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Blueberry Varieties – Characteristics, Ripening Order and More –

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Blueberry Varieties – Characteristics, Ripening Order and More

Blueberry Varieties

The first cultivated blueberries were developed in New Jersey in the early 1900’s. Since, many plant breeders have developed new varieties, suitable for growing in almost all parts of North America and Europe. They have different ripening dates, flavor variations and even different colors, aside from blue!

Major branches of the blueberry family

There are 4 main types of blueberries:

  • Northern Highbush blueberry varieties which grow best in the northern U.S. and Canada
  • Southern Highbush blueberries do well in moderate areas like southern parts of the north and the northern parts of the South (think TN, KY, VA, NC, and west coast) but they are not as commonly grown as either northern highbush nor rabbiteye types.
  • Rabbiteye Blueberries are best suited for the Southeast, and the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Lowbush – typically wild varieties. More commonly grown in Maine and other parts of New England. Intense flavor.

Similar berries:

While the true blueberry is a native American, there are similar berries around the world. Most are closely related to blueberries

  • Aroniaberries – also callled Chokecherries
  • Bilberries – smaller cousins of the blueberry in Europe
  • Bblaeberry in Scotland and Ireland, smaller, intense flavor; like a bilberry-
  • Honeyberries – Honeyberries are not related to blueberries, but they are blue berries! Related to honeysuckle,(Lonicera caerulea) they are also called haskap berry, blue-berried honeysuckle, deepblue honeysuckle, and sweetberry honeysuckleThey are edible with an unusual sweet and tart flavor.
  • Huckleberries – larger blue berries, a bit less sweet, common to the northern US and Canada
  • Saskatoons – Canadians know about Saskatoons. They are native to western Canada and the northwest of the U.S.. They are larger, a bit less sweet; almost identic al to a Huckleberry, with a hint of apple.
  • Serviceberries – another name for Saskatoons
  • Whorlberry or whortleberry grown in the United Kingdom. Much like a bilberry.

Varieties of Blueberries in general order of ripening

Since the varieties planted are selected for the climate and area, we’ve grouped these to be most useful to you, by their general type followed by order of ripening. Keep in mind, the actual ripening dates and even the order can vary considerably from farm to farm, year to year, state to state; so take this as general order!

Northern Highbush Blueberries

Northern highbush blueberries are generally self-fertile; but you’ll get larger and earlier ripening berries if you plant several different cultivars (varieties) close by for cross-pollination. For those in the northeast, see Rutgers University Blueberry Growing Guide

Below, Alphabettical within season

Early season
  • Bluetta – very hardy, small dark berries
  • Collins – medium size, light blue berries with excellent quality is excellent.
  • Duke – large, easy to pick. Mild, low acidity.
  • Earliblue (or Early Blue) – one of the earliest, very popular
  • Hannah’s Choice – medium large fruit with high sugar content, firmer, better flavored than Duke.
  • Reka – Medium size with strong huckleberry-like flavor.
  • Spartan – firm and very large, very good flavor. later than other early varieties, large crop.
  • Sunrise – Large size and excellent flavor, not as heavy yielding as Duke
Late Early to early Mid-season
  • Patriot – large, firm berries, early bloom, but more midseason ripening.
  • Toro – large size, easy to pick, good flavor.
  • Weymouth – excellent flavor, a derivative of the wild varieties .
  • Berkeley – light blue, firm and very large with very good storing but only average flavor
  • Bluecrop – Medium to large size, variable picking; old variety taste.
  • Bluehaven
  • Bluejay – moderate crops of medium, sized, high quality fruit
  • Blueray – medium size with good flavor and high yieldsl
  • Cara’s Choice – medium sized fruit with 30% more sugar than Duke or Bluecrop and the berries stay good on the plant for an extended period
  • Chippewa – large firm fruit, productive and winter hardy
  • Draper – very good fllavor
  • Hardyblue – Small size but easy to pick; sweetest berry. Good for cooking.
  • Legacy – Large, firm, sweet, aromatic, excellent flavor and stores well
  • Northland – medium sized, dark,soft berries; extremely productive
  • Nui – Very large size and excellent flavor but light yields
  • Olympia – Medium to small size, excellent flavor
  • Rubel- derived from a wild variety, small, firm, dark berries, similar to low bush varieties, but only average flavor
  • Sierra – large firm berries
Mid to late season
  • Bluegold – Medium to large size, yields vary from season to season
  • Chandler – Very popular due to its large size and good flavor.
  • Darrow – Their size varies, easy to pick; excellent flavor. /li>
  • Nelson – Large size, very good flavor, the berries can stay on the bush for extended periods.
Late season
  • Aurora – a new variety, 5 days after Elliot; firm , large berries that store well; very good yield.
  • Brigitta – large, firm, flavorful fruit that stores well. The plant grows late into the fall
  • Coville – Large, firm, highly aromatic, tart, very good flavor
  • Elliot – Late season, large size, easy to pick; tart flavor. Very good shelf life, 30-45 days in a fridge, Beware not to pick early, turns blue before ripe.
  • Liberty – ripens 5 days before Elliot with better flavor. Stores well
  • Jersey – an old cultivar dating to 1928, small, soft berries

