Did you know that blueberries aren’t always blue? It turns out there are several varieties of blueberry that aren’t blue at all when fully ripe and the Pink Popcorn blueberry is one of them. Native to North America, these plants grow pretty pink blueberries that serve as the “pink popcorn” in the name.
Interested in learning about a pink blueberry? Then you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll explore the Pink Popcorn blueberry — its characteristics, planting zones, size, spacing, as well as how to take care of your shrub, how to get the best crop of fruit, and more.
History of the Pink Popcorn Blueberry
Pink Popcorn, sometimes called the MNPink1 cultivar, is the first pink variety of blueberry introduced by the University of Minnesota. It’s a variety of northern highbush blueberry with the scientific name Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Pink Popcorn.’ The variety was first cultivated in the University of Minnesota’s Agricultural Experiment Station, not too far from Grand Rapids.
Pink Popcorn Blueberry Characteristics
Pink Popcorn blueberries were the first variety of pink blueberries on the market that tolerated Zone 4. They are exceptionally cold-hardy and durable plants in general.
You will typically hear gardeners refer to it as a shrub, though it is a tall one at that — Pink Popcorn blueberry plants can reach five or six feet tall. Their branches have a chaotic zigzagging pattern that you may find unruly or whimsical. Each leaf length varies from one to two inches.
The fruit is medium in size and appears to be a shade of flamingo and blush pink. At first, the predominant color is pink, but the blueberries are slightly white. As the fruit ripens into late spring, the blueberries’ color becomes a deep dark pink, which will last throughout summer. July is considered the best time to harvest Pink Popcorn blueberries.
When it comes to this blueberry’s taste, you can expect a sweet, mild blueberry flavor.
The Pink Popcorn blueberry is found in zones three through seven, from southern Canada to the southern portion of the United States. They can be successfully cultivated in every continental state of the U.S.
When choosing where to plant your highbush blueberry, you need to consider soil, weather, quantity, and placement.
Start by choosing a space that offers both sun and shelter from the wind. Blueberries need sunny areas that get at least 6-8 hours of sun a day, so you don’t want to plant blueberries near trees or large bushes. Large flora will block sunshine and drain away precious nutrients and soil moisture.
Blueberries can’t be exposed to extreme temperatures or strong, dry winds for long periods of time, so be aware of wind patterns and
This variety of blueberries has a short and shallow root system. The soil needs to be moist and well-draining (not soggy) for optimal growth. Too much moisture invites fungal infections in blueberry shrubs. Plant blueberries in sandy soil and avoid clay-like soil.
A Word About Soil pH
Have you ever checked your soil’s pH? Blueberries greatly benefit from having acidic soil, anywhere from four to five on the pH scale. The neutral pH is 7. If your ground is neutral or too basic, add granulated sulfur to the soil about two months before planting your blueberry shrubs.
Peat moss, pine bark supplements, and needles are other less time-consuming options that are safe to mix directly in the soil with your plant.
Grouping Blueberry Shrubs
Lastly, if you want to plant several bushes, it is recommended to group them together. There are two primary benefits when keeping them clumped together: improved blueberry quality and increased harvest yield. This is because blueberry bushes improve the soil, share nutrients, and maintain a mini-climate together via increased humidity.
Click this link to access our in-depth guide on all you need to know about planting and growing blueberries.
Now that you have planted your Pink Popcorn blueberry, you need to provide the proper care in order to keep your plant healthy so that it will yield a good harvest of fruit.
Give your blueberry shrub fertilizer in the early spring to add acid to the soil. You can use either a granular fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer.
Pay particular attention to the moisture in your soil. Pink Popcorn blueberry bush root systems have no root hairs, making them hypersensitive to soil moisture and pH levels. The goal is to maintain the soil moisture without making the ground soggy for extended periods. Water them during daylight for best results.
During the growing months, your plants should receive one inch of water per week. This can come from rainwater or a hose during dry spells.
During ripening (usually July), give your plants up to four inches of water every week.
There are several reasons why you should prune your blueberry shrubs.
First, pruning actually encourages plant growth by exposing more of the plant to sunlight and providing better air circulation.
Second, pruning removes dead branches (which are invitations to disease) or branches that aren’t producing fruit.
Finally, pruning increases the fruit quality and yield by allowing the shrub to expend energy on growing fruit, rather than growing foliage.
You should prune blueberries at the end of winter, or just at the beginning of spring.
Click here to read our complete guide of the best practices for pruning blueberries.
Diseases and Pests
While the Pink Popcorn blueberry tends not to have the same issues with diseases and pests that affect other varieties of blueberry, they still need to stay strong and healthy. Any plant that becomes stressed due to lack of proper care will be vulnerable to diseases.
You should be on the lookout for armillaria root rot, crown gall, Alternaria fruit rot, and silver leaf. We have a complete guide on blueberry bush diseases and what to do if your blueberries develop them.
For information about how to identify, eliminate, and deter pests, read our blog post on the 9 common pests you’ll encounter with blueberries.
Pink Popcorn blueberries are an early to mid-season blueberry which means you can start picking them in early to mid-summer. The color of the fruit will let you know which berries are ready for picking, so pay attention to which berries have turned a deeper pink.
When you’re ready to harvest, keep in mind that damp soil will mean extra juicy, albeit less flavorful, blueberries. Cutting back on irrigation about a week before picking blueberries can give you more flavorful blueberries. If you want to learn more about the best time to pick blueberries, be sure to read this guide.
Common Uses For the Pink Popcorn Blueberry
You may eat blueberries raw, cook or bake with them, dry them, or freeze them for using later — Pink Popcorn blueberries are no exception!
Because fresh blueberries are very short-lived, they can only be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks under ideal conditions. To get the most of every blueberry, freezing is the best option. When you freeze your blueberries, you’ll be able to enjoy them well into the fall and winter months (and who doesn’t love blueberry pancakes on a winter morning?).
We have a blueberry coffee cake recipe you’re sure to love, but blueberries can also be used as substitutes for many of the cherry or plum recipes we have, so browse through those for some cooking or baking inspiration.
Health Benefits of Pink Popcorn Blueberry
In general, blueberries are low in calories but high in beneficial nutrients.
Like all blueberries, the Pink Popcorn blueberry is full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Antioxidants can prevent diseases such as cancer.
Other health benefits that blueberries offer are:
- Preventing heart disease
- Improving Memory
- Fighting diabetes
- Preventing or treating UTIs
For more information about the health benefits of blueberries, visit this link on our website.
Where Can You Buy Pink Popcorn Blueberry Bushes?
You can find Pink Popcorn blueberries for sale online at Nature Hills.
Wrapping up the Pink Popcorn Blueberry
The Pink Popcorn blueberry makes an interesting specimen for your home garden. Aside from the unusual pink color of the fruit, the red foliage will add color to your garden in the fall.
In general, blueberries are one of the more low-maintenance fruits you can grow at home. If you consult our guides about growing, pruning, and harvesting blueberries, you’ll have all the information you need to grow health, beautiful shrubs that yield a harvest of delicious fruit year after year.
Do you have Pink Popcorn blueberries in your garden? Or do you have a favorite way to enjoy Pink Popcorn blueberries that you buy in season? Let us know about your experience with this variety of blueberry in the comments section below! (And for more information about blueberries, click here for all our blueberry-related blog articles.)