Duke BlueberryVaccinium corymbosum 'Duke'
View more from Blueberry Bushes
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Vaccinium corymbosum 'Duke'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Duke Blueberry forms an upright bush between 4 and 6 feet tall and wide. It is very decorative, with pretty, white flowers in spring and bright orange and yellow fall colors. That is even before we get to the berries, which are exceptionally large, a light and bright blue, with a sweet flavor and a unique ‘crisp’ bite when raw. This plant is so pretty you can grow it among your flowering shrubs, or in a dedicated food-growing area of your garden. It produces an early crop from late May to early July, depending on your region, and this northern highbush variety is an ideal choice for colder zones.
The Duke Blueberry grows well in zones 4 to 7, and it should be planted in full sun or just a little partial shade. The soil should be moist but well-drained, and a steady supply of water is needed for good results. The soil must be very acidic, between 4.5 and 5.5 on the pH scale. If you don’t have suitable soil, grow it in a large tub or planter, using an acidic soil mix.
Next to strawberries, blueberries are the most popular berry fruit in America, but unlike strawberries they don’t take lots of work and a dedicated patch of your garden. No, they are attractive shrubs that can hold their heads up among your flowering plants, and even if they didn’t have edible berries there is no doubt that we would grow them anyway, just for their garden beauty. Something that produces such a popular treat should certainly be in every garden, and when the season rolls around, we want them as soon as possible, so growing an early season variety, that will be ripening its crop by June, makes a lot of sense. We also want a heavy crop of big, blue, berries, and the Duke Blueberry delivers on both fronts. Blueberries are one of the healthiest berries around, full of vitamins and minerals, plus some very special and health-promoting bioflavonoid antioxidants.
The Duke Blueberry is a variety of the northern highbush blueberry. It’s a deciduous shrub growing to between 5 and 6 feet tall, with upright branches and a bushy form. The small, glossy green leaves turn exciting shades of bright oranges and yellows in fall. In spring clusters of small pink buds form at the ends of the branches, and these open into unusual white flowers, that look like upside down urns. These develop first into green berries, and in late June or early July, depending where you live, they will be mature and ready to pick.
Among the earliest of all the blueberry varieties to ripen, growing this plant is a great way to get an early start on the season. Plant some later varieties and you will be picking fresh, ripe berries for weeks and weeks. The fruit of the Duke Blueberry are exceptionally large, and a clear, light blue. They are sweet with a mild acidity to bring them to life, and they have an unusual crispness that gives them lots of character when eaten raw. This is also a very productive variety and a single mature bush can give you 20 lbs. of delicious berries. Don’t worry, blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to store, so they never go to waste. Put them in a container in the freezer, unwashed, and you are all set for months of home-grown berries.
With its sturdy growth and dense form, this is one of the best varieties to grow as a garden shrub, and it produces such a big crop that just one or two is all you need. Plant them among your flowering shrubs anywhere in the garden, or you can choose to grow them in a special area you may have for fruit and vegetables. If you want to plant a row, allow 4 to 6 feet between each plant, as these are good-sized bushes. It also grows well in a large pot or planter, so place it on a terrace or patio – or even on a balcony.
Full sun is best for the Duke Blueberry, and will give you the biggest crop. It will however grow with as little as 6 hours a day of direct sunlight, so it can be used in partially-shaded areas too. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil, and that soil must be acidic. A pH in the range of 4.5 to 5.5 is needed, and if you don’t have that the easiest solution is to plant your bush in a large planter, half-barrel or tub. It should have drainage holes. Use a suitable soil mix, starting with potting soil blended for acid-loving plants like camellias and azaleas. Take 1-part of that soil and mix it with 1-part of shredded pine bark and 1-part of sphagnum peat moss. Use some extra shredded bark to mulch the pot, and don’t allow the soil to become dry.
The Duke Blueberry is a self-pollinating variety, so a single plant will give you a substantial harvest. For the largest crop it helps to have another variety growing nearby, and any other northern highbush will do the trick.
We recommend you remove the flower buds in the first season, so that the plants establish well and don’t weaken themselves making fruit. Each year after that your bushes will produce more and more fruit, reaching peak production within 8 years. Some pruning in late winter is helpful in keeping them vigorous and cropping well. The goal is to encourage new stems, while keeping older stems producing by cutting back their tips and removing weak stems.
Pests and diseases are rare if you grow your plants at the correct soil pH and don’t let them become too dry or too wet. Fertilizer is very helpful, applied in spring each year and both organic and chemical forms are effective. Deer and rabbits can eat foliage, especially in spring, so some protection may be needed.
The northern highbush blueberry, Vaccinum corymbosum, is native to the northeast and southeast of the USA, all the way from eastern Canada down to northern Florida and eastern Texas. Native Americans enjoyed them, and they burned over forest areas to encourage blueberries to grow. The first named variety was introduced in the 1920s (‘Rubel’) and for almost a century the US Department of Agriculture has supported breeding and selection. Most of our modern varieties come from that work. The variety called ‘Duke’ was developed by the breeder Arlen Draper, who created it at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland. It was released in 1987 and it has been a top variety ever since then.
Because they are ornamental as well as productive, blueberry bushes are always in high demand. The Duke Blueberry is a top-class variety that is highly recommended by everyone, so the demand always outstrips the limited supply. Order your bushes now, don’t wait, and look forward to harvesting delicious blueberries without having to leave your own yard.