Southern Highbush Blueberries

Don’t let the name fool you; while these can be grown in hot climates, they are still more difficult than rabbiteye varieties and are better suited for warmer areas of the North. If you do plant these, you should plant several different cultivars (varieties) of them close by for cross-pollination

Early season:
  • Suziblue
  • Palmetto
  • O’Neal
  • Camellia
  • Jubilee
  • Magnolia

Rabbiteye Blueberry Varieties

Be sure to plant more than one variety for cross-pollination to ensure good fruit setting. This is important for Rabbiteye’s! See this UGa article for information about growing rabbiteye blueberries Also, this artiicle by Texas A and M has more Rabbiteye Blueberry Growing information. And for those on the west coast, see this SFGate Article about Rabbiteye Varieties

Early season
  • Austin – large, blue firm berries with good flavor,
  • Alapaha – medium sized with good flavor and smaller seeds
  • Climax – large, medium-dark blue and good flavor.
  • Delite – small and light blue, pretty but not a consistent producer
  • Montgomery – very productive, medium to large berries, good firmness and flavor
  • Premier – Large berries with good flavor. The plants are vigorous, disease resistant, and productive.
  • Prince – blooms a few days before Climax, medium sized berries, with good color, firmness and flavor
  • Savory – large berries with light blue color, and good firmness and flavor, but the plant is susceptible to fungus.
  • Titan – largest berries
  • Vernon – large berries
  • Woodard – large, light blue.
Late early to early mid-season
  • Briteblue – moderately vigorous, firm, large, light blue berries, good producer.
  • Brightwell – medium in size, medium blue color, vigorous plants that produce many new canes
  • Garden Blue – very small, light blue berries
  • Powderblue – disease-resistant, and productive, similar to Tifblue but more leafy plant, holds up to rainy periods better
  • Tifblue – large, round, light blue, sweet, very firm, stays good on the plant for days, most productive of all rabbiteye varieties
Late season
  • Baldwin – good flavor and firm, dark blue fruit; with a long ripening period; good for home gardeners and U-pick
  • Centurion – Ripens after Tifblue; good flavored berries, medium firmness, darker than Tifblue..
  • Ochlockonee – medium sized with good flavor and smaller seeds
  • Sharpblue – developed at the University of Florida for areas receiving 600 hours or less of temperatures below 45 degrees.

New Pink Rabbiteye Varieties

  • Pink Lemonade – Pink blueberries, with a great, very sweet flavor
  • Pink Champagne – Even better than pink Lemonade, in my opinion; more antioxidants and sweeter than blue blueberries.

Lowbush varieties

Generally only growing up to 18 inches tall

  • Top Hat is- used for ornamental landscaping
  • Ruby carpet – grows well in USDA zones 3-7.

Blueberry Recipes

  • The world’s best Blueberry pie, recipe and directions and illustrated!
  • Blueberry buckle coffee cake: illustrated directions for this great crumb-topping blueberry coffee cake
  • Other easy directions to make blueberry desserts: cobblers,etc.

Canning and freezing Blueberries:

  • How to Freeze Blueberries
  • How to Can Blueberries
  • How to Make Homemade Blueberry Jam
  • How to make blueberry jelly
  • How to make and can blueberry syrup (it works for strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, too)
  • blueberry pie filling to use later,
  • blueberry butter

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Blueberry Varieties: Characteristics, Ripening Order and more information about many, many types and varieties of blueberries, including when they typically ripen.

Blueberries: Which Ones Taste Best?

