Favorite Blueberry Variety?

gmasonMarch 20, 2007

Last year I began a personal experiment. I have planted several different varieties to be certain that the 8 or so bushes I have at my home are ones that are favorites. So far I have planted Bluecrop, Blueray, Bluejay, Bluegold, Earliblue, Chandler, Darrow, Duke, Patriot, Spartan, Olympia, O'Neal, Toro, Elliot, Legacy and Hardiblue. I primarily eat them fresh, so that has flavored my choices.

I have a Upick that I go to that has Jersey and Eberhard and Rubel's are just too small. My question is: Are there some others that you have tried that I should add to that list? My main three concerns are flavor, yield and size in that order, with size being a minor consideration. Bluecrop and Blueray were definite ones I wanted to have.

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My favorite on that list is Blueray. One word of caution on it, though...the berries are really big so the clusters are really tight. Tight enough that the berries are sometimes misshapen (no big deal there) and fungus can be an issue inside the clusters b/c dew and rain don't completely dry out. But I think the flavor is worth that risk! It's also a pain to prune b/c it has a pretty weepy growth habit.

I like more tart fruit, so I really like Liberty, one of the new ones from Michigan State. If you want something late with better flavor than Elliot, try Aurora. It's also new from Michigan State. However, the plants are somewhat hard to come by in small quantities.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 12:49AM
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I see you have O'Neal which has been one of my favorites, but it is a Southern Highbush. Have you had any problems with that one as far as bloom date/freeze damage? I didn't see your zone, but if O'Neal does well, you might experiment with one of the Rabbiteye varieties.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 8:16AM
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kurtg, that is one of the things I am watching. It has some bloom going on right now and it's 35 degrees this AM. Because of elevation I am a little cooler than my zone.
fruitgirl, I really wanted to try Aurora, Liberty and Reka, but the wholesaler that carries them evidently isn't selling to resellers and won't answer emails if they are. I see at least one East Coast wholesaler lists their retailers right on their website. If you know a retail source please let me know.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 8:55AM
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gmason, My family has grown blueberries for nearly 85 years..
My grandfather was a pioneer of the cultivated northen high bush..him and DR.White..Anyway of the 30+ varities we grew for commerical crop, I'd recommend Atlantic for flavor and yield and Herbert for size and yeild.. You might try Dixie also..They are available from major nurseries...Herbert is early,July-Aug. Dixie and Atlantic ripen mid July- Sept. in CT. All are Northern high bush...

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 12:39PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I have many varieties and they all taste pretty similar to me. Ivanhoe is my favorite because it is a bit more acidic. Some are a bit lacking in acidity (Rubel). I put in O'Neal and Ozarkblue this spring after hearing all the positive comments about them and also how they will extend my season. Winemaker, I have Atlantic and Herbert and I agree they are both good. Maybe I got 'em mixed up though because the one I thought was Atlantic has the big mamma fruit.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 4:58PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Guess I'm a little surprised that many people like the acidic side of blueberries. But then I don't much care for the taste of blackberries either without adding sugar. For those like me that like their blueberries sweet and can grow southern highbush, I'd vote for Santa Fe as my favorite. By far the best I've ever eaten. Southmoon and Star are great as well.

I started with 12 varieties, six each of southern and northern highbush. Under my conditions, in pots, and with a greenhouse to overwinter them, the three I mentioned outgrew all the others by a factor of at least twice.

In one trial Santa Fe showed an unusual ablity to grow with low organic matter and alkaline irrigation water. All the other cultivars died. Have read that the southern highbush, in general, have better taste and greater ablity to handle high pH conditions. Not sure how true that is but they have kicked butt for me!

The Fruitnut

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 6:20PM
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I have oneal . star, Duke, lagacy,tiff blue,premier,powder blue,reveille ,bladen , I like the reveille by far it freeze good an has the best flavor of them all to me ,my second choice is bladen,then star, an duke lagacy, the rest are just berrys to me

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 10:56PM
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Haven't been able to find a local source for Atlantic or Sante Fe. Will look for Reveille. Found some Herbert. Also bought a plant of Reka and am looking at Ozark Blue and Brigitta. Anyone tried those two?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 2:03AM
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Ozarkblue has been a real winner for me. It has good vigor and has produced more fruit at an earlier age than anything else. Great flavor and very productive. It is also very tolerant of hot weather, which is good here, but not likely to be an issue in the PNW. Oneal is good, but was difficult to establish. It seems to be very finicky about pH (likes it very acid). I planted some Hannah's Choice and Cara's Choice a couple of years ago. Very few survived (~10%), but the few fruits so far have fantastic flavor. I have some Aurora doing well. The bushes are very spreading, and they have very colorful fall foliage, but I did not get to taste any fruit yet. Legacy and Elizabeth have also done really well with very good flavor.

