Florida Among the Top 10 Blueberry Producing States


Sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida

It’s April, and that means it’s finally Florida blueberry season!

While many may not think of Florida as a major blueberry producer, we’re one of the top 10 blueberry producing states in the nation. Every year around March and April, our blueberry season begins, with U-Pick farms popping up and containers of sweet, juicy berries making their way to stores around the state. 

Blueberries are members of the genus Vaccinium, falling in the Cyanococcus group of the genus. They’re related to cranberries and huckleberries, among others, and all blueberry species are native to North America. There are a variety of blueberry species, with wild species known as “lowbush” blueberries, and cultivated species known as “highbush” blueberries, as they grow larger than wild plants. 

Blueberries are cultivated throughout the state, with Polk, Orange, Pasco, Hernando, and HIllsborough counties being the biggest producers here in Central Florida. Thanks to the Florida climate, our blueberries are typically among the first to make it to market.

The species most commonly cultivated here in Florida are Vaccinium formosum, the southern highbush blueberry, and Vaccinium virgatum, the rabbit-eye blueberry. These species are well adapted to the Florida climate. Because blueberries are not self compatible, multiple cultivars from the same type (so, two rabbit-eye cultivars, for example) are required for pollination. Southern highbush blueberries are best suited to Central and South-Central Florida because they are less cold tolerant, while rabbit-eye cultivars are generally hardier and do well further north. 

In addition to being delicious, blueberries are a low calorie food which provides good amounts of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K, and dietary fiber. They also contain a variety of phytochemicals with potential health benefits, such as anthocyanins. 

The past couple of growing seasons for Florida blueberries have seen some challenges, with reduced harvests, increasing production costs, hurricane damage, and more creating difficulties for our growers. But, our blueberry industry remains hopeful, and the outlook for the 2024 growing season is positive. 

Leonard Park, president of the Florida Blueberry Grower’s Association, laid out some reasons to be hopeful in a recent article on their website:

  • Inflation is moderating, reducing costs of ag chemicals and oil needed for growing, packing, and shipping blueberries.
  • The U.S. and world at large are consuming more blueberries.
  • South American fruit producers will likely face production issues this year, creating opportunity for Florida producers.
  • Cold weather this past winter will help produce a bigger, better crop by harvest time.

With these and other factors, a return to the higher production levels of the past is anticipated for 2024. Growers are also doing everything they can to improve production, including planting new varieties. Two new varieties from UF show major promise. These are FL17-141 and FL19-006, both of which are early season producers with high yields, firm fruit, and excellent foliage, and both are ideal for Central and South-Central Florida.

One of the most exciting aspects of blueberry season is heading to U-Pick blueberry farms. When picking your own blueberries (or buying at the store), look for plump, deep blue berries with a dusting of gray. If the berry is firm or shows any red, green, or white, it is unripe and should be avoided, as blueberries do not continue to ripen once picked. Avoid blueberries that are wrinkled or that show signs of mold or leakage. Avoid washing until you’re ready to enjoy, and refrigerate berries as soon as possible; properly stored, they can last up to two weeks. 

No matter where you get your Florida blueberries, you’re in for a delicious, juicy treat. Here’s to an amazing Florida blueberry season for 2024!

Accessibility Toolbar