We’re big fans of blueberries here on the North Coast of California, as our damp Pacific Northwest climate and acidic soil make it the perfect setting to grow blueberry bushes. And we’re coming up on the best time to plant them, as most nurseries get their biggest shipment of blueberry varieties in fall.

Because blueberries are beautiful plants almost year-round, they’re great for incorporating into landscapes, even low-maintenance or commercial/ business landscapes.

And if you forget to eat the fruit, the birds will clean up after you, in stark contrast to many fruit trees which bear an almost-overwhelming harvest sometimes (juicing my apples in fall feels like a part-time job – not that I’m complaining!).

But which berries are the tastiest? Over the past two years I’ve taken it upon myself to do a taste-test of the blueberries grown locally here in Humboldt County to see which ones I ought to plant and suggest to my clients. (The sacrifices I make in the name of research, right?)

In a general sense, small berries are best for baked goods since they have less moisture, while larger berries are best for eating right off the shrub. I prefer the tart ones for cooking and preserving since they add a stronger flavor in baked goods. Sweet berries don’t taste like much in muffins and pies, but they are delicious eaten fresh.

Below, I’ve shared the good, the bad, and the “meh” in the world of blueberries. I’ve starred my favorites.

Best blueberries for coastal Northern California:

Bluecrop: Tastes just like a good supermarket blueberry – perfect balance between sweet and tart, but missing a tiny bit of “wow” factor.

Bluejay: Boring, watery flavor, but I’m told this keeps well for freezing and canning.

Blueray: Complex, tangy, overall sweet flavor. A very nice berry indeed.

Brunswick: Sweet but uninteresting flavor (only redeeming quality is the dwarf 2-foot size of the shrub).

Earliblue: Bland and uninteresting. What’s the point of being the first to ripen if it is going to be so deadly boring?

Duke: Mildly tart but otherwise doesn’t distinguish itself much. Again, no point being an early ripener if you’re not very tasty.

Jubilee: Bright, crisp, complex flavor, balanced in sweetness. A favorite. Medium berries.

Misty: Mild, uninspiring flavor.

*Patriot: Big, juicy-sweet berries with lovely flavor. Sean Armstrong of Tule Fog Farm in Arcata says that Patriot’s the most popular berry for our area. Tolerates wetter soil than most.

*Peach Sorbet: New variety with plump, sweet, mild berries with a hint of pine in the flavor. Notable for dwarf habit to 2-3′ and particularly nice foliage. (This one wins best foliage plant.)

Polaris: Tart but otherwise boring.

*Reka: Very best tart berry. An early ripener with some actual flavor! Medium size berry.

Rubel: Small berries, with a gently tart flavor.

Sharpblue: In contrast to its name, Sharpblue has a mild, sweet flavor. Not a standout, but not bad either.

*Sunshine Blue: Similar to Bluecrop, this is a supermarket-style blueberry with a good balance between sweet and tart. Dwarf shrub to 3 feet, notable for being nearly evergreen in mild climates. (This one’s the best all-’round dwarf – good for cooking, eating, landscapes.)

*Toro: Ginormous, tart, flavorful berries. This was my favorite in every landscape and I will definitely be planting one at my house! (This wins the “most thrillingly gigantic berries” award.)

Keep in mind that the soil, lighting, water, and other factors play a large part in the flavor of your blueberry, so it’s possible that my “watery and boring” berry might be a hit when planted in your garden. That said, I am unwilling to consider a reality in which Toro, Reka, and Patriot don’t knock it out of the park, flavor-wise. Nom!

Wondering what everyone else is growing? Check out Daniel Gasteiger’s Post Produce, a monthly linkup of blog posts about what people are growing and eating in their own backyards.

Thanks to Brazel Berries for the use of the blueberry photo at top.

Filed Under: What to Plant? Tagged With: Edibles

About Genevieve

Genevieve Schmidt is a landscape designer and owns a fine landscape maintenance company in Arcata, CA. The owner of North Coast Gardening, she is also a contributing writer at Garden Design Magazine and has written for numerous print and online publications.


Thanks Gen for the research! Your taste trials will help me make some good choices when I’m ready to plant my favorite edible landscape shrub. I also appreciate your taste and texture standards, like my own.
I’d love to hear your opinions on a corn taste test. I find most folks go for sweet and miss the texture and ‘corn’ flavor balance in their trials, making it difficult to know which variety to go with.
Thanks for the punishment you endure for us! 🙂

Thanks, Evelyn! I sure wish we grew corn here, but our lack of sunshine means I have never once gotten a decent crop. I’ve long ago given up. But I think you should go for it! I mean, taste tests are a lot of work to conduct (all that noshing can really wear you down) but they, we’re dedicated to the cause of good food and good gardening, right?

