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The Rebel Blueberry

Popular with large blueberry lovers, the Vacinnium sp. Hybrid also called the Rebel blueberry, is full of larger and delicious berries. A Southern hybrid, this larger plant is known for impressive yields and a higher-than-usual tolerance to heat with limited winter chill hours. Not your typical muffin blueberry, this burst of flavor caters to warm climates and greater growth.

Discover more about the Rebel Blueberry and what you need to know about growing this variety yourself.

Closeup of ripe blueberries growing on a shrub -- similar to the blueberries of the Rebel blueberry.

History of the Rebel Blueberry

Described by the Oregon State University, there are five primary types of North American blueberry with the southern highbush being one of the warmer cultivars. Additionally, growers can find northern highbush, rabbiteye, lowbush, and half-high. Rebel blueberries are part of a complex hybrid growing from V. corymbosum and  V. darrowii, which is a descendant of a native Florida species.

The cultivation of southern highbush varieties was designed to allow year-round growth in milder climates (usually the Southern US) where plants don’t entirely lose their leaves and to promote faster spring growth. These southern berries can be grown in milder northern climates as well, but will typically have a limited yield and may cause plant damage or lack of crop if temperatures drop below 0F.

Rebel Blueberry Characteristics

The Rebel blueberry is known for its early yields and large fruits. Commonly compared to the Star blueberry cultivar, the Rebel is said to yield earlier ripening fruit which exceeds the similar Star counterpart in ripening, yield, and plant vigor. 

  • Chilling Level – Like all blueberries the Rebel needs a cooling or wintering period to promote fruit growth, but this period is typically around 400 chill hours and has been reported to be as little as 200 to 300 hours for some southern varieties in comparison to the northern chill time of 800 hours average. While plants can reach below freezing, plant hardiness is meant to stay above 0 degrees.
  • Ripening Season – Rebel blueberries are exceptionally early ripener fruiting in early spring unless cultivated as a year-round plant. 
  • Fruit Qualities – Extra large light purple berries have a mild to bland flavor for Rebel blueberry plants.
  • Berry Size – Rebel berries are extra-large running 1.9 to 2.8 grams per berry.

Planting Zones 

The heat tolerance of Rebel blueberries makes them a fit for some of the warmest, hottest growing areas of the United States. This desire for warmth and sunlight makes Rebel blueberries ideal for USDA Zones 7-10.

Size and Spacing

While the berries may be extra-large, the plant size is more moderate for Rebel blueberry plants. Plants will grow to 4 to 6 feet at maturity, although some report their southern cultivar to be even taller, Plants should be spaced 5 to 7 feet apart to account for future growth and harvest.

Pollination

Blueberries are self-pollinating but can benefit from cross-pollination, especially when grown commercially. 

Blueberry Bush Care 

Closeup of ripe blueberries on shrub with other blueberry shrubs in the background.

Unlike many northern blueberry varieties, Rebel blueberries crave sun and warmth. Keep these things in mind whether cultivated commercially, in an urban garden, or even on a home patio.

Sunlight 

Rebel blueberries enjoy full sun to partial sun. Unlike other blueberry varieties, partial shade is not required to protect these plants from heat.

Watering

Plant in these southern blueberries in well-drained soil that can stay moist without drying out. Avoid clays or dense and compact soil mixes as blueberry plants tend to have shallow roots.

Pruning 

How to prune a blueberry is perhaps better described as when to tend a blueberry plant. At the youngest age remove flowers and/or canes that don’t contribute to a solid rooting base and establish a healthy parent plant for later fruit. For older blueberry plants remove damaged or diseased canes, or those no longer contributing to fruit and leaves.

Diseases & Care

All blueberry plants can be prone to diseases including, blights, roots, fungus, and cankers, as well as pests such as caterpillars and beetles, and even other predatory plants. Being a rarer southern blueberry, it’s also important to make sure your blueberry is not near a wet boggy area or excessively moist soil and also that the soil is not experiencing significant infiltration from saltwater. Learn more about Blueberry Bush Diseases and Care.

For more information about best practices for planting and caring for blueberry shrubs, click here for our complete guide to growing blueberries.

Common Uses For Rebel Blueberry

Blueberry scones and butter.
Blueberry scones.

The Rebel blueberry is large and juicy, which means the qualities will vary from many traditional cooking and baking applications, yet this opens the door to many other preparations.

Cooking

Rebel blueberries may contribute more in fiber than flavor to many baked dishes with their milder taste. These high-fiber options make them excellent ingredients where a cook doesn’t want an overpowering flavor like in baby food or a puree, but also makes this blueberry a potentially poor fit for sauces. Enjoy the health benefits without being stuck on a single flavor profile.

Eating raw

Giant blueberries were made for popping straight into your mouth. Pure juice is a low-sugar snack as well.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Milder blueberries are usually not canned due to the blander flavor. These giant snacks are instead perfect for a frozen fiber boost for any smoothie, being both simple and accessible to use as frozen food. Larger blueberries also lend well to drying and adding to trail mix or as a winter addition to that morning oatmeal.

Health Benefits of Rebel Blueberries

Glasses of blueberry yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.

The primary health benefits of Rebel blueberries come down to the high fiber content and low sugar of each berry. Often popular for those wishing to lose or maintain weight, these blueberries are filling without bad additives. And while the flavor may not be as strong as other blueberry varieties, these berries still contain the beneficial antioxidants, plant compounds, and health-boosting minerals of their traditional northern cultivars.

For more health benefits of the fruit, check out The Health Benefits of Blueberries

Where To Buy The Rebel Blueberry?

Rebel blueberry plants don’t start out 4 to 6 feet tall, so most people prefer to buy a more mature plant and begin at year 1 or 2. Also noting the Rebel plant takes a few years to properly fruit, growing from seed is not common as most urban and commercial farmers want to start with fruit as soon as possible. Check local nurseries for a Rebel blueberry if in the southern United States as these are especially common in warm areas like Georgia.  In addition, you can order the Rebel Blueberry online.

Wrapping Up The Rebel Blueberry

Small basket of picked blueberries.

The Rebel blueberry plant is a blueberry specifically designed to thrive in warmer, sunnier climates. With very few chill hours needed, this cultivar can be trained for year-round growth in addition to an extremely early spring yield. While designed for warmth, this plant is not designed for wet  and will need well-drained soil without high salt content. In addition, warm-weather plants like the Rebel blueberry have less tolerance towards cold. While a freeze may not ruin your plant, continued cold and temperatures under 0 degrees are a risk.

Planters enjoy the Rebel blueberry for its prolific yield of large blueberries, offering many health benefits and larger bites, although these flavors tend to be milder than northern berry types. The Rebel blueberry will grow into a mid-sized plant that can be maintained easily by most gardeners.

If you have a tip about Rebel blueberries, leave it in the comments section below. And for more information about blueberries, click this link to read our other blueberry blog articles.