Skip to Content

The Duke Blueberry

The sultry smell of hot summer days, the hum of insects…the unmistakable, tangy sweetness of a blueberry bursting on your tongue. It must be Duke blueberry season! This sweet, succulent berry has become a staple of so many summertime memories, delicious dishes, and sweet treats that many have made room for it in their garden as well!

If you’ve developed a taste for growing a Duke blueberry bush whose abundant harvest you can enjoy every year, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dive into our comprehensive guide to help you become a successful gardener of your very own Duke blueberries!

Closeup of blueberries on bush similar to the Duke Blueberry.

History of the Duke Blueberry

The Duke Blueberry is of the Northern Highbush variety, cultivated specifically to flourish in northern regions where other blueberry varieties have historically tended to struggle. Developed by the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland, this variety was first released to the public in 1987 and has achieved high popularity both for its hardiness and fantastic taste.

Characteristics of the Duke Blueberry

The Duke blueberry is a semi-evergreen Northern Highbush, yielding medium-to-large, crisp, light-blue berries in markedly large crops. It also stands apart for its lovely, blushed white flowers which arrive in late spring, and its vibrant foliage in the fall—making it a favorite among landscape designers as well as gardeners.

Closeup of blush-colored blueberry blossoms.

Chill Hours

“Chill hours” are the number of hours of winter temperatures (45 degrees Fahrenheit or below) that a blueberry plant requires in order to flourish. Duke blueberries require upwards of 1,000 chill hours per year.

Ripening Season

The Duke blueberry blooms late but ripens early, with its blossoms being especially tenacious against late-spring frost; this makes it attractive in climates that experience cooler temperatures later in the season.

Blueberry qualities

Duke blueberries are tangy and sweet, with a delicate finish. They could be described as having a “classic” blueberry taste!

Blueberry size

Duke blueberry bushes tend to yield medium-to-large size fruits in large crops.

Closeup of blueberries on shrub.

Planting Zones

Cold-hardy Duke blueberries can withstand cooler climates better than some of their contemporaries.They’ve been known to do well in the hardiness of Zones 5-8 and the heat of Zones 1-7.

Size and Spacing

The Duke blueberry bush is tall and vigorous, usually reaching 5-7 feet in height and width. Bushes should be planted accordingly so each one has space to grow and flourish!

Pollination

Duke blueberries are self-pollinating, but cross-pollination has benefits to the overall crop. To maximize cross-pollination and increase your yield, consider planting with other blueberry types that pollinate on a similar timeline.

Blueberry Shrub Care

Caring for your shrub is an important component to ensuring a bumper crop! Explore the quick summary points below for an overview of your Duke blueberry’s care; then visit our guide on how to grow blueberries for more details!

Clusters of unripe blueberries on shrub.

Sunlight

Blueberries need full sunlight to meet their maximum potential! This means no shade from buildings, outdoor furniture, or its fellow garden plants. However, Duke blueberries will also do well in part shade if some overcasting is unavoidable.

Soil

The best soil to nurture your Duke blueberry bush is a moist, well-draining soil with a pH balance of 4.5-5.0 for optimal acidity. Due to its unique need for this low-pH, high-acidity soil (which can quickly leach away and cause harm to surrounding plants with lower acid needs), it is recommended to plant your blueberry bush in a container, or in a tub in the ground.

Water

The Duke blueberry requires regular watering—weekly at least, and more frequently in times of extreme heat, in order to keep the soil moist.

Fertilizer

Due to its particular acidity needs, it’s recommended to fertilize the soil for your Duke blueberry with an ericaceous compost or fertilizer. Such fertilizer can typically be found at your local gardening center, or you can make your own compost using ericaceous plants and high-acidity compounds such as pine needles, oak leaves, and citrus rinds.

Person spreading fertilizer granules around a blueberry shrub.

Pruning

Like many crops, the Duke blueberry benefits from methodical pruning to maximize its health and production. Visit our guide on how to prune blueberries to learn how to confidently and skillfully prune your Duke blueberry bush!

Disease

The health of your Duke blueberry bush is, understandably of great importance to you! And we’re here to help you maintain it. Visit our guide on blueberry bush diseases to learn how to identify and treat ailments in your crop.

Pests

The Duke blueberry has standard susceptibility to common garden pests who know a tasty bush when they see one! Read our blueberry pests guide for information on how to address blueberry bush pests and keep your crop thriving!

When to Harvest Duke Blueberries

You’ve done so much hard work to optimize your Duke blueberry bush’s wellbeing; now you may be asking, “When is the best time to reap the harvest of my hard work?” We’ve got you covered! Visit our guide on the right time to pick blueberries to learn all about this important step in the process!

Common Uses For Duke Blueberries

All this talk of bumper crops and the high yield of the Duke blueberry bush may have you wondering just what to do with such a bountiful harvest. Thankfully, Duke blueberries can be consumed or preserved in many ways, ensuring none of your hard work will go to waste!

What Does This Blueberry Taste Like?

The Duke blueberry has a sweet, tangy flavor profile with a delicate finish, making it ideal for all your blueberry-inclusive recipes!

Cooking

The Duke blueberry’s juicy quality lends well to your classic blueberry pies, bars, pancakes, and cobblers. These beauties are also great for cooking down for jams, preserves, and compotes, as well as savory sauces served alongside seafood, pork, and more.

Overhead view of stack of blueberry pancakes.

Eating raw

Thanks to its early-summer ripening season and typically large size and succulent flesh, the Duke blueberry is an ideal snacking berry especially on those hot summer days!

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Duke blueberries do quite well for canning (following a standard blueberry canning method); they can be frozen immediately after harvesting and washing and thawed at a later time; and they also make a delicious dried snack using an oven or standard food dehydrator!

Recipe Ideas

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Blueberry Limeade

Grilled Salmon with Savory Blueberry Sauce

Blueberry Banana Bread

Blueberry Blintzes

Closeup of wedge of blueberry cheesecake.

Health Benefits of Blueberries

The Duke blueberry is a fantastic fruit source of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C! To learn more about the numerous health-positive qualities of this and other blueberries, visit our guide on the health benefits of blueberries! To learn more about the nutritional value of blueberries, you can also visit our blueberry nutrition guide.

Where to Buy Duke Blueberry Plants

It’s always recommended to check with your local plant nursery, garden center, farmer’s market or farm stand to see if there are Duke blueberry plants you can buy directly. You can also purchase Duke blueberry plants online from Nature Hills Nursery!

Where to Buy Duke Blueberries

While it can be difficult to differentiate between blueberry varieties sold at your local grocer or supermarket, Duke blueberries are a favorite among many blueberry farms. Search for blueberry farmers in your area or inquire at a local farmer’s market to learn if these scrumptious blueberries are offered in your area—or use the tips we’ve provided here to start your own harvest!

Wrapping Up the Duke Blueberry

Closeup of clusters of blueberries on bush.

The delicious, sweet Duke Blueberry with its many cooking and snacking applications, high yield, and beautiful shrub appearance makes it ideal for any blueberry enthusiast.

Have you grown Duke blueberries before? What was your favorite part of the experience?

If you’re just beginning to try your hand at Duke blueberry cultivation, we would love to know what you’re most excited about with trying out this lovely bush — drop us a note in the comments section below!

To read about other kinds of blueberries, click here for our other blueberry blog posts.