Hi my name is Reza Alizamani. I want to plant a blueberry. Need your opinion top 5 which one is best I live in Riverside side County. 2nd question do they come in dwarf if it does top 5 please

I just read your article on blueberries and wanted to know what you thought of the jellybean blueberry variety. I just bought one and wanted to put it in a large container.thank you for your article and I may have to try the liberty variety also.

During blueberry season I eat massive quantities of this berry, it is my favorite fruit. Sadly it is hard to grow in our alkaline soil. I have tried to remedy this by growing dwarf and low-bush varieties in pots, with mixed success.

Wonderful post, great information. I am now considering adding blueberries to my landscape.

I added the “climax” variety to my garden. Yes, explosive taste in my North Carolina garden. Reka and Jersey varieties have also been yummy.

If you need more acid and are a coffee drinker, consider dumping your coffee grounds into your composter or adding to topdressing around the bushes.

Legacy belongs in the argument. Very, very good.
Elizabeth and Sparta are tremendous and grown only for their taste.
. Hardy blu, brigette, from the early openers try Hannas Choice and maybe my favorite because it s so distinctive, Bonus.
The true gourmet usually agrees with and feels that Jersey is loaded with richness and subtleties.
I was surprised to see blue crop on your list.

you can create a micro-environment. Blueberry roots only go down about ten inches or less and with most cultivars they don t spread out more than to the drip line.
. Dig your hole 18 inches deep by 2.5 feet wide. Put 4 to 6 inches of sand on the bottom for drainage and as a barrier to the native soil. Discard the old,soil. Fill the hole with peat and aged pine chips or pine bark. That will set the ph level and the breaking down of the pine will keep it there. Now mulch with pine needles and fertilize lightly twice a year with Holleytone or AMMONIUM sulphur (not elemental sulphur or aluminate sulphur).
. PH jumps back if you try to amend the soil and set it to acidity or a low Ph. Won’t happen this way , just find a cultivar that is recommended for your zone and enjoy.

PS….make sure the pine chips are aged; organic materials use up the nitrogen in the soil as they decompose and would starve the plant.

Hi, we recently purchased a large package of lovely looking blueberries from costco. It was the driediger farms brand and well within the expiration date. If looking on their website it seems to be that these may be duke blueberries but when my mother and i tasted some they were like no other blues we had ever tasted. Some were sweet and plump but some were smaller and all when eaten had this sharp, zingy, tart almost effervescent like quality on your tongue. We thought that they may have gone bad or stale (which who knows how long costco had them) but none were moldy or shrivelled… it was very strange.
Just wondered if this characteristic had ever come up or have we simply gone mad? 😉

I’m surprised that no one mentioned Chandlers! They are my ultimate favorite and seem to be the favorite of my neighbor as well. I live inland about 20 miles from the coast in Gasquet, so get both coastal weather and hot summers depending (literally) on which way the wind is blowing that day. I recently took a workshop in Grants Pass on raising blueberries and it seemed like the favorite of most was also the Chandler. However, if I remember correctly, the variety that the local Costco was purchasing from blueberry fields in Grants Pass was the Patriot. I also have tried both Duke and Spartan with little success. so took them out. I got 3 bare root blueberry bushes at Grocery Outlet last year for $1 a piece. I figured what did I have to lose? I had the store look up the variety as they were not marked. They were Toro. This year they have grown tremendously and are already setting fruit. I am anxious to try them. I also have Brigetta, Reka, Berkley, Blueray, Patriot, Legacy. I agree that the Blueray has little flavor, but at the time I put them in, that is what most of the local nurseries carried and who wants to tear out plants that are doing well? At another inland “U-pick” blue berry farm they favor Bluegold. I don’t have that variety but it was so delicious I had trouble filling my bucket because I ate so many!

What are the regs/requirements of sending you samples for identification?
Thank you.

Genevieve Schmidt is a landscape designer and owns a fine landscape maintenance company in Arcata, CA. The owner of North Coast Gardening, she is also a contributing writer at Garden Design Magazine and has written for numerous print and online publications.