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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 identicSaskatoonsal 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 seasonNorthern Highbush Blueberry Ripening Table

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 .

Mid-season

  • 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

Mid-season

  • 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.

Mid-season

  • 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 flavorBlueberry pie
  • ‘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

Canning and freezing Blueberries: Blueberry jelly