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The Draper Blueberry

A blueberry plant can be a bit difficult for beginner blueberry growers, but that is where the Draper blueberry tends to outshine the rest. It remains a favorite among beginner blueberry cultivars as well as professional blueberry breeders because it is so easy to grow!

Draper blueberries are packed with characteristics that make them worthy of a few rows in the garden. They have a large size, that perfect blueberry color, and a mildly sweet taste that makes them delicious for both eating them raw and cooking them in a blueberry pie. Keep reading to learn how easy these beautiful bushes are to grow at home.

Clusters of blueberries on shrub similar to the Draper Blueberry.

History of the Draper Blueberry

Dr. Darlene Draper, a botanist, developed the Duke blueberry strain that was used to create the Draper, hence the name the Draper Blueberry.

This same Duke Blueberry strain was used at Michigan State University where Dr. James Hancock raised the bar for blueberry breeding. Dr. James Hancock worked at Michigan State University to carefully develop this strain of blueberries. As a standout variety, they became the leading choice of the blueberry industry when they were released in 2003.

James Hancock continued working to create new strains of blueberries for the blueberry industry through breeding programs. One descendent of the Draper blueberry is the Calypso blueberry.

Characteristics of the Draper Blueberry

Draper blueberries are that familiar blueberry shade. Their powder blue color makes them easy to identify next to other blueberries. These berries are a favorite among both consumers and blueberry growers because of their large, round shape.

A blueberry farmer will appreciate that Draper Blueberry fruit grow in loose clusters, making it easy for them to be picked by a machine. The excellent firmness and exceptional post-harvest color retention make them easy to sell as well, regardless of whether they’re being sold at a grocery store or farmer’s market.

This variety of blueberry bushes is known as northern highbush because the mature plants are approximately five feet tall.

Blueberry shrub with clusters of ripe fruit.

Chill Hours

Draper Blueberry bushes need a minimum of 800 hours of chilling to produce a hardy yield.

Ripening Season

Blueberry breeders can expect to enjoy the delicious taste of the Draper Blueberry mid-season. Bushes are known to bloom in April with fruits that are ready to harvest in July.

Blueberry qualities

These types of blueberries have wonderful qualities that make them an instant favorite! They grow mid – season, a uniform size, and taste deliciously sweet. You’ll also love that these fruits are:

  • easy to grow
  • superior shelf life
  • firm fruit
  • compact habit
  • Draper fruit is fresh market quality
  • blue berry color that is the ideal blue color
  • long storage life
  • large yield
  • berries tend to ripen uniformly

Blueberry Size

Berries grow to a large size with a firm outer texture.

Closeup of small cluster of blueberries on shrub.

Planting Zones

The Draper Blueberry shrub grows best in USDA zones 3-11 in North America.

Size and Spacing

Growers can expect Draper Blueberry bushes to grow to be 4-5 feet tall and wide.

How you space your berry bushes depends on what look you would like to achieve, and how you would like for them to grow. Plant them two feet apart to form one long hedge line of berry bushes. Plant them six feet apart to make sure that bushes grow individually and do not overlap.

Pollination

Because a Draper Blueberry is only partially self-pollinating, it’s helpful to plant two of them together for a higher yield.

Blueberry Shrub Care

It’s important to provide proper care to your bushes to enjoy outstanding quality fruit. Blueberries tend to have their own preferences regarding sunlight, soil, water, etc. For a more in depth guide on how to grow blueberries, check out this guide.

Sunlight

Draper Blueberry bushes prefer a half-day to a full day of sunlight. Plant them in a part of the garden that has plenty of sunlight.

Closeup of blueberries on shrub in row of blueberry shrubs.

Soil

Acidic soil is a necessity to cultivate gorgeous bushes with high yields. The soil should have a pH of 4.5-5.5. It’s important to test the soil and use the appropriate fertilizer.

Water

Provide your bushes with one inch of water twice weekly. Berry bushes tend to have shallow roots, so they can easily drown if they are given too much water.

Fertilizer

Providing the proper fertilizer is essential for berry bushes to grow. A liquid acid fertilizer to make sure that bushes have the correct pH balance is ideal.

Pruning

As winter approaches, trim back branches that do not produce fruit. To learn how to prune blueberry bushes throughout the rest of the year, read this in depth pruning guide.