Most of the southern highbush are flowering here right now, but the northern highbush are not doing much yet. Ozarkblue is the only SHB that is not flowering yet. Spring has come very early this year. Still likely to get a freeze or two in the next three weeks.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 11:42AM
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Nelson and Reka are two I would add to your list. Both are available from Fall Creek Nersury. Nelson is a large berry and flavorful when fully ripened. Reka is an early (similar to Duke) New Zealand variety which produces loads of med. size berries. I'd prefer it to Duke. I'm interested in your comparison of Toro vs. Bluecrop?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 3:00PM
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bmoser, Fall Creek is wholesale only. I am interested too to see how Toro and Bluecrop compare in my garden. I usually pick Bluecrop where I go for U-pick. I have always been impressed with the way Bluecrop yields where I pick, but I have seen several say that Toro out produces it. (I have seen some say the other way too.) My Bluecrop bushes are a year older so yield will be difficult to measure for a few years.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 12:01AM
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gmason, Miller's Nursery carries both the Atlantic and Herbert Blueberry plants..I've dealt with them before..They're good people...
They have an assortment or you can buy individual plants..
No!! I don't get commission...

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 9:47AM
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Well, I managed to pick up Herbert and Brigitta today at some local nurseries. I have a somewhat local source for Reveille, Ozark Blue and Reka. I prefer to pick my plant when I can. The Herbert plant I found today had 3 very good canes on a 2 year old plant.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 6:36PM
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Have many of the mentioned varieties. Bonus has whopper berries: Brigitta is great in all aspects, and Friendship is my favorite for taste and the best pollinator. All these coments apply to zones 6/7 in my experience.

I had an Olympia for years that did not meet expectations and was told that in my zone/climate that behavior was common. Does great in PNW.

Flavor is VERY dependent on full ripening on the bush.

A trick I learned from a phenomenal fruitman was to thin the blueberries after they all form. Massage the cluster of formed fruits so about 1/3 to 1/2 of them drop to the mulch. Sometimes, I clip off end of branch clusters to allow the juices to concentrate on the lower clusters.

Some varieties need more thinning than others. This allows the remaining berries to max-out and reduces disease problems. I have never seen this mentioned in articles, but it works for me. I have done comparison test of same variety plants and the thinned bushes had better and larger fruit set.

University of Kentucky did some taste test studies last year with respect to jams made of various BBs. Might be able to find this on the net. I think the favored jam was made of as mix of many blueberry varieties.

cella jane

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 9:28PM
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Well, we had a hard freeze last night. Cold rain all day yesterday then cleared off at night. Had ice on some puddles. How much damage to bloom can I expect? O'Neal is in bloom, most others are showing buds. Also, Reveille is rated to 0 degrees. Anyone have problems with its hardiness?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 3:14PM
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lilamy(zone 8a)

I really like the smaller berries....what would be good for southern VA?



    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 3:21PM
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gmason which blueberry plant was the winner? This will be the second season for my seven plants/three verities. Will be buying more this year at either Portland Nursery or Seven Dee's. Which nurseries do you use?

If it looks a heavy crop, I will try the trick berryblue1 posted. Have been pruning perennials and pears like that for years.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 2:52PM
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alan haigh

Miller Nursery, groan, I guess I'll bite my tongue. Check Hartmansplantcompany.com. They ship small plants in soil so there's very little lag in establishment as long as you remove the flowers the first 2 years.

