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All About Japanese Blueberry Trees

Choose a Japanese blueberry tree for its ability to create a beautiful evergreen privacy screen, but do not expect the double benefit of an edible fruit crop.  Japanese blueberries are among the best ornamental trees for growers in warm regions; read on to find out more and whether this tree is right for your needs!

Japanese Blueberry Tree
A Japanese Blueberry plant on a white background

What are Japanese blueberries?

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

History

The Japanese blueberry and other trees of the genus Elaeocarpus have a long history in east Asia and other subtropical areas dating back millenia.  Elaeocarpus are closely tied to the belief that Shiva, a Hindu god, went into a deep meditation for 1,000 years.  Shiva cried tears of compassion that 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 introduced the United States to many exotic species to meet the international design and fantasy styles of Disney’s parks in addition to creating tropical landscapes for California film royalty.

How does a Japanese blueberry taste?

Japanese blueberries are not edible for humans.  Birds and other small animals do enjoy the berries. 

Where to Get Japanese Blueberry Trees

Readers in California and Florida may be able to find Japanese blueberry trees in stock in local nurseries.  Otherwise, you can buy them online at NatureHills.com

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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.  

How to Grow Japanese Blueberry Trees

Planting

Situation 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 8-10..  

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 within the decade.

Want the edible kind of blueberries? Check out more blueberry posts here.