Man pruning blueberries in the winter.

Disease

Blueberry cultivators may have to deal with various diseases that can affect both their plants and harvests. The most common blueberry diseases include:

  • bacterial canker
  • crown gall
  • armillaria root rot
  • Alternaria fruit rot

To learn more about these common blueberry diseases, including how to prevent them and treat them, read this guide on blueberry bush diseases.

Pests

Blueberries are delicious, and most of the pests in your garden are going to love them too. Scales, thrips, the blueberry maggot, and aphids are the most common types of pests. Spray your bushes with horticol oil for scales, shake them for thrips and make sure to pick your blueberries as soon as they are ripe to prevent pests from taking over your blueberry bushes.

For information about how to identify, eliminate, and deter pests, read our blog post on the 9 common pests you’ll encounter with blueberries.

When to Harvest Draper Blueberries

Draper blueberries will need to be harvested in July as soon as they are ripe. It’s important to harvest and pick blueberries correctly during concentrated ripening periods. There are wonderful suggestions here!

Closeup of cluster of blueberries.

Common Uses For Draper Blueberries

Draper blueberries are the perfect berries for a snack! Making jams or pies are popular ideas too! People eat them raw, can them, and enjoy them frozen. These blueberries are so versatile that you can do almost anything with them.

What Does This Blueberry Taste Like?

Draper blueberry fruit tastes mildly sweet, making this a perfect blueberry for a pie! Cooking them in your favorite recipes will produce a delicious blueberry flavor, but there’s nothing wrong with eating them raw!

Cooking

Most blueberries lose their flavor when cooked, but you won’t have to worry about that with Draper blueberries. You can cook them as needed to make pies, for canning, or with your favorite pancake recipe.

Eating Raw

Raw blueberries make the perfect snack! Grab a handful of blueberries, put them in yogurt, or include a cup in your favorite cereal.

Woman eating bowl of fruit, including blueberries.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Canning blueberries remains the most popular choice for growers that want to make their own jams or jellies. Aside from that, most growers use other methods, such as cold storage, to preserve their blueberry harvest.

Freezing blueberries is the easiest method of preserving them. Simply wash them, and then let them dry. After that, you can either freeze them in a large freezer bag or lay them out on a cookie sheet.

Freezing berries in a bag is easier, but you’re more likely to wind up with a clump of berries. Simply break them apart as you would any other frozen food to enjoy blueberries that both look and taste fresh!

Drying blueberries is a great way to enjoy blueberries as a snack and preserve them. Use a food dehydrator, such as a Ninja Foodie, to dehydrate your harvest. Then, use a canning method to store them in an air tight container. If you plan on eating your dried blueberries in the next month, store them in Ziploc bags until you are ready to eat them.

Recipe Ideas

If you’re looking for delicious blueberry recipes to make with your harvest, these deserve a spot on your list:

Blueberry Coffee Cake
Blueberry Coffee Cake (click for the recipe)

Health Benefits of Draper Blueberries

Blueberries are packed with nutritional benefits! These firm berries have one of the highest levels of antioxidants when compared to other fruits, making them an essential part of a healthy diet. Learn more about the nutritional benefits of blueberries here.

Enjoy preventing heart disease, too! They can help regulate blood sugar and even straighten out your UTI problem. Read this complete guide regarding the health benefits of blueberries to learn more about how they can benefit you.

Where to Buy Draper Blueberry Plants or Seeds

Most online orchards sell blueberries that are ready to plant. You can purchase Draper Blueberry plants from Nature Hills Nursery.

Where to Buy Draper Blueberries

Visit your local farmer’s market for blueberries that have a fresh market quality or head to your favorite grocery store to stock up on blueberries for your favorite recipes.

Wrapping Up the Draper Blueberry

Closeup of cluster of ripe blueberries on shrub.

The Draper Blueberry was designed at Michigan State University and has continued to grow in popularity across the United States among plant breeders and growers as the blueberry industry continues to boom. These blueberries are great for beginners who are just starting out or more experienced growers who want to add to their blueberry acreage. Their beautiful color and delicious flavor make them irresistible.

Have you grown a Draper Blueberry or do you know of a market that carries them during blueberry season? If so, tell us about it in the comments section below! To read about other blueberries, click here for our blueberry blog posts.