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The Polaris Blueberry

Popular with urban gardeners, the Vaccinium corymbosum x angustifolium also called the half-high Polaris blueberry, is delicious in pies, tarts, jams, or muffins. A compact shrub, this plant is also popular as a friendly landscape accent as well. The Polaris name itself harkens to the poles and icy climates, likely a nod to this coldhardy plant. Home blueberry growers will enjoy this cultivar based on the size, layout, and fruit yield in addition to the simple joy of having blueberries at home. 

Discover more about the Polaris Blueberry and what you need to know about growing this variety yourself.

Closeup of cluster of blueberries growing on shrub, similar to the fruit of the Polaris blueberry.

History of the Polaris Blueberry

Described by the Oregon State University, there are five primary types of North American blueberry: northern highbush, southern highbush, rabbiteye, lowbush, and half-high. Polaris is a variety considered half high, meaning the blueberry descends from a cross between northern highbush which can reach as high as 9 feet tall and lowbush blueberries which typically stop at 1.5 feet in height. Half-high cultivars are typically known for their cold hardiness which can reach down to -35°F or even  -45°F and their moderate size, making this plant ideal for both home and commercial cultivation.

Polaris Blueberry Characteristics

According to Garden Life, the Polaris blueberry is known for its cold tolerance. In fact, this variety was said to be introduced by the University of Minnesota, an indication of its tolerance to Midwest winters. Here are the basics you need to know about the Polaris.

  • Chilling Level – Able to tolerate all but the most extreme Midwest weather, Polaris plants can thrive with winter chills between -40° to -30°F.
  • Ripening Season – Despite unpredictable northern growing seasons, these plants will typically bloom in late spring to early summer with berries to follow. It should be noted that the ripening season is not universal throughout half-high blueberry cultivars, and other half-highs may fruit earlier or later than the Polaris.
  • Fruit Qualities – the fruit comes in clustered blue berries with a purple tint and is described as having a “sweet taste and a juicy texture“.
  • Berry Size – Polaris berries are small to medium sized, reflecting the total plant size in comparison to other cultivars for this variety.
Closeup of blueberries spilled from basket on its side.

Planting Zones 

The cold hardiness of Polaris blueberries makes them a fit for a wide range of climates with the exception of the warmest, hottest areas of the United States. These plants are rated for USDA Zones 3 through 7.

Size and Spacing

Due to the compact nature of these plants, spacing and size are easier to manage than some larger blueberry varieties. Growing to a total height of 3 to 4 feet these plants can accommodate a number of companions in a similar area. Plant 3-4 feet apart to accommodate full-sized bushes and keep rows between 9-10 feet apart.

Pollination

It’s generally recommended to plant more than one variety of blueberry to encourage cross-pollination, although not necessary if space is a concern such as in a smaller home garden. My Garden Life also suggests trying companion plants such as rhododendron, raspberry, or gooseberry.

Blueberry Bush Care 

Closeup of ripe blueberries on a shrub.

While Polaris blueberries may have a wide range of temperatures they can tolerate, there are still specific plant needs that you should consider when cultivating your own. 

  • Sunlight 
  • Polaris blueberries enjoy sun to partial shade. Like other blueberry varieties, planters should avoid full shade or tall trees to ensure adequate light.
  • Watering
  • Plant in well drained soil that allows for shallow root growth and adequate drainage. Avoid clays or dense and compact soil mixes.
  • Pruning 
  • Many gardeners and fruit farmers want to know how to prune a blueberry. Left untended, blueberries will grow thicker crowns and roots with twiggy limbs and a poor quality of fruit. For blueberries two years and younger, you’ll want to hand prune by removing all the flowers. This encourages root growth until the plant is older and has achieved prime fruiting age. Additional pruning should be done to remove old, damaged, or diseased canes and instead promote new growth. Some growers also prefer to tailor the shape of the blueberry bush to encourage ideal sunlight to reach larger areas of the plant or simply to create a more pleasing shape.
  • Diseases & Care
  • Blueberry plants can be prone to diseases like any other plant including blights, rots, and cankers as well as pests such as caterpillars and beetles. One such pest specific to blueberry growers is the blueberry maggot for example, common in the Eastern United States. Learn more about Blueberry Bush Diseases and Care.

Common Uses For Polaris Blueberry

The Polaris blueberry is sweet and firm with the typical firmer skin and juicy interior of our favorite blueberries, moderate in size which means ideal for home bakers. 

Overhead view of blueberry ice cream and ice cream cones.
Blueberry ice cream makes a perfectly fruity summer treat!

Cooking

Polaris blueberries work well for cooking such as in pies, muffins, or even to make a sauce for a savory dish such as a roast. Consider blueberries for breakfast or dinner.

Eating raw

Polaris blueberries are a great choice to eat raw or straight off the vine at an organic growing operation. Pick a bushel of these blueberries and add to salads, yogurt, or cereal. 

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Canning blueberries is sometimes done, but usually after turning these blue-purple treats into a sauce, syrup, or jam. Blueberries are very simple to freeze often become the base for many health smoothies. Blueberries can also be dried and are a preferred snack of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts for their high nutritional qualities and lightweight, low maintenance transport ability.

Health Benefits of that Fruit  

Two of the most talked about health benefits of Polaris blueberries include the high levels of antioxidants and natural fibers. In addition, blueberries are tasty as-is and don’t require added sugar for sweetness. Blueberries also contain a large variety of beneficial plant compounds and health-supporting minerals with qualities lauded by nutritionists. Not to mention, blueberries are naturally low-fat, gluten-free, and more.

For more health benefits of the fruit, check out The Health Benefits of Blueberries. 

Where To Buy The Polaris Blueberry?

You can buy the Polaris blueberry at many different local nurseries. Often you’ll find plant choices in different ages and sizes as well such as 1 or 2 year-old plants. Nurseries typically stock supplies close to planting seasons and may not have this variety year round. It is not generally advised to grow blueberries from seed for highbush and half high varieties although this can be popular with lowbush options. In addition, you can order the Polaris Blueberry online.

Wrapping up The Polaris Blueberry

Hands picking blueberries over a small basket.

The Polaris blueberry plant is ideal for small to medium sized spaces and cold hardy for extended climates. Polaris blueberries are sweet and can be eaten straight off the plant of preserved for use in baking or smoothies. Tolerant of partial sun, plant Polaris blueberry plants away from full shade and make sure the location is well drained away from puddles.

Both home and commercial gardeners can grow Polaris plants with ease but plants may further thrive with adequate flower pruning of young plants and proper management of mature or damaged canes. Polaris blueberries are an excellent half-high variety that can be mixed with other blueberry cultivars or companion plants. 

Do you an experience with Polaris blueberries that you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments section below!

Want to know more about blueberries? Click here to read our other blueberry-related blog articles.