Pronounced: vak-SIN-ih-um oh-VAY-tum
Vaccinium ovatum has evergreen leaves and deep blue huckleberries.
Alaska to California.
Sunset zones: 4-7, 14-17.
USDA zones: 7-9.
Height: 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) in sun, up to 12 feet (4 m) in shade.
Width: up to 10 feet (3 m).
March through May.
Urn shaped, white to a blush of pink flowers.
Evergreen, glossy, dark green leaves. New growth is red in spring.
Full sun to shade.
Moist, well-drained, acidic soil.
Semi-ripe cuttings mid to late summer or layer in summer.
V. ovatum can be pruned into a hedge. Prune after flowering, remove dead branches.
Rainy Side Notes
Urn-shaped huckleberry flowers.
This remarkable evergreen native shrub is valuable in the landscape. Vaccinium ovatum can grow in either sun or shade and is tolerant of salt spray. It is surprising we do not grow this shrub more often in the Pacific Northwest. As a natural or trimmed hedge, hedgerow, or in a thicket as wildlife habitat, it makes a choice plant for the garden. It even grows well in a container.
The small, ovate, evergreen foliage looks good year round, has little urn-shaped flowers, followed by glossy, blackish-purple berries. The foliage is highly sought after in the florist trade for cut foliage. In a partial shade garden, the shrubs are a beautiful backdrop for mixed borders. In a full shade garden, grow it as a tall evergreen hedge. In a full sun garden, it will produce more berries but it will not grow as tall as it will in the shade garden.
Indigenous Northwest tribes relished the berries of this shrub and would travel long distances to harvest them. They used the berries in many different ways—eaten fresh, with oil, or dried into cakes.
After first frost, the berries taste better. You can eat the berries or let the birds and other animals forage for them, including bears. Granted, you probably do not want to attract bears to your garden. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies flock to the flowers. Foliage may be a food source for the caterpillars of Spring Azure and Brown Elfin butterflies. In my own garden, I grow the shrubs for the local wildlife.
Brilliant, new leaf color.
Vaccinium ovatum is a 2005 Great Plant Pick.
Photographed in author's garden.