Huckleberries Down Under

Hi there, my name’s Patrick and I’m growing huckleberries in Perth, Australia!

I’m nearly 16 weeks into the process and have some lovely little seedlings so far. We’re getting well into an Australian summer so a couple haven’t survived the hot weather (maximum temps of at least 30C/86F and up to 37C/100F this week), but most are big and strong enough to cope.

A little bit of background – I fell in love with huckleberries when I moved to Portland, OR a couple of years ago. My wife got a job back in Australia, so before I moved I hiked up into the Mt Hood wilderness and picked some berries to collect the seeds. I checked it all out with AQIS to make sure that the seeds were allowed in the country and planted them a couple of weeks after I got back in early Spring. Prof Barney’s book is fantastic, I emailed him before I left for Australia and he was very encouraging, too. So far, the seedlings are growing in old cherry tomato punnets in “native plant striking mix” – my Dad’s a plant pathologist and raises Australian native plants with it. We tried transplanting a few seedlings a couple of weeks ago but I think the potting mix had too much nitrogen and they didn’t make it.

At the moment, we’re just maintaining them through the hot weather, fertilizing every 2-4 weeks and then when we get some cooler weather, we’re planning to transfer them to individual pots. I’ll upload some photos of the seedlings, too. I haven’t quite worked out yet how to get them cold enough to go dormant during winter without exposing them to frost. Might have to buy an old fridge…

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4 Comments

  1. Comment by Rob:

    Dear Patrick

    I am in Perth and would like to know if you think they would grow in Collie, and if it would be possible to have a plant (if they survived this summer, which was ridiculously hot).

    I guess if you encountered them in Oregon, then Collie’s cold snaps may not be a problem.

    Thanks

  2. Comment by sandy:

    Hi Rob,

    I don’t know how cold it gets where you live, but Huckleberries also grow in the Rocky Mountain area in Idaho/Montana where it gets much colder than most of Oregon.

    Good luck!

    Sandy

  3. Comment by Andy:

    Patrick,

    Standard potting mix will probably not work for huckleberries, since the ph is too high. Treat huckleberry plants just like blueberry plants, and you’ll have much better luck with them. Mix equal amounts of sphagnum peat moss and shredded pine bark and use that as your potting mix. Peat/Perlite or Peat/Sand mixtures should also work well.

    Though I have never grown huckleberries, I suspect that a minimum chill hour requirement must be met as well. The plants must experience a cold period similar in duration to their native climate. Many blueberry plants, for example, require 800 – 1000 chill hours during dormancy in order to flower and fruit in the spring. You could put them in the fridge for a few months, if you are passionate(crazy) enough to go that far. You might also try growing rabbiteye blueberries or southern highbush blueberry plants, the types grown in Florida. Select the types with the lowest chill hours and you may find yourself with more berries than you know what to do with.

    Good luck,
    Andy

  4. Comment by Deanna Williams:

    Hi Patrick.
    Was just reading your article and thought it interesting. Have you had any luck growing your huckleberries?
    Kindest regards, De

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