On the east coast Berkely, Duke, and Bluecrop are winners and Elliott is absolutely indespensible for its much later crop. Really extends the season. Be sure you you have a balanced mix of early mid and late season berries.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 5:26PM
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My sunshine blues are turning red and looking more like a tree than a bush is that normal to be so branchy and stemmy.I have 3 in pots in ground they seem happy but are not very bushy.Ill try to get a pic

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 6:20PM
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garbird(zone6 KY)

I purchased some plants at Lowe's today. I have been reading the posts here for some time. Can anyone tell me if Blue Crop and Elliot are good choices for zone 6 KY. They are what I bought, so if I don't hear from anyone I'll let you all know in a couple of years how they worked out for me.
Does anyone growing in my area have any favorite varieties that I should try. I'd love to hear from you.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 5:06PM
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I think Atlantic, Herbert and Dixie are older cultivars and don t measure up. Two older plants that still measure up: Elizabeth and Jersey. Hardy Blu, Legacy, Sparta, are tops. Bonus is not only large and delicious but the most distinct of all my berries. Draper, Toro, Brigetta, Hannah's Choice and Liberty all reported to be excellent, but new to my garden. Nelson, Blue Jay, weak uninteresting. Northland too difficult to pick. Blue crop ordinary, Duke ..under rated but not among my favorites. Patriot and Chandler long growing seasons and large berries...good flavor but not elite. Aurora disappoints, Elliot, Covelli, Late Blu all ordinary.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 8:00PM
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Im thinking of converting a deep freezer to a fridge,will the moisture be a problem for chilling plants in a fridge also will mildew be a problem?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 12:50AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Thanks Grizz for the report! I have Toro and Liberty and think they are great, although I have nothing else to compare to. Much better than anything you can buy at the grocery! I have Chandler, it will produce for the first time this year. Three others coming in. Sweetcrisp, Legacy, and Southmoon.
Bonus sounds good! Cool! An MSU cultivar.

I heard Spartan is good for an early NHB, and curious about the double cropping Sweetheart.

Any reports on
Cara's Choice

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 2:13AM
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Cara s choice is a small bush. If you want a potted small bush go with Friendship. Highly rated taste like the original huckleberry and supposedly a great hybridizer.
Reka only two yrs old in my garden. Easy to grow. taste better than Duke and maybe the most prolific of the earlies.
Much of what I've written here is from my readings and not first hand, tastes and micro-environments vary.
Darrow excellent rep but maybe not hardy enough for my climes.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 11:23AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I agree about environment. i think some of the hardier SHB do not taste good in hot climates. Even though SHB, they are hybrids So what doesn't work in one climate, may work in another.

For smaller plants Sunshine Blue is really good from what others say in just about any environment. I want to grow some wild types in the future also.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 11:45AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


I've thought about that also mostly to force out of season fruit. I don't think you'll have any issues with mildew or moisture at 40F.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 11:45AM
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This is the first year my plants produced. They were pretty much root stock planted last year from noursefarms.com (Highly recommended) and 1 plant from berries unlimited. I planted 2 chandlers 1 blueray and 1 spartan from berries unlimited. The Chandler does grow large berries and is a vigorous plant but the flavor of the Blueray shined the most. They are so sweet and delicious. Easily the best tasting blueberries I have had.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2014 at 4:22PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Thanks for the report! With Chandler try leaving them on longer. I found they turn blue way before they are ready.
They sweeten up with time.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2014 at 4:48PM
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Thanks for the tip Drew51 but I tryed them at varying stages and the Blueray was definitely sweeter and with more flavor than the Chander. I like my chandlers but the taste of the Blueray Mmmm lol

    Bookmark   December 2, 2014 at 5:05PM
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kimka(Zone 6B)

You may want to be on the look out for Sweetheart, which bears an early crop and a separate second crop late season. It is a very heavy bearer and has a pretty good flavor although it leans toward the sweet rather than the tart. It is from the same breeder who developed Cara' choice and Pink Lemonade

    Bookmark   December 2, 2014 at 5:17PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Your Spartan should start tasting better as the plant matures.One of my favorites. Brady

    Bookmark   December 2, 2014 at 5:47PM
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These are the varieties that I have growing:

Tifblue (rabbiteye)
Powederblue (rabbiteye)
Pink Lemonade
Sweetcrisp (SHB)
Blue Crop

Actually. most of them taste about the same. The best tasting is probably KaBluey and Patriot. KaBluey and Pink Lemonade have been the best growers although I just figured out how to get blueberries to actually grow correctly this last year. They were both planted in 2013 and now are 5-6 feet tall and growing well. The rabbiteye varieties do have a noticeable gritty texture, which isn't awesome but on the plus side is that they tend to fruit late in the year. Tifblue took -7F last year and still produced a small crop, which was surprising.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2014 at 9:41PM
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