes to help with pollination. However, they can certainly vary in their efficiency.
According to the Michigan State University Extension, bumble bees only need to visit a flower once for pollination. Honey bees will need to visit the same flower three times to get enough pollen to ensure that flowers will be pollinated.
In part, this is because honeybees cannot perform “buzz pollination” (flower sonication) like bumble bees can. When bumble bees flap their wings and move the muscles in their bodies, the vibration can shake pollen from flowers.
Honeybees are smaller, so they cannot make the same impact as bumblebees. However, they are still hardworking bees, and their large population helps to make up for their lower efficiency.
Blueberry flowers are most likely to be pollinated within the first 3 days after opening. The chance of pollination decreases drastically after 6 days.
Do Blueberries Need Bees To Pollinate?
Blueberries do not need bees to pollinate. However, you probably won’t get much fruit without some type of stimulus to improve pollination.
According to North Carolina State University, the buzzing of bees (sonication) shakes pollen from the anthers of flowers. This makes it easier for bees to collect pollen and increases pollination for blueberry plants.
Some plants can rely on the wind to help with pollination. However, the pollen from blueberry flowers is heavy, so it doesn’t travel very far on the wind.
With no bees or wind, blueberries will have a difficult time getting proper pollination. Without sufficient pollination, the flowers will turn brown while still on the plant.
Perhaps bee populations in your area have been hit by insecticides or other problems. Even so, there may still be hope.
How To Pollinate A Blueberry Bush By Hand
Even if there are no bees around, you can still make a last-ditch effort to pollinate blueberry plants by hand. Some methods you can use include:
- Electric Toothbrush – power it up and touch the bristles to each flower in turn.
- Paintbrush – the same idea applies here. However, you will need to move the brush on your own to stimulate the flowers to release pollen.
To ensure cross pollination, go back and forth between the flowers two different varieties of the same type (for example, Duke and Earliblue are two different varieties of Northern Highbush blueberries).
This method is not feasible for a large number of plants. So, be sure to encourage bees and other pollinators to show up to your yard each year by planting flowers and avoiding pesticides!
Now you know about self-pollination of blueberry plants and what it means. You also know how to help your blueberry plants to pollinate and get the best harvest possible.
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.