Darrow’s blueberry, Vaccinium darrowii, is a native shrub that is woefully underused in the ornamental landscape. It is a brilliant little shrub whose blueberries are edible. Darrow’s blueberry is native to Georgia, as well as the Coastal Plain west to southeast Texas.
Only growing one to three feet tall, Darrow’s blueberry forms colonies in its native habitat, which includes sandhills, scrub, and pine forests. Also called evergreen blueberry or scrub blueberry, Vaccinium darrowii is well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.
If you buy Darrow’s blueberry, make sure you buy the right one. There is a highbush variety, Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Darrow’ that grows much larger. It is an upright shrub more typical of what most of us identify with when we think of blueberry bushes.
Blueberries grow best in acidic soils that are rich and range from average to wet. Darrow’s blueberry, however, does just fine in sandy, fast-draining soils.
Darrow’s blueberry naturally occurs in sandy areas that are seasonably wet.
Full sun to some afternoon shade is required. Even though blueberries prefer wetter soil conditions, Vaccinium darrowii is considered somewhat drought tolerant, most likely due to the hot, sandy conditions where it is native.
You can learn more about growing blueberries here. Darrow’s blueberry is hardy zones 8 and 9. We can grow it in Athens, Georgia more reliably than in the past because of a trend towards warmer temperatures in the region.
Vaccinium darrowii is generally pest and disease free, although it will surely be a race between you and the wildlife when the blueberries ripen. You can find blueberry fertilizer or use products designed for azaleas/rhododendrons/camellias. I don’t tend to use commercial fertilizers, instead choosing to spread compost in late winter every year.
Whichever fertilizer method you use, feed lightly, as blueberries can be killed outright by over-fertilization.
People often believe blueberries cannot self-fertilize. Many blueberry cultivars do not need cross-fertilization. However, cross-pollination will increase the size and quality of blueberry yields.
Vaccinium darrowii was almost certainly named after George Darrow, who served as chief of the Small Fruits Division of the USDA for just short of fifty years.
Dr. Darrow (Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University) primarily worked with strawberries during a career that included over 200 research publications. He is responsible for the development of 28 different strawberry cultivars, some of which you and I have undoubtedly eaten.
Winter hardiness zones: Zones 8 – 9
|Common name(s)||Darrow’s blueberry, evergreen blueberry, scrub blueberry|
|Of note||check the species name before buying – Vaccinium darrowii is the correct species as described here, not Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Darrow’|
|Water requirements||average, moist soil conditions, high|
|Soil quality||rich, well-drained, average, poor|
|Suggested use(s)||cottage gardens, groundcover, mixed borders/perennial beds, native collections, naturalized|
|Hardiness zone(s)||8a, 8b, 9a, 9b|
|Deciduous or evergreen||evergreen|
|Flower color||pink, white|
|Bloom period||mid to late spring|
|Exposure||full sun, afternoon shade|1