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All About Japanese Blueberry Trees

Japanese blueberry trees are beloved not for their fruit production, but for their contribution to beautiful landscaping. Often used as beautiful privacy screens, Japanese blueberries are among the best ornamental trees for growers in warm regions. Read on to find out more about the Japanese blueberry tree, and whether this tree is right for your needs!

Branches of a Japanese Blueberry tree.

What is a Japanese Blueberry Tree?

The name is a bit deceptive; this tree is valued for its appearance rather than its ability to produce blueberries. Japanese blueberry trees (Elaeocarpus decipiens) are a versatile decorative tree able to serve both as a landscape accent or as an entire privacy row. It does indeed produce small blueberries, but they are actually inedible for humans.

History of the Japanese Blueberry Tree

The Japanese blueberry and other trees of the genus Elaeocarpus have a long history in east Asia and other subtropical areas dating back millennia. Elaeocarpus are closely tied to Hindu religion, specifically to Shiva, a Hindu god. Legend goes that Shiva went into a deep meditation for 1,000 years, and when the god cried tears of compassion, they came to earth as blue Elaeocarpus fruits.  

The tree made its way to the United States thanks to Walt Disney’s landscape designer, Morgan “Bill” Evans. He designed outdoor spaces for many Hollywood film stars from the 1930s onward before being hired by Disney. He brought in many exotic species to meet Disney’s parks design and fantasy style, in addition to creating tropical landscapes for California film royalty.

Graphic image of a Japanese Blueberry Tree.

How Does a Japanese Blueberry Taste?

Japanese blueberries are not edible for humans, so we don’t actually know! They are, however, enjoyed by birds and other small animals. 

What do Japanese Blueberry Trees Look Like?

Japanese blueberries produce beautiful foliage that may remind you of magnolia leaves. Some people describe them as tropical Christmas trees because they naturally grow into a traditional evergreen tree shape, like a Christmas tree, but have distinct, tropical-looking leaves.

In spring, expect white, bell-shaped flowers that dangle from the branches.  

Flowers on a Japanese Blueberry tree.

Where to Get Japanese Blueberry Trees

Readers in California and Florida may be able to find Japanese blueberry trees in stock in local nurseries.  Everyone else: buy them online!

How to Grow Japanese Blueberry Trees

Planting

Situate Japanese blueberry trees in full sun for the best growth and health. It will do best in fertile, well-drained soils in USDA growing zones eight through 10.  

These trees grow into dense columns, so they are ideal for creating a privacy screen. They can also be trimmed as topiaries into precise shapes.  

The spring flowers attract pollinators, so plant these in areas where you want to draw bees and birds.  

Most of all, be patient. Japanese blueberries are very slow-growing, so don’t expect a privacy screen overnight, or even within the decade.

Now You Know All About Japanese Blueberry Trees!

Hopefully the history and description of the Japanese blueberry tree has inspired your whimsy, and maybe told you a little bit more about our beloved Disney parks. Just remember not to eat Japanese blueberries! Next, read all about the edible kinds of blueberries!