Austin BlueberryVaccinium ashei ‘Austin’
View more from Blueberry Bushes
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Vaccinium ashei ‘Austin’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Austin Blueberry is a top-rated variety for the southeast, of the rabbit-eye type, with excellent growth in areas with hot and humid summers. The medium-large berries are classic deep blue with a white bloom, and they ripen during June. You will be harvesting your first berries within a couple of years, and mature bushes can give 25 pounds of berries. The spring blooms of white bells and the vibrant fall colors or red and orange make it fit perfectly into your garden beds, or you can plant it as a hedge, or in a part of the garden just for fruit bushes. If you don’t have the necessary acid-soil, grow it in a large tub.
Full sun is best for the Austin Blueberry, if you want a big crop. It will also take a couple of hours of shade each day. It needs just 500 chilling hours, so it grows well in hot regions with short, mild winters. Plant in moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. The soil should have a pH value of 5.5 or less, and if you don’t have that, the solution is to plant it in a container. Water regularly during dry periods, and mulch in spring and fall. Pests and diseases are rarely an issue. Prune older plants in early spring to keep them vigorous.
Growing fruit in your home garden is fun and productive. Nothing beats fruit ripened on the bush, and often you can make real savings, while bringing the best to your family’s table. There is a big first step, though, and that is making sure the bush you plant is suitable for your area. There are lots of cheap bushes available, just called ‘blueberry’, but planting one can be a big mistake, and lead to slow-motion disappointment. Instead, start with the right bush and the best variety for your area. That is more than simply your growing zone, as climate plays a big part too. If you live in the southeast, it makes lots of sense to plant a bush developed in your area, for your area. That’s why we are stocking the Austin Blueberry – it’s for you. An improved form of the native rabbit-eye blueberry bush, this vigorous and reliable bush will give you up to 25 pounds of berries, once it is mature. That’s right, 25 pounds of delicious blueberries, and don’t be scared you can’t use them all, because blueberries as super-easy to keep – just pick them straight into a container, without washing, and pop it in the freezer – that’s it – and now you have berries for the rest of the year. Whoopee!
The Austin Blueberry is a deciduous shrub that grows in time to be 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. A mature bush will carry a big crop – up to 25 pounds of berries per bush. It will take some years to reach that, but you can expect to be picking your first berries within 2 or 3 years of planting. Every year the crop will get bigger and bigger. The smooth, slightly glossy leaves can be as much as 3 inches long, and when new they are reddish, but soon become an attractive dark green. The cooler nights of fall turn those leaves bright colors of reds and oranges, making a lovely display.
Spring brings blooming, with clusters of flowers among the new leaves, as well as from buds on older stems. The flowers are like small, white, hanging bells, and a bush in full bloom is a beautiful sight. For a good crop you need a second, different bush to be a pollinizer, for cross-pollination of the flowers. We recommend the ‘Climax’ or ‘Premier’ Blueberries, both excellent high-yielding varieties.
The berries are green as they develop, turning into medium-large delicious berries in June. They are classic, deep blue, with a powdery white coating. Blueberries don’t ripen after they are picked, so wait until each berry is fully-ripe before picking your delicious harvest. It will take several picking sessions to gather the crop, picking only the ripe berries from each bunch. Any you aren’t using right away can be placed, unwashed, in a container and put in the freezer – nothing could be simpler.
This bush is so attractive in bloom, when dripping with berries, and in fall, that it deserves a spot in your shrub beds – you don’t need a dedicated area. Mixed with the pollinating variety, it could make an attractive and productive hedge screening a vegetable garden, or anywhere at all.
The Austin Blueberry is ideal for the southeast, growing well in zones 7, 8 and 9. It only needs 500 chilling hours (time above freezing but below 45 degrees), so it does well in zones with short, warm winters. It could also be grown in a sheltered spot in zone 6.
The best position for the Austin Blueberry is in full sun, but an hour or two of afternoon shade is not harmful. Suitable soil is the secret to successful blueberry growing. It must be moist but well-drained, and acidic, with a pH value below 5.5. Don’t plant in dry areas, but avoid wet places too. Modifying soil to make it more acidic is hard in the long-term, and if you don’t have suitable soil, growing in large tubs and boxes is a better option. Fill them with a mix of equal parts lime-free potting soil, shredded pine bark, and sphagnum peat moss, and mulch the pot with more shredded pine bark.
Regular watering through dry periods is needed, even for established bushes, since blueberry bushes are not drought resistant. Spring and fall mulching with pine bark, oak leaves, pine needles, sphagnum peat moss, or a mixture, is always beneficial. In suitable soil blueberries are not difficult to grow, and they rarely suffer from any pests or diseases. Once plants have been growing for some years, start to prune each spring. Remove weak and thin branches, and any older branches that aren’t giving many berries. This will encourage vigorous new growth, and keep your Austin Blueberry bush producing well.
Still known to gardeners as Vaccinium ashei, the rabbit-eye blueberry should really be called Vaccinium virgatum. You can find this southern blueberry growing wild from North Carolina across to Texas, and down into Florida. It is naturally adapted to hot, humid summers, and short winters, so it’s the right place to start breeding varieties for the southeast. Georgia has been the center of development of new varieties for almost 100 years, mostly at the Coastal Plains Experimental Station, in Tifton. There the most prominent breeder was Dr. W.T. Brightwell, who created several important varieties. It can be hard to know exactly how some of their varieties came into existence, and that is true of the one called Austin. We do know that Professor Max Austin was head of the station for some years, and it was probably during that time this variety was born.
Always match the plants you grow to your local climate, and that’s especially true with fruit bushes. If you live in the southeast, the Austin Blueberry is for you. Take advantage of its availability, but order now, because our stock will soon sell out, and we don’t know when we will be able to source them again.