There are a few key differences between highbush, and rabbiteye. Size of plant, climate it grows in, color, and even what you do with the berries when you’re done are all ways to distinguish from the different species. So what are the major differences and similarities and which one is better?
They’re called highbush because they’re only taller than lowbush, however they’re not that tall – rabbiteye is the tallest. They’re typically found in the northeastern part of North America in the wild. Highbush tend to bloom late and fruit early. Your harvests will be ready when it’s still hot outside in the early summer.
As far as the berries go, they produce very large, dense, and heavy berries. They’re thinned skinned and very juicy which makes them perfect for eating them as is. They also hold up better than other blueberry types when frozen. Other varieties will become hard after they come out of the freezer; however, highbush maintains their thin skin texture.
The size of the plants is fairly moderate, typically 6’-8’ tall – sometimes larger. As far as durability goes, highbush is disease resistant, while rabiteye tend to not even get diseases at all. This decreases the overall average lifespan, with rabbiteyes lasting sometimes up to 30 years. If your highbush lasts longer than 20 years, you’ve taken exceptional care of it.
Rabbiteye is native to the southeastern section of the United States. Because of this, they last better through droughts and extreme environments. In fact, they are an extremely hardy plant that is highly disease resistant. Because of this they last longer and will be with you for decades.
Rabbiteye are large and almost tree like if you don’t prune them. Large bushes can get up to 20’ and will require a lot more pruning than other varieties. Before the berries turn blue, they turn to a pinkish color almost like a rabbit’s eye.
The berries they produce are extremely sweet and perfect for eating fresh. The added sugar also makes them perfect for jams and baked goods. However, freezing them tends to turn the skin rough, adding a slightly different texture. I prefer my rabbitye fresh.
Neither rabiteye or highbush is better than the other. Which you grow mostly depends on the climate you’re growing them in. However, if you have the option to grow both, maybe you should do just that. Since you can harvest them in different parts of the season, I recommend growing both. This will ensure that you can get fruit all season long, not just the beginning or end. Besides, it will be nice to taste each one for yourself!