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Deciduous, Evergreen, Edible fruit, Ground covers, Shrubs

Excellent ornamental shrubs that include native and non-native cranberries, huckleberries, lingonberries, and blueberries. Each produces clusters of tiny, bell-shaped flowers in spring, plus colorful, edible berries that attract birds and hikers.

Most require organically enriched, acid soil, and thrive in woodland gardens.

For the species grown largely for its fruit, see Blueberry.

Vaccinium ovatum
Vaccinium ovatum

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Vaccinium ovatum

Native to the Pacific coastal region, from the Santa Barbara area of Southern California north to British Columbia. Erect growth to 2–3 ft. tall and wide in sun, 8–10 ft. tall and wide in shade. Leathery, lustrous dark green leaves; bronzy or reddish when new. White or pinkish flowers are followed by black berries that are good in pies, jams, jellies, and syrups. Can be trimmed as a hedge or grown in containers. Cut branches are popular for arrangements. Sun or shade. Moderate to regular water.

Vaccinium parvifolium

Native to California’s Sierra Nevada, Coast Ranges from Northern California to Alaska. Slow-growing plant, eventually reaching 4–12 ft. (rarely 18 ft.) tall and 6 ft. wide. Thin green branches with a spreading or cascading habit provide an intricate winter silhouette. Oval, thin-textured, light green leaves are 1/2–3/4 in. long. Greenish or whitish flowers are good in arrangements. Showy bright red berries can be used in jams, jellies, and pies. Partial or full shade; regular water.

Vaccinium vitis-idaea

Native to Europe. Slow growth to 1 ft. high; spreads widely by rhizomes if grown in highly organic or thickly mulched soil. Glossy, dark, evergreen leaves to 1 in. long; new growth is often tinged bright red or orange. White or pinkish flowers are followed by sour red berries something like tiny cranberries; these are valued for preserves and syrups.

This is a handsome little plant for informal edging around larger plantings; good small-scale groundcover (space plants 2–3 ft. apart).

Best without potassium fertilizer. Prefers partial or full shade, but if given ample water will take full sun in cool-summer climates. European varieties grown for fruit production are sometimes seen.

Vaccinium vitis-idaea minus

Cold-hardy form from arctic North America. This evergreen groundcover has smaller leaves (to 1/2 in.) than the species and is attractive in rock gardens and containers. Grows to about 1 ft. tall and spreads by underground rhizomes. The fruit is used in preserves and syrups.

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